As McKenzie, Andrew and their daughter Stella settle in the LocalTies office on Hamel Road, their youthful optimism fills the room. Having just celebrated her first year in business, I asked McKenzie how she got her start. “I’ve always wanted to open some sort of business,” she began. “I grew up in an entrepreneurial family. My mom helped start Giant Sunflower Seeds (the company), my brother has his own business, my uncle owns his business, and that excited me. In high school I competed in scholarship based pageants with a focus on different areas of competition such as interviews, evening gown, fun fashion, and fitness, it was a big part of my high school career which created an interest in fashion.” McKenzie laughs, “I’ve always helped my mom with her wardrobe!” McKenzie’s mom, Lucy, is her business partner, in charge of bookkeeping. McKenzie manages hiring, training and the store itself; both are involved in product purchasing, most recently trips to Las Vegas and Dallas.
“What I like most about Winston & Co is getting to know people.” McKenzie has regular customers whom she knows by name, and she particularly enjoys having an idea of what new items they will like before they step into the boutique. “One of the coolest moments is when a customer bought a dress from us that she used as her wedding dress!” McKenzie’s enthusiasm is palpable as she continues, “Her fiance came in and he told us she loves the store. He wanted to buy her something ~ but made sure we knew he didn’t want to see THE DRESS!”
Why Medina? “I grew up in a small town in North Dakota,” McKenzie explains. “After hearing Andrew talk about Medina’s small town feel, I decided to open my boutique here to be a part of the cozy, homey feeling, like where I grew up.” McKenzie pauses, then smiles. “It reminds me of home.”
As McKenzie expertly entertained their 9 month old daughter Stella, her husband Andrew spoke with confidence and an air of maturity that belies his young age. “I always knew I wanted to be a police officer,” Andrew begins. “I grew up watching my dad serve on the police force as a lieutenant in Moorhead for 18 years and now as Chief of Police in Big Lake starting back in August of 2012. I began as a community service officer with Maple Grove, was there for 2 1⁄2 years, then had a short stint in Nashville before ending up back in Medina. “We visited Nashville in January of 2014 and liked it, so when the opportunity opened we moved down there. We found we missed our family and the weather here.” “You missed the weather?” I asked. “Man it was HOT!” they both vehemently agreed with one another.
When asked why he applied for a spot in Medina, Andrew replied, “Maple Grove is like a big city now, Medina still has a small town feel. You get to know people in the community, where they live and who their kids are. The community itself is amazing, everyone is so supportive. Plus the scenery is beautiful.” As of September Andrew has been with the Medina police force for three years. “It sounds cliche,” he says, “ but I really like helping people. Just hearing my dad talk about it, doing ride-alongs with him growing up, I saw there was something new every day. You don’t see the same thing over and over and over again, you come in not knowing what is going to happen, what you’ll be seeing, where you’ll be going. There’s some excitement in that.”
Andrew and McKenzie met at a Fargo hockey game in 2009 while in high school, then their paths didn’t cross until Andrew moved to the Cities, reuniting with Kenzie via Facebook. “I went to the Red River Valley Fair in Fargo for a weekend with some friends, and there she and I met up again. After that she followed me down here for some reason.” The two look at each other and laugh.
Wherever we are in Medina, there’s a good chance we’ll see Andrew. “We cover the entire city, all 26 square miles.” When asked about scary moments, Andrew stops and thinks. “We’ve been to events where things are progressing quickly and stuff is going on, but Minnesota has excellent training so we all learn how to put ourselves in a position to handle the situation to keep everyone out of danger as best is possible.”
McKenzie suffered with stomach pain for over six years prior to opening Winston & Co just over a year ago. Her doctors were unable to diagnose her medical issues. “My intestine ruptured one day when I was home by myself. Although we were used to going to the ER.” “It was a weekly deal, usually around midnight,” Andrew interjected. McKenzie continued, ”They never found anything until it ruptured, and then it was emergency surgery that day. At that time we received the diagnosis. Crohn’s Disease.” Losing the diseased part of the intestine (12 inches were removed) and medication has helped. “I’ve been going to Mayo every 7-8 weeks to get infusions, and now a nurse has started coming to our house to give the infusions which is really nice because they each take three hours.” In retrospect, McKenzie and Andrew both said they’d seek a second opinion if given a redo. “It’s pretty difficult to diagnose,” Andrew said. “There isn’t a key sign of anything in particular, there isn’t a Crohn’s blood test and people have it in varying degrees.”
One trigger for Crohn’s Diseases is stress. “His job was really stressful at first,” McKenzie explains. “My stress level went up around the time cops started getting a bad rap.” I asked how they have alleviated that stress, to which they answered working in Medina is a plus. “One thing that’s nice about Medina is it is a small town with family values,” Andrew states. He spoke about local families who own multiple businesses in the area, and who play important community roles.
There have been a rash of home burglaries this summer. “Loretto is the only place we had calls to when four houses and six cars were hit, we think we spooked them through our presence on a later date in Medina.The area is generally quiet as far as property crime and violent crime go. We have a few people in our department that are very traffic enforcement heavy, the likelihood we will be at a traffic stop when someone is driving on highways 55 or 101 is high. That may be a deterrent for someone to go another way.”
To better serve Medina, Andrew recently became a drug recognition evaluator, completing a nine day, federally regulated course taught through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The vigorous program required coverage of 1000 pages, 7-8 tests over nine days, or 72 hours total immersion. Training included a trip to Jacksonville for six days, evaluating impaired people who willingly volunteered to help the cause. “Basically there are seven different drug categories,” Andrew explained. “Each with different clinical indicators, different vital signs, their eyes will show differently, as well as general indicators with how they act, such as eyes twitching, if they are sweating, if they’re hallucinating. An evaluation typically takes about an hour.”
With only 225 drug recognition evaluators in Minnesota, chances are high for Andrew to be called in assisting other police departments. “I learned that it starts when people are down on their luck. People don’t one day say they want to be in this position. For example, one guy I dealt with had a job, tried to make things work by taking something to keep him awake and it led to an addiction.”
At the end of our conversation, I ask if there is anything more they’d like to add. “Most likely when people come into the store, Stella might be with me.” Kenzie said people here are wonderful about it, they seem to enjoy watching her grow. “I don’t know if I’d feel comfortable with people knowing our family as much as we are comfortable here. That’s also why we love Medina, it just feels like one big supportive family. There are hardly any chain stores, it’s awesome. Everyone is so supportive, we love that the entrepreneurial spirit is so strong here!”
Baby Stella interjects with a babble, perfectly timing her opinion.