When Ron and Valerie St. Martin moved to Bricelyn five years ago, one of the main reasons was their desire to live in a small town and enjoy the simpler lifestyle that came with being in a small community.
But, they also wanted to be part of the fabric of the city. So while Valerie has already been a pool manager in Bricelyn for five years, the couple also decided to open a store in Bricelyn, which would reduce the need for people to leave town to buy what they were looking for.
“It is ironical” mentions Valerie. “We opened our store so people don’t have to go to Albert Lea to find certain items and now we have people from Albert Lea coming to Bricelyn to buy things.”
The store is called Von’s Household Goods and Computer Repair. They offer a variety of items ranging from children’s toys, clothing, tools, and weed whips to lawn mowers.
In addition to the storefront, the couple also operate an Ebay store under vbro4090.
“One of the hottest things right now is our hardware,” said Valerie.
Indeed, the store, which is located across from City Hall, has a great selection of doorknobs, hinges, knobs and hooks – all priced at $1 a piece.
“We will purchase items when stores close or when stores replace inventory with the newest year’s model,” Valerie explains. “We are able to offer these things for sale at a greatly reduced price.”
And if the store doesn’t have an item, Valerie will find it and order it at no extra cost.
While Valerie is in charge of sales, Ron is the computer repairman. It will also repair any type of cell phone.
“Young children keep me busy installing new screens on their phones,” he said with a smile. “Looks like they break quite often.”
He enjoys working on computers and previously owned a store in Albert Lea called Captain Ron’s Computers.
“I also operated a computer store in Ellendale,” he notes.
He will build custom computers for gaming or any other need a person might have. Ron is also able to fix laptops and tablets and scan computers and remove viruses to restore machines to their best working condition.
He was born and raised in Faribault and worked as a diesel mechanic at TA Trails in Albert Lea and then at Albert Lea Tractor.
“The owner of Albert Lea Tractor also asked me to set up a computer program to track his parts,” he mentioned. “So he kind of got a two-for-one deal.”
Valerie is from Albert Lea who became an accountant and spent some time in the Twin Cities.
“I had my own business and loved doing taxes,” she comments.
However, an accident 21 years ago forced her to change her life.
“I was hit by a drunk driver” she shares. “I have four herniated discs and couldn’t sit at a desk for an extended period of time.”
The couple met at Albert Lea 11 years ago.
Then, six years ago, another accident changed their lives.
“We were riding motorcycles with Val with me on my bike,” Ron shares. “A pregnant woman who had a medical emergency retired in front of us. It wasn’t his fault, just an unfortunate situation.
A friend witnessed the accident and picked up the bike and pulled it off the road and took the couple home.
“Ron wasn’t going to go to the hospital,” said Valerie. “Then I held up my bloody, mangled hand and said I wasn’t going to go either.”
Ron changed his mind and the couple got medical help.
He ended up with spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spaces in your spine, and can put pressure on the nerves that run through the spine.
“I was forced to retire as a mechanic” remarks Ron.
But even though Ron and Valerie have had to deal with issues related to their accidents, they both remain optimistic and positive.
” We are here. We have much to be grateful for,” said Ron.
When they made the decision to try small town living five years ago, they checked out Bricelyn.
“We found a home, fell in love with it and restored it” explains Ron.
And then they became part of the city.
“There’s something special about knowing your neighbours, the people who live around you,” Ron comments. “You don’t get that in big cities.”
It’s also a town where Ron can spend time working on his classic cars – when he has the time.
“I have a 1952 MG TD and an Austin Healey,” he notes. “I’ve always loved small two-seaters and enjoy driving the MG on the annual parade around town.”
Now they are part of the Bricelyn business community which has also seen a new repair/service station and motorcycle shop recently opened.
The couple plan to start hosting a flea market on the first Saturday of every month from July 2.
“We own the open land to the north of the building and will charge people $5 if they want a place to sell their items,” Valerie explains.
Store hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. They are also open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. with a closing at 2 p.m.
People can also call the store at 507-320-8737.
“We still have work to do on the building” said Valerie. “We want to repaint the exterior and put up a sign. But we are very happy to be here in this community.