Continuing the Deal
Published 6:39 pm Tuesday, June 6, 2023
After five years of success, Real Deals owners hoping to find someone to keep the store going
When Real Deals opened in September of 2018, it was immediately welcomed as the place to stop for home decoration.
Since then, owners Kim Underdahl and Kim Stiernagle have continued to serve Austin with its array of decor with pride. However, the time has come for Underdahl and Stiernagle to step aside, and it could lead to a heartbreaking decision.
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Neither want the store to close, hoping instead someone will show an interest in purchasing the franchise.
“We’re hoping there are a couple of ladies in Austin or the surrounding communities that have a friendship and want to do a store that have a passion for it and keep it in Austin,” Underdahl said.
“It will be sad if somebody doesn’t buy it,” Stiernagle added. “We’re just really hoping someone can come in, and you know, they will have us where we didn’t have anybody.”
Before the store opened in Austin, the pair from Albert Lea had an interest in opening their own store.
They set out and shopped other Real Deals and settled on opening a franchise, choosing their site on Austin’s Main Street, at the location of the former Hallmark store.
“We ended up in Austin because this was the territory open for us,” Stiernagle said. “We live in Albert Lea. Austin has been great for us. Our friends from Albert Lea come and we’ve met so many people from Austin. It’s really been a good thing for us. We’re very happy with how it’s all gone.”
The store took off quickly, locking down the highest sales for any Real Deals at that point during the first three days.
In the process of operating the business over the last five years, the pair not only came to appreciate a love for the business, but also about themselves.
“I was 50 when we started,” Underdahl said. “You would think at that age you would know almost everything about yourself. No. We learned more things about ourselves by having our own business and having this experience.”
“Kim and I found we liked the party,” she added with a laugh.
Both said they enjoyed the store and that it was almost like decorating their own home. They spent the time making the store beautiful; changing displays or redoing them to ensure the store had a fresh look.
The hope was that customers would see the store in a new light, or maybe find something they hadn’t seen before. In fact, they have also started decorating other people’s homes, giving them both a further outlet for their talents.
“That’s the part of the challenge for us that we like,” Stiernagle said.
“It’s been great for her and I because we like hanging out together,” Underdahl said. “We work so well together. We don’t have to talk sometimes. We just know what the other one is going to do. It’s really been great for many reasons.”
However, there comes a point where it’s time to walk away and that’s the point Underdahl and Stiernagle are at now.
At the root are family obligations they have had to put on pause because of time spent at the store.
“I feel like it was fun and we got to learn a bunch of new stuff and we did,” Underdahl said, but added. “I can’t do 14 hour days here and give adequately to my family. The division of work and life is hard to navigate.”
Stiernagle is of the same mind.
“I’ve got some family obligations too that I feel I’m being pulled to do more of and I want to be there,” she said. “You don’t get that time back with your parents and you want to be there for them like they were there for you. It was a huge decision for us.”
While the pair our hoping to step into retirement, they are also conflicted about the store and very much want it to continue forward. The decision has already been made to step away this year, but haven’t announced when the store might close. Even if a buyer doesn’t come forward, though, Underdahl and Stiernagle are set in their personal decisions to walk away.
However, they have also said that they would be available for the new owners to help guide them if a deal can be made.
“It pulls at your heartstrings,” Stiernagle said. “When we walked into this store it was Hallmark. The card racks were still here, the carpet was here, we pulled the ceilings down. So much hard work went into the build-up of this building.”
For anybody interested in possibly purchasing the store, they are encouraged to email firstname.lastname@example.org.