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Home Place to ski off into the sunset

After years and years of being the business to go to for new bikes, bike repair all your cross country skiing needs the owners of The Home Place, Sue and John Tibstra are retiring and closing their doors.

BEMIDJI -- John and Sue Tibstra are closing the cross-country ski shop they’ve called home for 26 years.

John Tibstra said Tuesday the couple is in their early sixties now, and they feel it’s the right time to say goodbye to Home Place Ski Shop near the crossroads of Highway 197 and Paul Bunyan Drive SE.

Tibstra planned to keep the store running through the week and then close it down. The store is a heavy time commitment: since the husband and wife team are the only employees, one of them has to be there whenever they want  Home Place’s doors to be open.

“It limits your time off, being able to get away for more than two days,” he said. “That’s a factor.”

Although other places in Bemidji sell skis, Tibstra didn’t know of another shop specifically dedicated to the sport.

“That’s where it’s tough,” he said. “People come in going, ‘What are we going to do? Where are we going to get skis?’”

The shop also sold bicycles in the summer until about two years ago, when the Tibstras decided to focus just on skis.

Selling cross-country ski equipment comes with one big variable: the weather. People won’t buy skis if there’s no snow, Tibstra said.

“It’s not one of those businesses that if you were looking for a nice, steady, guaranteed income, you’d go ‘That looks like a good business to get into,’” he said.

Despite the financial risks, the Tibstras did it anyway for decades -- because of their own love for the sport, and for the chance to instill that love in their customers.

“We’ve gone through generations, which is kind of fun to see,” he said. “Kids that were starting out when we started out … now they’re bringing their kids in.”

As one might expect, the Tibstras are also mainstays in Bemidji’s cross-country skiing community, serving on the board of the annual Finlandia ski race and the Bemidji Area  Cross Country ski club. Although they might take a step back from volunteer work as well, Tibstra said they’ll remain involved.