Little Falls non-profit to close thrift store after county denies its permit to stay open

Labor of Love thrift store forced to close in Little Falls

Labor of Love thrift store forced to close in Little Falls

A Little Falls non-profit is closing its thrift store that helps people in need, after Morrison County denied its permit to stay open.

In a shed, tucked behind a home in Little Falls, Julie Leikvoll, Labor of Love owner, is making a big impact.

“This is about love and problem-solving. Love and giving people hope,” Leikvoll said.

From the clothes down to the shoes, The Labor of Love thrift store came straight from the heart.

“I spent a lot of time in prayer and said, ‘God what do you want me to do?’ He put it on my heart to quit my job and help people,” she said.

In February of 2020 during the pandemic, Leikvoll created a charity that gives the community a place to donate items. People in need can pay what they can or take what they need for free.

She explained the idea started as a garage sale and quickly evolved into a thrift store after people in the community donated thousands of items, display cases and clothing racks.

After the fact, Leikvoll applied for a temporary permit with Morrison County to operate the store. The county awarded the permit with limited hours during the week.

The store helped community members like Wendy Bachman get back on their feet.

“Just taking the first step to get help was very difficult for me,”  Bachman, Labor of Love shopper, said.

Bachman lost her fiancée, then her home. She said Labor of Love gave her a future.

“It was amazing that I could come pick out furniture, pick out clothing that would fit me and that gave me the energy to keep going,” she said.

She explained Morrison County officials referred her to the organization to get assistance, but now operations are coming to a full stop.

Morrison County denied the non-profit’s permit renewal to stay open.

“It crushed me,” Bachman said.

Morrison County officials declined an on-camera interview, but sent 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS a statement outlining why Labor of Love has to close.

After review of Ms. Leikvoll’s Interim Use Permit application against the standards set forth within the Morrison County Land Use Control Ordinance, the County Board found the application did not meet the criteria to approve for the following reasons:

  • Voting cannot be based on emotion or the applicant’s character. It must be based upon the requirements of the Land Use Control Ordinance and the applicant’s demonstration of meeting those requirements
  • The proposed use is not supportive of the definition of Home Extended Business, which must be subordinate and incidental to the primary use of the property, in this case, a homestead.
  • The request to double the allowable hours and add days of operation conflicts with the performance standards for Home Extended Business. Although volunteers staff the store, the applicant stated that a total of 124 volunteers with 10 regular volunteers have been utilized. This speaks to the size of the operation, which appears to be becoming the principle use of the property and exceeds the allowable number of workers of five

Each request is considered on its own merit and set of facts. The Morrison County Board of Commissioners frequently aligns their vote according to the recommendation of the Planning Commission. However, in this case they did not.

It comes down to the land use control ordinance.

The statement explained Labor of Love does not fit the definition of a “home extended business.” The added doubling of the hours of operation goes against the guidelines and too many people are working at the non-profit, according to the county.

“I think leadership should come alongside and partner. Leadership should come alongside and say ‘Way to go community,” Leikvoll said. “It just seems like the door has been really closed to have that open conversation about trying to make this work.”

Leikvoll said between the volunteers and the community, The Labor of Love will keep its rhythm.

“It’s extremely tough, but I know good will prevail,” she said.

Leikvoll said she’s still searching for ways to serve the community and fill a gap in services even though her store is closing its doors.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reached out to all five Morrison County Board commissioners for an interview,  but did not receive a response.