Artistic passion leads Parkston's Vilhauer into opening unique local gift shop

Kim Vilhauer stands next to a roughly 6-foot tall wood sign on Tuesday at her new gift shop, The Rusted Wing. She created the art piece using edgewood from West Virginia. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

What was once a gas station on the south side of Mitchell is now the home of Kim Vilhauer’s new gift shop that’s filled with her handmade home decor and signature signage.

After enjoying nearly a decade of business at her former local shop on Mitchell’s Main Street, Vilhauer decided to sell the retail storefront two years ago and start anew. While her reign as the owner of her previous gift shop, Dakota Scents, was over, her passion to continue creating art and home decor remained, leading the West Virginia native to open a new gift shop on the south side of Mitchell known as The Rusted Wing. Vilhauer officially opened The Rusted Wing, which is located at 1510 S. Burr St., in mid-July.

“I love that people appreciate handmade art and local business here in Mitchell, and I’ve had a lot of local support with my previous downtown business,” Vilhauer said. “I do a lot of customized and special orders through my Facebook page. A lot of people like to make signs, but I add things like metals and plants to them to give the signs a uniqueness.”

A self-taught artist, Vilhauer developed her down-home artistic style from the basement of her Parkston home, where she still produces many of the items that are in her gift shop.

Upon walking into The Rusted Wing, soft music and the aroma of unique scented candles welcome customers. As a customer strolled through the store Tuesday afternoon, asking what particular scent the burning candle was, Vilhauer proudly responded with, “Blueberry Creme.” After all, she was the one who made the candle.


“I wasn’t really into making art when I was younger, but about 16 years ago, I jumped into making the things in my store,” Vilhauer said. “I fell in love with the process right away. The candle making process is a lot of fun as well.”

Although similar products -- candles, wood signs and home decor -- she sold at her previous store in downtown Mitchell make up most of the items on display, Vilhauer is eager to begin welcoming a new feature to her shop.

Within roughly the next month, Vilhauer will begin teaching classes in the Do It Yourself (DIY) room directly next to the gift shop.

“We will be doing kids sessions as well, so mom and dad can drop the kids off to get dinner,” Vilhauer said.

The class sizes won’t exceed 20 people, which will give her more opportunity to help people create the signs they’ll be making. To sign up for the classes, Vilhauer said participants can register through her Facebook page or by coming into the store.

The process of making some of the wood signs requires patience, because the wood requires nearly a year to dry before it can be painted and transformed into a sign.

Vilhauer said she hauls roughly 100 pieces of West Virginian edgewood over 1,200 miles back to South Dakota. She also uses some local wood for the remaining wooden signs she sells.

“I go home to West Virginia twice a year and get live edgewood that gets cut by a sawmill down there,” Vilhauer said.


Her West Virginia roots come out through some of her wall signs, while several of them include the lyrics to a classic country song by country music legend John Denver.

Vilhauer's husband supports her by cutting some of the wood pieces, and appreciating her unique creations.

“My husband has been so supportive with my local business,” Vilhauer said. “It would be hard to do it without him.”

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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