There’s a dead body in the display window of a cozy block of storefronts in south Minneapolis.
Twin Peaks fans passing by will instantly recognize the plastic-wrapped mannequin corpse as a mockup of Laura Palmer, or they might take notice of the hand-painted sign on the glass: Black Lodge Gifts. Inside, artist Nancy Waller has created a miniature but massively immersive alternate world inspired by the cult-classic TV show by David Lynch and Mark Frost.
There’s the black-and-white chevron floor and that lurid red velvet curtain, unmistakable as the decor in the surreal realm that serves as the store’s namesake. Right next to the Laura Palmer shrine there’s the Double R diner table, a fresh piece of cherry pie waiting. There on a bookcase are the Log Lady’s logs, or rather Waller’s delicately hand-crafted plush recreations of them.
And there’s Waller herself, dressed as any one of the characters from the show. Some days she’s Diane or the Log Lady, other days the Giant or the Woodsman. And some days she’s dressed like the dapper Gordon Cole, a character played by her inspiration himself, David Lynch.
“It’s an homage to the great David Lynch,” Waller says. “[People] can come in and spend as much time as they want, talk. It’s almost become like an Elks Club or an American Legion post…. People come and drink their coffee and come and talk about season three of Twin Peaks. I fantasize that there’s a Black Lodge in every city. This is the new Elks Club. The Benevolent Society of the Bookhouse Boys.”
So is Black Lodge Gifts an art installation or an actual gift shop? In true Lynchian fashion, it’s both at the same time. You can buy Waller’s cute beanbag cherry pie slices, the delicately textured stuffed logs a la the Log Lady (fit for the Black Lodge, or your lodge up north), or stuffed decorated donuts.
The rest of the shop exists to be experienced. It’s a dream within a fiction made real—an appropriately mind-bending, Lynchian concept.
And it’s a magnet for fans. Waller says she’s had more than a thousand people come through since she opened the Black Lodge at the end of 2017, despite not having a website or a contact phone number. She’s delighted when people pop into the store to take pictures or swap theories on some of Twin Peaks’ ephemeral mysteries.
She’s even hosted episode viewings, projecting them onto a screen laid over the Black Lodge’s signature velvet curtain. The tiny space only accommodates four viewers at a time, plus Nancy behind the counter—or whoever Nancy is dressed as. “It’s an unbelievably weird experience," she says."You’re watching Twin Peaks inside Twin Peaks. It’s a dream within a dream. It’s not a virtual reality because it’s real.”
The store’s gleeful impracticality is by design. Waller has owned the storefront in south Minneapolis for 28 years, where she’s long showcased her art in rotating window displays. (She also has a sign-painting business.) After nearly three decades of struggling to make a profit, she says she was ready to give up the retail space—but she wanted to go “out with a bang.”
She noticed other businesses around town shifting their focus to the Super Bowl, so on what she describes as “a lark,” Waller decided to do something flagrantly anti-commercial. She would pay tribute to one of her favorite artists and end her tenure at the storefront in style. A place that mostly just existed to be experienced, at no cost, where you could buy some stuffed Twin Peaks souvenirs if you’d like.
And then, a surreal mitzvah: Waller started turning a profit. After selling just two plush logs over the last couple years, she sold 30. She can hardly keep the cherry pie beanbags in stock; she works on them constantly behind the counter, only pausing to chat, a half-constructed slice on the counter.
“This was supposed to be a pop-up that lasted two months,” Waller says. “And now what? Now it’s a success, people are begging me not to take it down. So I thought, 'Okay, I’ll keep it going for a while.'”
So the spookily charming pop-up shop will stick around, for now.
“[Lynch] is tapping into all of our dreams. I think we as Americans have very troubled dreams now,” Waller says. “By creating his world in reality, and making soft cuddly logs for people, I’m trying to make a better way that we can live and have business.”
IF YOU GO:
Black Lodge Gifts
42nd Street and Grand Avenue South, Minneapolis
The space is open Tuesday through Sunday from noon until 5 p.m.