Zumbrota’s Woman-Owned Shops: How Art Can Inspire the Mind and Feed the Soul

In 2014, Connie Hawley quit her job as an aviation security inspector to open up an artistic, one-of-a-kind shoe shop in Zumbrota. She found herself driving down the main street and noticed a “For Lease” sign on one of the buildings. She jotted down the phone number and made the call. After that, she found out that things have a way of coming together at just the right time. 

“Everything fell into place. Once I made the decision, the universe conspired to help me do just that,” Hawley reflects.


Connie sells more than shoes in her shop, although shoes have always been her first love and main passion. She sells accessories from around the world and from local artists. 

“What makes my store unique is that I have art by local artists on my wall. I set up the store with gallery lighting to highlight not only the shoes but also the art,” she says. “Shoes are works of art,” Connie says. Being surrounded by local art and shoes turned out to be a great pairing. Unlike big-name shoe stores, Connie’s shop offers custom shoes with hard-to-find fabrics, designs and leather.

She has all of her shoes out in the open for customers to enjoy and to try on whatever strikes their fancy. She is more than willing to help but has learned that most people like to be left alone to browse the selections. “I want to sell shoes that people love. I don’t want a bad feeling attached to my shoe store. I tell customers to take the shoes home and try them in the house for an hour. If they don’t work, bring them back.” 

Connie says that becoming a business owner was one of the best decisions she has ever made. The choice to embed herself in the arts has been healing for her soul as well. “It is so freeing. I feed my soul every day. Being around people who are interested in the arts—we all speak the same language.” 


Marie Marvin owns Crossings in Zumbrota, which is an artist space that includes offerings for classes, workshops, concerts and an ever-changing art gallery.

“Art is such a jewel in our lives. Some people think of art as frivolous, but it really is a building block for so many other areas,” Marie says. She seeks to offer art that will inspire and the opportunity to create. “I believe everyone is an artist. I try to encourage folks to forget about how something is going to turn out so they can fully dive into the process of creating,” Marie says. 

She is quick to mention how art has connected her to women from all different walks of life. Marie has brought her own strength and energy to help women creatives in the area as well. “I like to think, that maybe, by me doing this—that it has allowed other women to think, ‘Hey! I can do that!’ and maybe it has. Look at downtown. Look at all the interesting stores in Zumbrota that are owned by women.”


Roxanne Bartsh, owner of Wild Ginger Boutique, agrees. “I can say Crossings, Artify (owned by Stacy Drenckhahn) and the State Theatre (owned and operated by the Zumbrota Area Arts Council) has helped create a shopping experience that lends itself to unique shops. 

“In the 10 years I have been here, we have added a number of new downtown businesses, and I anticipate our business community will continue to attract interesting shops that complement our great downtown and arts community,” Roxanne says. Zumbrota shops are indeed growing and flourishing, which provides true inspiration for business owners and artists alike.

For a listing of Crossings classes, summer camps for kids, workshops and events, visit crossingsatcarnegie.com.

Zumbrota Annual Covered Bridge Music & Arts Festival

A parade, art in the park, street market and fun runs are scheduled for the weekend of June 15-18, 2017. Check out the schedule of events at ci.zumbrota.mn.us.

Kim Zabel is a writer and photographer. She also works with cancer survivors as a Livestrong instructor at the Rochester Area Family Y.