Minneapolis' 'Twin Peaks'-inspired Black Lodge Gifts gets a cease and desist order

Black Lodge Gifts

Black Lodge Gifts

As Twin Peaks teaches us, life is a constant struggle for balance between pure forces of good and the inevitable dark counterpart. One example: Artist Nancy Waller’s awesomely surreal Twin Peaks-themed gift shop and the CBS lawyers who want to take it down.

Alas, Black Lodge Gifts has closed.

We reported on Black Lodge a few weeks ago. Waller’s gift shop was more an art installation, it was an ode to David Lynch that recreated Twin Peaks’ classic settings and iconography in a south Minneapolis storefront that was not much bigger than the average bedroom. She sold plush logs, doughnuts, and bean-bag slices of cherry pie. But mostly Waller, dressed as various Twin Peaks characters, hung out, took pictures, and swapped theories about her favorite show with fellow fans.

Black Lodge Gifts got a boost after star Kyle MacLachlan reposted our story on social media, stamping it with his Dale Cooper-esque seal of approval. 

MacLachlan’s supportive tweet also caught the attention of CBS, whose lawyers issued Waller a cease and desist letter. As of Wednesday the letter, from CBS’s Vice President and Assistant General Counsel [for] Intellectual Property Mallory Levitt, was taped to the temporarily shuttered storefront above a tiny handmade sign reading “Closed.”

Black Lodge Gifts

Black Lodge Gifts

“We have recently learned about your pop-up store Black Lodge Gifts…,” Mallory writes. “While flattered by your obvious knowledge of and interest in the Series, as you can surely appreciate, our clients are legally obligated to protect their intellectual property rights in the Series both for themselves and the large of community of people involved in creating the Series…. The rights owners therefore seek to strike a balance between encouraging legitimate use and discouraging infringements of valuable rights.”

As legal warnings go, it’s fairly genial -- the kind of polite but matter-of-fact assertion you might expect from FBI Agent Gordon Cole. Still, the result is that Black Lodge Gifts is no more.

Don’t feel too badly for the intrepid Waller, however, who considers her quirky tribute a success and is ready to move on.

“[The letter] was quite a shock, and a bit of a relief to have them put an end to my pop-up,” Waller wrote in an email to City Pages. “It was never meant to be a permanent installation, but the fans kept coming so I extended its run. It is a compliment of sorts to have attracted the attention of CBS.”

She says she had a busy weekend just turning customers away.

“Even though it was closed, it was still rocking! A group drove all the way from Grand Forks, North Dakota, just to see it. I sold out of everything and am still taking orders. The pop-up was open for approximately 100 days. I estimate that over 2,000 people saw it during its run. That is amazing!”

Waller says she happily complied with CBS’s requests, and they’re fine with her continuing to sell her plush logs, doughnuts, and pies, so long as she doesn’t use MacLachlan’s endorsement (but we all still know they’re Agent Cooper-approved). She says she will return her storefront at 42nd and Grand Avenue to the headquarters of her sign-painting studio.

Those who got to spend some time in Black Lodge Gifts were treated to a truly unique experience, a kind of metafictional feat where a fantasy within a fantasy was made reality. (And Twin Peaks fans will certainly appreciate the irony of Waller being accused by CBS of creating a doppelganger of the show’s Black Lodge.)

If you missed it, remember that Agent Cooper himself disappeared into the Black Lodge before returning more than two decades later, so who knows what strange intersections of art, fantasy, and reality lie ahead.

On the other hand, there’s good news: That gum you like is going to come back in style.