In 2007 the St. Anthony Park Community Foundation instituted its Spirit of the Park Award to honor those who have demonstrated extraordinary dedication to the St. Anthony Park community, recognizing first Gerald McKay, Fred Morlock and Gale Frost. Subsequent winners were Andrew Boss in 2008 and Fredric Steinhauser last year.
This year’s winner is Bibelot founder and community business icon Roxana (Roxy) Freese.
When asked about contributions to St. Anthony Park, Freese modestly demurs.
“I’ve served on various committees, mostly in a supportive role,” she says.
Jon Schumacher, executive director of the foundation, praises Freese for her commitment to the business community and the neighborhood; for her willingness to give feedback, assistance or money when asked; and for her leadership.
“The Bibelot was one of the first and remains one of the steadiest anchors of our business district,” says Schumacher. “Roxy is recognized metro-wide as a strong businesswoman and a role model for other women looking to become entrepreneurs.”
Freese will receive a plaque at the annual Park Fourth of July celebration, and $500 will be contributed in her name to the Fourth of July committee.
Freese has spent most of her 78 years in St. Anthony Park, either in her home just blocks from the Bibelot, or at the store. She moved here as a single mother and opened the store in 1966 as a way to support her family.
She had been a fine arts major in college, but when she visited museums, she found that she was especially attracted to what was sold in the museum store. So she decided to sell similar items in her new venture.
The Bibelot began in just one room, but Freese’s eye for interesting bibelots (“a small object whose value lies in its beauty or rarity”) and her unerring sense for what the next trend would be helped the business grow quickly, eventually encompassing four rooms on Como Avenue and shops in three other locations.
Over the years Freese has been involved with the St. Anthony Park Business Association, helping plan neighborhood activities such as the Art Fair, Fall Festival and, most recently, the Park B4 Dark promotion.
Freese has been a champion of environmental responsibility. The boxes and bags used at Bibelot are made from recycled or recyclable materials, as are some of the things sold there.
The latest venture, Rewear, recycles gently used clothing. Customers can bring in up to 12 items of clothing (in very good condition) Sunday-Wednesday. A staff member will evaluate the clothing and choose which items to sell. The customer receives 50 percent of the selling price in a gift certificate to the Bibelot stores. Details can be found at bibelotshops.com.
Freese supports local artisans by selling their items in her stores. She’s proud of the fact that the stores stock something for all ages.
“Kids stop by on the way home from school,” she says. “People get wedding presents and condolence cards. We are part of their lives.”
Freese says the Bibelot wouldn’t exist if it didn’t start in St. Anthony Park.
“The customers are incredibly loyal. I think they feel a sense of ownership in this store. I’ve tried to make many of my buying decisions based on what I thought they would like.”
Freese says the best part of her job is doing what she loves.
“It’s wonderful working with customers who are so supportive and appreciative. I still like finding things and staying on top of current trends. And the holidays are so exciting. People are happy and enthusiastic and the store looks great!”