Traveling the world is at the top of many people’s bucket lists as they grow older. College graduates are now taking a year off to travel to far away places as they seek new adventures while filling up their passports with stamps. They want to capture photos, try different foods and meet people from different walks of life. Traveling can be great, but many people don’t have the luxury to travel that often and find themselves living vicariously through friend’s Instagram stories and Facebook posts. But there is a gem located on Hayward’s historic Main Street that has been allowing people to travel the world on a rainy Saturday afternoon with no passport required; Ahlgren’s Old World Accents.
Ahlgren’s is owned by Mika Ahlgren and while there have been many changes to Main Street over the years, Ahlgren’s has solidified itself as a staple in the Northwoods. The store hasn’t always been located in the heart of Hayward and it wasn’t always called Ahlgren’s either. Mika opened up her first store called “Interior Accents” back in 1999 on Hwy 63 (where the Verizon building is now). She started off small with a simple inventory, but grew as time went on as the business became more successful. She moved to Main Street around 2001. “I needed to be where the traffic was,” she said. Mika at one point was operating three different businesses on Main Street. “It was a lot of work, but very rewarding,” she added. Although running all of these different businesses at one time caused her to log plenty of hours on the job, she still believed in a “family first” mindset.
Mika and her husband, Brian Ahlgren, raised three children in the Hayward area. “Running a business and being a mom definitely has its challenges, but family comes first and work comes second. Everything else comes after family.” She tried her best to make it to her children’s games and events as often as she could, while still maintaining successful businesses. “Maybe the house didn’t get picked up as much as it should’ve been,” she laughed. Brian and Mika also made it a point of emphasis to take their children with them when they traveled. The trips many times weren’t for business, but they longed for more of the family experience together. “Finding balance is key,” she said.
Growing up in Chicago after moving with her parents from Croatia when she was 12, Mika knows what it’s like to be raised in a city and now, what it’s like to raise a family in a small town. “There’s nothing like it,” she said. Mika talked about the opportunities that her children had while growing up here between sports and the activities that they could be involved in that people who live in cities just don’t get to experience as often. She feels that there is more of an emphasis on family when life is simpler in a small town setting. While Mika and Brian’s kids are all grown up now and out of the house, she’s excited about what the future holds for her and her business.
Mika retired from the interior design business six years ago and after owning and operating Moda Boutique (near the top of Main Street) for four years, she decided to simplify and now has made Ahlgren’s the central hub for everything she is doing. That doesn’t mean she’ll stop selling furniture, lighting, clothing, and home accessories anytime soon, but now she just has it all in one location. “I’ll go from working 80 hours a week to only 60 hours a week,” she joked. When asked if she’d like to give any advice to her younger self when she was first starting her business, she said, “Don’t be such a perfectionist. It’s overrated. You’ll eliminate extra stresses if you’re not constantly worried about being perfect.”
Finally, I asked her what the nerdiest thing that she owned was. It took her some time to come up with an answer, but she ultimately landed on her “greys” and “browns”. I had never heard of this terminology before, so I asked her to kindly elaborate. “I have an outfit that’s all grey: my sweatshirt and sweatpants. I also have a brown version of my ‘cozies’ as well.” She laughed and said that her daughter, Kelly, will sometimes call her to ask which one she is wearing. (Don’t worry, Mika, you’re probably not the only one out there that does this.)
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t travel or that you shouldn’t buy that plane ticket, but when you come back, you can find a little piece of your travels right in the heart of Hayward at Ahlgren’s.
Ahlgren’s Business Hours:
Monday - Friday 10:30-5PM
Contact Info: Ahlgren’s Old World Accents
Phone: (715) - 934 - 2882