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Email sent on whim delivers presidential visit

Woodbury resident Laurie Crowell (left) poses for a photo in June at her St. Paul store with President Barack Obama. (Submitted photo by White House photographer Pete Souza)

It never hurts to ask.

That’s the lesson Woodbury resident Laurie Crowell said she took away from a once-in-a-lifetime experience that led to her spending a half hour chatting with President Barack Obama.

The experience happened in June when Obama visited the Twin Cities, but Crowell’s interaction with him at her St. Paul store occurred thanks to an email sent on a whim.

She was sitting on her deck in Woodbury reading the daily White House e-newsletter she subscribes to when she noticed an announcement that Obama would be coming to the Twin Cities.

“So I hit ‘reply’ on my phone,” Crowell said.

She fired off a quick email suggesting he stop by her store, St. Paul-based Golden Fig, to sample some locally made foods and to “bring back something nice for the missus.”

Two days later, she arrived at the store to find a Secret Service agent combing the shop and one of Obama’s advisers awaiting her arrival.

“The president got your email,” she was told.

Later in the day, Obama’s motorcade delivered the president to the store, where he and Crowell dished on healthy eating topics like a couple of regular foodies.

“He seemed like a friend you had known forever,” she said of the half-hour-long sit-down with Obama.

Weeks later after letting the experience soak in, Crowell was still throttled that her informal email composed in two minutes actually found its way to White House decision makers. In fact, she noticed later that the email had actually been sent to a “do not reply” account.

“I always tell my kids, ‘If you don’t ask, the answer’s always ‘no,’” Crowell said.

That advice used to draw eye-rolls from her kids, but now there’s a little more weight behind her argument.

“In this case, it paid off big-time,” Crowell said.

Obama’s visit to Golden Fig also had a direct impact on the store’s revenue. Since the stop, business has picked up a whole 50 percent over normal summer traffic, Crowell said.

And the locally produced merchandise the president bought – including raspberry jam from Forest Lake, caramels from St. Paul and the store’s signature balsamic vinegar – turned out to be more than a one-time purchase. Crowell has since packaged up those same items and is now selling them as her “Presidential Gift Box,” which she said has proven wildly popular.

Other shops around her Grand Avenue location have also seen business boom since the visit.

An “Obama bump?” Seems to be, she said.

“We have seen a huge increase just in our little end of the avenue,” Crowell said.

She said it’s icing on the top for a moment she’ll never forget.

“It really is amazing,” she said of the meeting. “I really thought that it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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