Whether you need a wall-mounted bottle opener, a “stainbow” Minnesota sign, or a wooden portrait of a furry friend, Hagen and Oats has you covered when it comes to wood-based crafts.
Nikki Hollerich and Anna Hagen run this small, gay-owned business in Newport, Minnesota, and with a presence in four Twin Cities shops. (Hollerich is gay and Hagen is a strong ally.) They’re sisters from the metro area who have a love for crafts and who fell into woodworking around six years ago.
“We’ve always been really crafty, but we’ve never really done woodworking specifically,” Hagen says. “We joke that we have gone through every aisle of Joann fabrics. We’ve done the beads and tie dye and sewing.”
Hollerich says they didn’t make the decision to go into woodworking一their buyers did.
The small business began in 2015, after Hagen posted a picture on Facebook of a piece of wood art that she created. It caught the eye of her friends, who began ordering the wooden cut-out portrait of a deer head, and more people caught on. From there, Hagen and Hollerich started adding other wood designs.
The two would spend weekends making wood pieces that sold out almost instantly online, Hagen says. Then, on Monday, after working all weekend, they’d head back to their other jobs.
Hagen worked as a marriage and family therapist while Hollerich oversaw several Papa Murphy’s franchises. The two grew up in Edina and now live in Woodbury. They’re both married with kids, and during the four years when they worked their full-time jobs while also running Hagen and Oats, their spouses were a huge help, they say.
“My wife has definitely done everything at some point in the shop,” Hollerich says. “She’s worked shows and taken down booths with us.”
As their revenue started growing, they began to spend more time on Hagen and Oats. Their routine transformed from weekend woodworking to pulling 100-hour work weeks to keep both jobs afloat. By 2016, the business was successful enough for them to open a storefront in Newport.
“I wouldn’t describe it as like a jump; it was more of a slow pivot,” Hagen says. Over the course of four years, they grew a customer base, found a storefront, and hired employees. By December of 2019, Hagen and Hollerich had both officially quit their jobs and were doing Hagen and Oats full time.
They now have four locations throughout the metro area, in addition to their homebase store in Newport. “We have collaborative spaces with other small businesses,” Hollerich says. These include the Grand Collective in St. Paul and two Six for Good locations, one in Edina and the other in the Rosedale mall. “The concept is essentially that we’re sharing the rent, sharing the labor, and sharing the duties, because as a small business, owning your own retail space is pretty difficult.”
Hagen and Oats, like many businesses this past year, had a tough time making it through COVID-19.
“[Before COVID] our business was really taking off and it never stopped. Then COVID hit,” Hollerich says. “If COVID had hit three years ago, we would’ve had to close the doors because we weren’t established enough.”
Along with the storefront, they typically have booths at various events across the Midwest, including Minneapolis’ Pride festival. “It’s not a huge money maker, but it’s about being around the community,” Hollerich says, of Twin Cities Pride. It’s where they’ve met some of their best customers.
Although they never heavily advertised Hagen and Oats as a gay-owned business, the sisters still made a point to create a friendly and accepting community in the store. “I feel like, with us being a little different, we’ve got our employees to feel safe. We’ve got our clients and customers to feel safe,” Hagen says, of running a gay-owned business.
Both say that they tend to hire LGBTQ+ employees—not because they specifically try to, but because that’s who ends up applying. It also helps that they sell rainbow artwork and set up at Pride.
Dan Jasper, one of their regular customers, says he met Hagen and Hollerich at a home show several years ago and continues to be on the lookout for their booth.
“I walked up [to their booth] and I’m pretty sure I met Hollerich the first time,” Jasper says. “We talked for probably 30 minutes.” Over the years, Jasper has bought pieces for himself and as gifts—including a wall-mounted bottle opener for himself and a pet portrait for his son. “The bottom line is I think their heart is in the right place.”
As co-owner of a gay-owned business, Hollerich says she wants to give back to her community. Hagen and Oats sells “stainbow” pieces, which are wooden pieces stained with rainbow colors. They donate 10 percent of those proceeds to LGBTQ+ affirmative action organizations. Hollerich says that in the past, they’ve donated to Reclaim Minnesota, a mental health facility for trans youth, and they have partnered with All Are Welcome Here, a Twin Cities brand known for its welcoming signage, apparel, and accessories.
Check out Hagen and Oats at any of their five locations in Newport, Edina, Roseville, St. Paul, or Minnetonka. Or visit its website to see the pair’s art pieces and prices.