Modern Mercantile

A downtown mainstay makes a nostalgic comeback.

Like the phoenix rising from the ashes, White Bear Lake Mercantile is once again gracing the streets of downtown White Bear Lake—albeit a little different than the original. It was located in the spot where Cotroneo’s Wine and Spirits is currently and provided an eclectic mix of foodstuffs, pottery, toys, gifts, china, etc., to the townsfolk of the late-1880s and early-1900s.

The two owners, proprietors of other shops downtown, Charity McClung and Sandy Matzdorf, of Sweet Home and ReUse ReStyle, respectively, wanted to invoke the feeling of the original shop.

So they worked with Sara Markoe Hanson and Meg Todd from the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society to find the logo and conduct research on the product mix offered in the original store. “We want to pay as much homage as we can to the original mercantile,” says McClung. “But with a funky twist,” Matzdorf adds.

The 700-square-foot space will open for sales the third Thursday through Saturday of every month—as well as pop-up dates—and will offer a variety of vintage and new items, including small furniture, stationery, home décor pieces, candles, some custom White Bear Lake apparel, a self-serve candy bar and a private-label beauty line.

As another nod to the shop of yore, the duo, after happening upon an advertisement in one of the papers in the WBLAHS archives, decided another product was a must-have: coffee. “There was an ad that read: ‘A morning without Burlington [Highway Coffee] is like Thanksgiving without the turkey,’” Matzdorf says. “And I knew right then we had to have coffee.”
McClung and Matzdorf will also offer a variety of classes in “The Gathering,” a designated area within the shop. “We’re gearing more towards things you can transfer to your homes,” says Matzdorf, “and we’re having some really talented, local people to help teach the classes.” The space will also be available for private parties, including bridal showers, book clubs and the like.

“It’s always fun to enter into a new business,” says Matzdorf. “And it’s an added bonus that you get a new friend.”

Create a festive table with tips from the Mercantile.

"The Mercantile is a juxtaposition of everyday staples, such as coffee, candles, body care items, gifts and more. Thus, when we created our Christmas tablescape (adjacent photos), we wanted to keep the balance of traditional with the unexpected,” says McClung.

“We used traditional holiday colors, including red, green and gold, and then added a twist, such as our rustic corncrib wall treatment on which we hung Christmas stockings.

One of our favorite things is the table centerpiece—an old, tin coffee dispenser filled with twigs, berries and picks—which is anchored by the big cut wood slab.

By using traditional 12 days of Christmas place settings and deep red cut-glass stemware, we tied the table together.”


  •  Start with a theme.
  •  Add the unexpected.
  •  Use fun items in unique ways.
  •  Mix rustic with the new.
  •  Add a bit of nature.
  •  Layer items for added interest.
  •  Use beloved pieces to create nostalgia.
  •  Be creative!