Lemonade stands are a staple of summer days, but they don't usually reveal a customer's future. That's unless it's the lemonade stand of 7-year-old Willa Marlotte of Minneapolis.
Willa's stand sells lemonade and fortunes for a dollar each. Willa's art hangs off a line over the stand and, once selected, reveals a fortune on the other side.
"You might find a monster bunny!" read one fortune that featured a brown rabbit under pink clouds. "Watch out for ghosts," read another.
"You might see a baby plant and a daddy plant!" predicted a third.
Neighbor Karen Bair is a fan of Willa's fortunes. "They're enthusiastic, they're friendly," Bair said.
"One was a little spooky, like there was a little intrigue going on. And they're very creative and prepared. She takes her time."
Willa and her mom, Caitlin Marlotte, began discussing a lemonade stand after seeing one out on a nice day earlier this spring, with Willa deciding she wanted to have one, too.
Her dad, Rob Marlotte, was supportive, but he did point out that there are a lot of lemonade stands out there. "Is there anything else you'd want to do?" he asked Willa.
"And then she thought about it, and a couple of days later she came up with fortunes," Rob said.
Together, Willa and Caitlin created prototypes for the stand using towels draped over chairs, as well as sketches. Eventually, they cut the legs off an old nightstand for the stand's base and painted its front sign purple. Willa picked the colors and layout to spell "Lemonade and Fortunes" while Caitlin handled the glue.
The lemonade sold is a rotation of homemade and store-bought mixes. Fortunes often feature animals, with tigers being Willa's favorite. She often works on them with her mom, each taking turns drawing one line of the picture before the fortune reveals its final image.
"She's really excited about it and I love that we can spend a little time making art together," Caitlin said.
Customers think the fortunes are fun, mysterious, cute and funny, Willa said. Of course, the ideas behind the fortunes are kept mysterious.
"Sometimes I get inspired," Willa said. "And sometimes I just know it."
The stand has offered Willa a chance to connect with neighbors and non-neighbors alike. One new customer came back to the stand to show it to his wife.
Willa's principal also has been a big fan. She bought a round of lemonades for volunteers at a school plant sale, Caitlin said. The fortunes can also be a point of conversation, with one customer sharing that she had wanted a pet snake when she was younger after her fortune revealed she might have one in her future.
"It's always neat to see people, because they'll read it right away, and they'll reflect on it and kind of share what it means to them," Caitlin said.
"We haven't done a whole lot of connecting in real life with people we don't know. And so the opportunity to connect with people on something like fortunes, something about their life or how they're reacting to a fortune, is an unexpectedly delightful perk of this."
With the pandemic and a long winter largely behind us, the stand is something to look forward to, said neighbor Dan Frush, who visited the stand with his family.
"It's fun for the kids to come outside and see their neighbors and have some lemonade," Frush said.
In her free time, Willa, who enters second grade in the fall, enjoys spending time with her hamster, playing with Legos and going mushroom hunting. She's working on a website where she plans to sell fortunes and share her photography.
"She's very self-winding," Rob said. "I mean, she will get up and just ask me, 'Dad, can we make a fortune?' or 'Mom, can we make a fortune?' So it's been really fun."
Willa plans to keep the stand open regularly during the summer — as long as she doesn't have a play date on her schedule.
Imani Cruzen is a Twin Cities freelance writer.