By Casey Reeves, Northwoods News Digital Journalism Intern
While on a recent trip to Eagle River, I decided to kill some time by going shopping at a couple of local stores.
I was with my boyfriend and we decided to drive around town until we saw a place that caught our eye. As soon as the Thrifty Drifter came into view, we knew we had to stop.
The building is so eye-catching, painted a bright yellow and covered in all sorts of road signs. It’s hard to not be attracted to the shop.
Owned by Heidi Luebke and her husband, the couple has been living in Eagle River for 27 years. Originally from Germany, the couple came to the States after getting married and have grown their love of collecting together.
With an ever-growing collection, the couple decided they wanted to open a store so that they could share their love for collecting and bring new items into their lives. They opened the Thrifty Drifter on July 14, 2010, and the store has been growing ever since. Luebke stated that the store started with some of their first collections, such as her camera collection. “My uncle collected cameras and I thought they were so unique, so that is how I got into them.”
Luebke says she has no overall favorite thing to collect, as her interests tend to change with time. Her collecting focus can go from steins one month to old fishing tackle the next. “Currently, I collect art and carvings,” says Luebke “I went to a lot of museums as a child, which is how I gained a love for art.” Luebke’s favorite piece she has collected so far is an oil painting of a ship on the water.
However, not every item is as beautiful or normal as a painting, and the shop has quite a few pieces in their collection that offer you a glance at the bizarre side of collecting and vintage items. While perusing the shop, my personal favorite oddball items were the taxidermy pieces. Luebke confirmed that the taxidermy that comes through the shop tends to be on the weirder side, “Well, I have a horse rug that is currently in the shop, but I also have an actual stuffed collie dog.”
The store is welcoming to all, and that even includes children. The Luebkes encourage parents to bring their children to the shop as it can provide great learning experiences they might not have otherwise. “We have items from all sorts of cultures, from Native American pieces to items from Asia. It provides a good learning experience for kids and lets us be able to teach them through different cultures.”
If you’re not in the business of buying, the shop also takes donations from the community. “When in doubt, call us and we will help you out,” is the slogan the store owners have coined. You never know the value of the items in your storage or garage, and Luebke says part of the business is being able to see others’ collections and spreading the history of them.
If you want to check out the Thrifty Drifter for yourself, their summer hours are seven days a week, from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm. If you wish to see the store, but it is after hours, the Luebke’s have a sign on their shop door inviting you to call them and they will come to the shop and open it for you! Stop by at 838 Highway 70 West.
Casey Reeves is a college student with a few years of writing experience under their belt. Casey currently lives in Chicago, and has family in the Northwoods.