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Three years ago, Carla Haga opened American Country Store & Florals. “I’ve been doing this on and off for year, but pretty much as a vendor. I would do it in a box, you carry it, load it, that whole kind of thing,” said Carla.
Haga also owned a small shop in Bismarck twice, but still drove a school bus and a truck in between stores, keeping her from doing it full time. Now with the store in Chrisman, Haga still drives a bus for the Chrisman School District.
“I’m still dabbling in this for full time, but trying to help the community out because they have no drivers.”
The building, located at 140 North Illinois Street has an attachment, formally where Becky Hanner had her accounting office is now home to Haga’s floral shop.
“When I cut flowers for Mother’s Day or Valentines Day, I cut flowers over there. I also do funeral flowers like ferns and peace lilies,” Haga said.
Business was great until COVID hit in early 2020. Haga had to close the doors for a couple of months.
“It was scary to walk in and not be open. That’s what made it more real, it hit home,” said Carla.
Though she wasn’t able to open, the community continued their support.
“I took something to a gentleman who has a table beside his garage. He’d order something and I would take it, drop it off and he would leave money. You just have to figure out what works.”
After a couple of months, Haga had to rethink how she could get the doors back open. She made sure that everything was clean and had only two people, plus herself in the store at a time.
“If they didn’t want to walk in and they knew what they wanted, I would take it to their car. We all kind of did what we needed to do.”
In addition to carrying produce, Carla has also started stocking Amish goods, t-shirts and coffee cups. “I kind of had to figure out what the community was missing and then fill that void. If people come in and say ‘hey, do you have this?’, my goal would be to figure out how to get that and carry it, then keep it all at a reasonable price.”
The carrying of Amish goods came from Carla herself. Having a sensitive metabolism, anything with artificial ingredients would make her nauseous. She started off carrying small things such as pies, breads and strudels.
“This was a way that I could have something good that wasn’t full of artificial sweeteners,”Carla said. Many people in the community caught on to the idea and have been buying many of the Amish items.
The Amish Jellies are bought through a direct contact from Yoder’s in Arthur. “I let Yoder’s keep their packaging. I can make it my packaging, but I chose not to. I think we should support everyone,” said Carla.
The breads, strudels and pies come from JT’s in Rockville, Indiana. “I have a certified kitchen, so I don’t have to worry about the health department. Nothing is cut or changed, it’s all packaged when I get it. I give everybody credit.”
Since she has a direct contact at both locations, people are able to come in and order something from both companies. “If you need something special, you come in and order it, prepay and I would get it for you,” Carla said.
In the future, if there’s a market for it, Carla mentioned carrying whole pies as well as white and wheat bread. “Right now, I’m carrying more of the treats. I need to pick one or the other to have some space,” she said.
Recently, someone from the community helped Carla get a cooler to keep her produce in throughout the year.
“I really want to add something that is special like if you want special dips for crackers or a cheese ball, that kind of thing. Carry a line of candies and snacks. Something that you just can’t get at other stories,” said Carla.
She hopes to have a unique line, similar to Cracker Barrel. A one stop shop for any needs the community may have.
Carla has also tossed around the idea of having an old fashioned soda stand where visitors would be able to walk in and get ice cream cones and fresh milkshakes. “That’s something that I would love to add to it. Obviously, it would be on the smaller scale and it would be fun,” she said.
Be sure to visit American County Store & Florals at 140 North Illinois Street. The store is closed Sunday and Monday. Hours are Tuesday: 2-7, Wednesday-Friday: 10-5 and Saturday: 10-2. You can also search American Country Collections on Facebook.