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Jane Drussel-From Beanie Babies to Nutcrackers
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Jane Drussel has kept the valley supplied with essentials, such as office supplies, and she’s upped the fun quotient.
   
Friday, May 13, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Jane Drussel did not want to move to the Wood River Valley in 1970.

“Everything was dirty and there were no houses available, nothing for rent,” she recounted. “But I had no choice since my husband had been transferred here by the Forest Service. So, the six of us crowded into one of the little Red Top cabins on the highway.”

It’s fortunate for Wood River Valley residents that Drussel did move here as she’s kept the valley supplied in office supplies, stationery, greeting cards and art supplies for nearly 50 years, while involving herself in the valley’s civic affairs.

 
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Jane Drussel remains very hands-on with Jane’s Artifacts.
 

Her involvement in the Wood River Valley has earned her a place on the Blaine County Heritage Court, which honors women for their contributions to the Sun Valley area’s way of life.

And, looking back, Jane would say it turned out to be a great move. In fact, she calls the summer she  and her family lived in the Red Top cabins while they awaited construction of a new home on Buttercup Road one of the best of her life.

“The kids didn’t know anybody so we spent the summer fishing as a family,” she said. “My toddler caught his first fish in the Wood River fishing off the bank. In those days you could fish anywhere as there were no buildings along the river.”

Drussel grew up in Oklahoma, where she played trombone in the school band, played on the basketball team, learned the piano and accordion and wore hand-me-downs from her older brother.

“My aunt brought us pretty flour sacks and my mother made my clothes out of those,” she said. “When I was 8, my Mom ordered an Easter Dress out of Spiegel catalog. On Easter morning, I was all set to go to church in my white hat, white shoes and white gloves, but I had no dress. I was so upset we got the postmaster out of bed to go down and see if the dress had come in. Sure enough.”

Hailey, which now boasts about 8,500 residents, was a town of 1,500 when Drussel moved here. It had just two lanes of traffic, a pharmacy, a dress shop, a Western Auto store and a grocery store.

“The Merc, which later became Paul’s, had a huge dry goods department,” Drussel recounted. “You just did not drive to Twin to shop then.”

In 1985, after several years working retail in the valley, Drussel and her second husband Kenny Drussel started Jane’s Paper Place in Ketchum’s Giacobbi Square. They soon opened a second office supply store and card shop store in Hailey where Wildflower is now.

“It was time for me to have my own business,” she said. “When I lived in the Ogden area, I’d been a buyer for Sears. I had to do inventory and I had collected ideas for what I wanted to do if I ever had my own shop. We were the only place with school supplies in Hailey. Kenny and I loved the kids so we kept toys stickers and candies, in addition to the paper products.”

The biggest craze over the years, Drussel said, were the Ty Beanie Babies, a line of stuffed toys that came in the shape of unicorns, dragons and puppy dogs.

“People knocked down the door for those,” she said. “They’d watch my freight to see if I had gotten a new box of them. Nowadays, the young generation is not as interested in collecting things.”

Today, Drussel added, kids gravitate towards fidget spinners--triangular-shaped toys that spin.

In 1987 Drussel opened her first Christmas store—something that had been a longtime passion of hers. Until this year when it transitioned to a stationery store, Jane’s Holiday House boasted a mish mash of Halloween, Christmas and other holiday decorations. Shoppers might find Santa wearing an orange Halloween masks one day, while Nutcrackers stood amidst cats in black capes.

Fourth of July is her favorite holiday. She is heavily involved in planning Hailey’s Days of the Old West Fourth of July Parade.

“It’s so patriotic and it brings people together. It gives us the home town feeling I want to have,” she said.

Drussel and her husband Ken sold the business in 2004 when they decided they needed a break. They moved into a motorhome and went on the road in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, working as sales reps selling furniture and decor.

When the snow started flying, they’d head to places like Dallas. But they always made it home for Christmas.

By 2009 Wood River Valley residents were asking them to reopen the store. And, five years after they hit the road, they were back in the valley and unlocking the door to Jane’s Artifacts in downtown Hailey.

Over the years Drussel has served in the Bellevue PTA and as president of The Chamber of Commerce. She’s also active in the Hailey Rotary Club and recently ran for Hailey City Council at the age of 82, hoping to offer a voice for the business community.

Drussel laments some of the changes that have befallen the American economy in the time since she first opened her business.

“I opened my store in Ketchum for $14,000. I could no more open for that amount of money today. You’re looking at $300,000 plus by the time you think about things like fixtures and carpet,” she said.

She also laments that housing remains a huge issue nearly 50 years after she struggled to find a place to live in the Wood River Valley.

“I’m concerned that the housing crunch and rocketing rents make it hard to attract and keep employees,” she said.

That said, she says she’s been blessed with employees that have been with her forever.

“Christine Green is like one of my kids. She’s been with me 30 years. Rachel has been with me 20 years; Hugo, 13. I’m so fortunate in that we’re like a family.”

Two of Drussel’s sons still live in the valley, involved in construction work like Drussel’s late husband. Another son works in the administration of Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise and the fourth is a graphic designer in Bozeman.

Drussel says she has no intention of giving up work any time soon.

“I love my work. As long as I have my health and happiness and love what I’m doing, I’m here. I love my employees, I love my customers, I love the kids.”


 

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