WALHALLA — It’s a quiet afternoon at Blu Soul Design in Walhalla as the whir of a saw signals that another refinishing job is in full swing.
Desiree Kintyhtt is the owner and sole employee of the store, which is for people seeking refinished and redesigned farmhouse-inspired home decor and furniture. Not only does she run the store, but also has a booth in Grand Forks’ Midtown Marketplace. She has clients booked six months in advance with custom orders, such as remodeled kitchens and repainting of old furniture.
The business started out as a hobby for Kintyhtt. She would refinish furniture for herself but later turned it into a career because she knew a small town like Walhalla would benefit from it.
“Walhalla has nothing like this,” she said. “No local cities do…up in this area there wasn’t anywhere people could go to get gifts or home decor or anything of that nature. So there was a high demand in the area for it.”
Blu Soul Design opened in 2017, on the last Saturday of September during Walhalla’s annual pumpkin festival, according to Kintyhtt.
“[It was] incredibly crazy,” she said. “We had a lot of people in town and I had an amazing turn out and it hasn’t stopped. People local are very good at coming out and supporting me and keeping me in business.”
The name Blu Soul Design came from Kintyhtt’s feelings after her husband died.
“When I opened this business and actually put it here in the storefront I had to come up with a name, and I still wasn’t in a very good place emotionally so the word ‘Blu’ is a play on feelings,” she said.
Since then, the journey from 2017 to 2023 has been “super exciting but overwhelming.” The locals have been supportive of her business, as well as those from farther away. Kintyhtt said people from Grand Forks, Fargo and Bismarck have all come to the store, mostly through word of mouth.
“I have lots of little old ladies in town that when their kids come to town to see them the running joke is that they’re really just coming to shop with me,” she said. “We’ve sent stuff to Pennsylvania, we’ve shipped boxes to Colorado because they brought their families here and they loved it and they wanted to take stuff home. … It’s a destination and something unique that you wouldn’t think you’d find here in Walhalla.”
Blu Soul Design’s connection with Midtown Marketplace, a market shared by about 30 vendors with their own booths in the former Kmart building in Grand Forks, came when a vendor friend of Kintyhtt’s reached out to see if she was interested in joining. She “jumped in” on the offer and has a booth of her own, which she attends sometimes.
Kintyhtt is currently working on adding a coffee shop to the store, which Kintyhtt wanted to have at its start, but other parts of the business kept her from creating it. Customers have expressed interest in the coffee shop, and Kintyhtt said she thinks it will complement what the store has now.
“They don’t come here just to shop and leave, they come and they visit,” she said. “I think the coffee shop just gives them something else to stop in for…I think it’s a complementing service and something we don’t have here in Walhalla.”
As the sole employee of the store, Kintyhtt has a lot on her plate. She said she works seven days a week, and though she would like employees, she just keeps going.
One thing she hasn’t been able to do since COVID is hold DIY sessions, which previously attracted a number of participants, from as little as five to as many as two dozen, where people could get together, make something, and enjoy each other’s company.
Kintyhtt still enjoys the connection she has with the people of Walhalla, especially the other businesses nearby. In April there will be a junk shop hop, where customers get a map detailing the small businesses in the area and can get a prize for completing the route.
In addition to having her own business, Kinthytt is on the board of Walhalla’s chamber of commerce. She said she appreciates that she can work with other businesses around her, as well as the community itself.
“Walhalla, any small town really, you have to work together and you have to be each other’s support to be a part of the community and bring people together,” she said.
As for the rest of North Dakota and beyond, Kintyhtt wants people to not forget about the small, out-of-the-way towns like Walhalla.
“I guess I just want people to know that Walhalla does have a lot to offer,” she said.
Otto is a recent University of North Dakota graduate and intern at the Herald.