TINA L. SCOTT
There was a day when going out back to the shed didn’t have a positive connotation. But these days a trip to the shed can mean shopping, fun, and the thrill of the find.
Two area ladies reinvented what it means to visit the back shed in the Town of Pine River when they decided to open a gift shop in the outbuildings on a family farm.
Nina Skic and Missy Cayley opened the Crooked Queen, as they named their business, in 2014, at the Skic farm, N1764 High Ridge Rd., Merrill, where Nina and her husband, Mark, reside and raised their family.
“We started with one shed and have since expanded to four,” Skic said. The areas between the outbuildings are also display areas for items that are for sale. The four small buildings on property are the Grainery (or Grain Shed), the Chicken Coop, the Garage, and the Corn Shed. Seasonally, the Corn Crib is also sometimes full of decor.
It started because the ladies had a barn full of older items they wanted to repurpose, they loved creating with repurposed items and then decorating with those items, and they’d always wanted to have a business like this, they said. They love the kind of stuff they sell, they love family, and they love the thrill of the hunt. So they created a business that combined all of those things They decided they had nothing to lose, because if the stuff didn’t sell, they’d keep it for themselves.
So with the full support of their husbands, Mark and John, they started their venture.
But “the stuff” did sell, and these days there is a large crowd gathered ready to explore and discover treasures for their homes before they are even ready to open on their seasonal market days. They also now have a large crew of family members who help with parking, managing traffic, sales, packaging, carryouts, and more on their market days.
Market days are held for several days about once a quarter and merchandise appropriately changes with the seasons. Private shopping days can also be arranged for those who want to shop with a small group of friends or those who don’t like a crowd.
The Crooked Queen will be open this weekend for their Christmas Market 2022. Hours will be Friday, Nov. 11, 2022, from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 12, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 13, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
But … “If you cannot make it, no worries!” Skic and Cayley said. “We have plenty of inventory for the season.”
And this year, they will be expanding their shopping days, as well.
“As always, we welcome weekday appointments or group shopping experiences (a one- or two-hour time block for shopping with friends … jingle juice provided),” Cayley said.
There is a sign on the Grain Shed that says “Gathering Place,” and the Crooked Queen truly is a gathering place for like-minded ladies who enjoy shopping, upcycled and eclectic pieces, some shabby chic, a little rustic, some farmhouse decor, the thrill of the hunt (and the find), and maybe having a sip of “jingle juice” while they shop.
“People come out here for therapy,” Skic said. “They like to come out just to get out of the house and hang out a little bit and forget about the problems at home and just kind of come out and have a glass of jingle juice and unwind and look around. It’s a relaxing atmosphere.”
As it stands, they get visitors and shoppers from throughout the state of Wisconsin as well as Michigan and Minnesota, Skic and Cayley said, and their reach just continues to grow.
The farm and outbuildings on the top of a hill overlook a picturesque view in the Town of Pine River. And located just a few minutes East of Merrill’s City limits, it’s worth the short drive for a little fun exploration and maybe some retail therapy for those of us lucky enough to call ourselves local.
And for more on that jingle juice the ladies keep talking about, you’re just going to have to make the trip and ask the Crooked Queens themselves.