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  • Writer's pictureNielsen Studios Inc

I firmly believe if you were to look up the word adventure, there would be a picture of Grand Marais, MN. This town is hemmed in by Lake Superior and the vast forested lands of the Arrowhead Region of Minnesota. You might say it is a perfect spot to test what your outdoorsy self is made of. That is what drew Jack Stone of Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply to open an outdoor gear store stocked with high quality products, offering guided tours, as well as sound outdoor advice. As my wife and I sat with Jack during the interview for American Faces #75, I heard a man fondly recall the adventures with family that went all the way back to his childhood. In Jack’s seven decades, adventure has always been a part of his life in one way or another. I saw his eyes light up as he spoke of walks in the vast wilderness of Minnesota as well as heard him chuckle when he spoke of flipping a kayak or two over the years. I heard him speak with passion about the employees and their work as they help provide outdoor gear and opportunities to people who come into the beautifully built and spacious store.

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The focus Jack has for customer service shows in the products he picks, and really surfaces in how knowledgeable he and his staff are. Jack often takes time to help customers with questions on where to find adventure or maybe an item they left behind that could provide a much appreciated creature comfort.

As I close this American Faces installment I guess what most impressed me about Jack is the resolve of this man, the passion for adventure in a man who has lived 70+ years, and a heart for the community of Grand Marais, MN in which his store is perfectly nestled. May we look less forward to retirement and more forward to the adventures that lie ahead.

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  • Writer's pictureNielsen Studios Inc

Sometimes the story you think you’re going for is not the one you get. In fact, if you’re truly open to listening, the real story is almost always something unexpected. Michael’s story, American Faces No. 74, once again reinforced that important lesson. Michael’s story also reminds us that the world is small, and people are brought across our path for a reason.

Michael operates a shoe repair shop in Osseo, Minnesota, called Michal’s Shoe Repair (yes, the name is spelled wrong – more on that in a minute). It started as a literal “mom and pop” operation in 1962, down in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota at the Brookdale Mall, and moved to Osseo in 2000. Michael began working in the shop when he was around 14 years old, learning the craft of shoe, boot and leather repair – and how to serve customers – from his own mom and pop. Michael served a few years in the Army National Guard after highschool, testing the limits of his youthful resistance to authority, then returned to work with his parents in the shop and to eventually be his own boss. He still serves customers one at a time, writes up work orders on paper slips, manages projects and inventory in his head, and remembers every customer by the type of shoe they wear. Michael’s old school in the best ways, in about every definition of the term.

In one respect, this is a story about craftsmanship, about a dying art form, and perhaps even about how even though we live in a throw-away culture where things are seemingly not made to last, people still find some satisfaction in repairing their favorite boots… just one more time.

Now, back to that misspelled sign…

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Where this story takes an interesting turn, and lands in the category of “things that make you go, ‘hmmm,” is the story behind the sign. You see, “Michal” is how his name is spelled in the Old Country. And the guys making the sign just (mistakenly) assumed he’d want it that way, because that’s how they spelled it where he and his family came from. It’s at this point Michael shared that his parents immigrated to the United States when he was a toddler. They brought their craft over from the home country, building a full life for their son.. and his kids and theirs, now third-generation Americans.

Michael still dreams of going back to the old country, visiting the town where he was born, riding a motorcycle through the countryside where his parents grew up, seeing the places and tasting the food they told him of. He still hopes to someday see the rest of the family he’s never met.

Those dreams now come with prayers, for the safety and survival of his family and homeland. You see, Michael was born in Ukraine.

Providence is an interesting thing. Sometimes people are placed in our path for a reason. And sometimes the story behind the story is really what we're supposed to hear.

Thank you Scott Whitman for your amazing writing.

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  • Writer's pictureNielsen Studios Inc

Updated: Mar 3, 2022

World Changers. It’s a bold title but I feel it is very fitting of Dan and Sandy Adler. This wonderfully inviting and incredibly talented singing duo who helped bring the Heart of the City Music Factory to Anoka, MN have given so much of themselves. The Heart of the City Music Factory is a music and event venue etched into the community fabric of Anoka that brings in family friendly performers to entertain. When I walk into the Music Factory I feel like I am entering a Victorian mansion with warm colors, swags of fabrics and lighting fixtures that hearken back to a past era. But that is not what I mean by World Changer.

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The title World Changer starts to find its meaning when I read the title of their ministry; Heart of the City Ministries. It’s in the fact that Dan and Sandy Adler felt the call decades ago while they were worship leaders at a local church; a call for Heart of the City Worship Band to use music as a tool to unite. Since 1996, Heart of the City, has been bringing a message, model and experience of multi-ethnic worship and Biblical unity to thousands of people through live performances. They have also recorded their multi-ethnic, multi-denominational and multi-generational Heart of the City Worship Band. This heart for racial reconciliation is woven so deeply into the hearts of this wonderful duo you can hear it in almost every word they speak and in the emotions as they share of their years invested into this cry of their hearts. It’s here that I feel my title comes from. You hear it in the songs they sing like We Speak Life ( I also came to realize during my time with them that these two have given so much of their lives to racial reconciliation through their incredible musical gifts. In the past, they had many offers from around the country to lead worship at large churches, but felt a call to unite people here in Minnesota. Their willingness to follow an unknown path to bring people together through music may not be a rich one by worldly standards, but it has been rich with relationships across racial and socio economic barriers beyond what our human minds can comprehend.

I walked away from this American Faces story with another friend and a renewed challenge to make the world a better place. Thank you Dan and Sandy Adler for giving so much to this world.

P.S. They make a cute couple!

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