WESTBY — Dave and Jana Dregne say it’s been a good year at their Dregne’s Scandinavian Gifts store at 100 S. Main St. in downtown Westby, after the store was closed nearly three months last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Dregnes will mark 46 years in business with the store’s annual anniversary celebration on Saturday.
“We were shut down in March, April and May” of 2020 because of the pandemic, Jana said. Last year’s sales were down as a result.
“It started to pick up when you got toward August” of last year, Jana said. “People had been skeptical about coming out. We did have a very good Christmas season.”
Business this year has been “very good,” Jana said. “People enjoy getting out.”
Also, the closings of some other Scandinavian gift stores elsewhere in the Midwest has brought some new customers to the Westby store this year.
The Dregnes said they’re optimistic about the Westby economy because of some retail stores, eateries and other businesses that have opened in the past few years.
The store’s anniversary celebration on Saturday will once again include artisans, authors, food, refreshments and door prizes.
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Area artisans who will give demonstrations Saturday include Taylor Johnson, acanthus carving; Jan Jenson, chip carving; John Sutton, eclectic carving; Judy Gates, flat plane carving; Mary Daines, hardanger; and Karen Hankee, rosemaling.
The event also will feature signings of books written by area authors Jerry Apps and Susan Apps Bodilly (“Settlers Valley,” “The Wild Oak,” “40 Days with Jerry Apps,” “One Room Schools” and “Old Farm Country Cookbook”); Sue Berg (“Driftless Gold”), Kathleen Ernst (“The Weaver’s Revenge”) and Mary McSwain Steele (“Betty”).
And there will be samples of baked Norwegian treats.
The Flugstad & Foss Hardware Store in downtown Westby had only a small selection of Scandinavian gifts when the Dregnes bought the business and building on Oct. 1, 1975.
The Dregnes’ business has thrived by transforming it into Dregne’s Scandinavian Gifts.
They bought the hardware store from Violetta Flugstad and Ed Foss. But the days of hardware stores in small towns were numbered.
The Dregnes quickly realized that they needed to carry more Scandinavian gifts, Dave said, especially in an area with so many people of Norwegian ancestry.
Three years after they bought the store, the Dregnes opened a Scandinavian room. And in 2000, they auctioned the remaining hardware to complete the transformation to Scandinavian gift store.
The store offers a large selection of gift items from Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. And it has many items from Germany.
About 60 percent of the merchandise is Scandinavian. Some of the most popular items include sweaters, Swedish clogs, food products, jewelry, linens, music, lefse grills, krumkake (a thin cookie) irons, rosette irons and sandbakkel tins.
The store also has other gift items, such as American-made Heritage Lace products, Glass Eye Studio ornaments and glassware, Sergio Lub copper magnetic bracelets and a large selection of books.
There’s also a Christmas room that’s open year-round.
The guest registry at Dregne’s Scandinavian Gifts has signatures from visitors from around the nation and from several other countries, such as Norway, Denmark, Japan and Australia.
The store attracts visitors from throughout the Midwest, including the Twin Cities, Madison and Chicago, partly because it advertises in tourism publications.
Westby festivals such as the Snowflake Ski Jumping Tournament and the Syttende Mai celebration also draw people to town. So do the fall colors of October.
Still, December is the store’s busiest month, because of people buying holiday gifts.
The store also sells merchandise online and by mail and telephone order.
Dregne’s Scandinavian Gifts also offers free gift wrapping. And United Parcel Service shipping is available.