In the fall of 2008, Nik Larsen set out on a quest to find a piece of art to place above his new condo. Little did he know, finding the perfect painting for his guest bathroom could change two people's lives forever. This is the emphatically true (and slightly dramatized) Hallmark story of how Nik & Valerie met—and instantly fell in love... sort of!
IT ALL STARTED BECAUSE OF ART...
Back in 2008,Valerie was finishing up her Senior year the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) and Nik was a single bachelor on the hunt for new home decor. Each year, MCAD hosts a huge annual art sale where students exhibit and sell their original works of art to the public- which is beneficial both to students and to attendees of the art sale, who have their choice in thousands of pieces of original art.
As an experiment, Valerie decided she would try her hand at creating and selling a few paintings during the big art sale before graduating. Despite what many of you might think today, Valerie never studied painting in art school and wasn't planning to be a painter. Her degree was in Advertising and Design which meant she would likely be an art director at an agency. Valerie found herself pleasantly surprised when all four of her experimental paintings sold to unknown individuals at the sale. Through a little twist of fate, we now know Nik was one of those unknown individuals. We don’t know who the other three are and that’s not important. Nor is it surprising that Nik has subsequently (and falsely) taken credit for launching Valerie’s professional art career. More on this later.
THE ART OF STALKING.
To Nik’s credit, he didn’t formally become a stalker until at least a year after he purchased Valerie’s painting. Nik reached out to Valerie, genuinely interested in buying more art—with no ulterior motive. Valerie informed Nik she was living in Miami and wasn’t available to meet up. To shake him, she said “when I come back home to Minnesota, I will look you up and show you some of my new art.” She didn't really plan to show him art or move back to Minnesota anytime soon.
Nik went on with his life walking past Valerie’s painting daily. One Sunday afternoon Nik stopped to admire the masterpiece in more detail and asked, “I wonder what Valerie is up to these days?” Turning to the Google machine, he searched if she had a website where he could view her most recent art. He found her website and more. It turns out, with no suprise, Valerie is a pretty big deal. Living between Miami and NYC, Valerie was leading a successful modeling and art career. She was a mover and shaker and Nik was intrigued. As is already evident, there was no shortage of stalking content for Nik to discover.
In what can only be described as cliché and predictable, Nik went in for the kill and sent this email:
Two years ago, I purchased a splashy painting of yours from the MCAD Art Sale. Since, I’ve enjoyed your painting very much.
Are you back in Minneapolis and working on art? If so, I’d be interested in seeing new pieces or discussing a commission if that is something you are open for.
Let me know. Thanks!
President, Urbane Capital Management
Valerie grew up riding and showing horses her entire life…so this definitely wasn’t her first rodeo—much to Nik’s dismay. “President” and “Capital Management” was all she needed to validate her thought that this was one oldy moldy relic and not someone she would oblige any further. The peace sign promptly went up. She went on living her life. The “Capital Management” stalker was left behind and she never thought of him after that.
Until... he emailed her again a year or so later. And one more time a year later. He still claimed he wanted to buy more art, but Valerie wasn't living anywhere near Minnesota and wasn't coming back anytime soon.
This is Brad and Lindsay. It is their persistence and ability to set up a successful ambush date that can be credited to why Nik and Val finally met.
Current photo of the original painting hanging above the toilet in the guest bathroom- which has been transformed into a canvas storage room.
WAS IT FATE, OR DID FATE NEED AN
The back-and-forth continued for 7 years in total with nothing to show. Valerie was literally and metaphorically cruising the US in her Roush Mustang working as a professional model now, and Nik was building his life and business in Minneapolis. The two had gone their separate ways and the hallmark love story ending you are anticipating stalled indefinitely, until…
Brad and Lindsay Santala intervened. Brad was an old college mate to Nik and Lindsay was one of Valerie’s close friends in Minnesota.
At a casual dinner between Brad, Lindsay and Nik, Lindsay posed the question to Nik, “how is your dating life going?”
“Nonexistent” Nik responded. This opened the door for Lindsay to assert, “well, we’ve got the perfect girl for you!”
Nik thinking in the back of his mind that his definition of 'perfect' is vastly different than Lindsay’s. He politely declined. But that didn’t stop Lindsay and Brad from persisting: “Hold on a second,” Lindsay continued, “she is smart, beautiful, an artist and a professional model who just moved back to Minnesota from living in Miami…don’t be an idiot.” Completely flummoxed at the possible coincidence, Nik asked, “are you talking about Valerie Carpender…and if so, hook me up!!!”
Little did Nik know, the wheels were already in motion and Lindsay had been trying to convince Valerie to meet Nik for quite some time.
TOOK HIM SEVEN YEARS TO GET HER NUMBER, BUT HE HAD IT ALL ALONG.
Sticking to their promise, Lindsay and Brad introduced Nik and Valerie, but it wasn't an easy task. It was June 2015, fully 7 years after Nik purchased the original piece of art from Valerie that they were finally set up on a group date. Nik was told to meet a group at the Smack Shack consisting of Valerie and several others. Valerie, on the other hand, was told to casually meet a group of friends with no mention that Nik would be in attendance. It was an ambush date, plain and simple—masterfully planned by Lindsay and Brad—Valerie had no idea!
Valerie walked in and recognized the tall, well-dressed man sitting at the bar at Smack Shack because Lindsay had shown her photos of this Nik Larsen guy previously. Feeling like she had no choice in the matter, she sat next to him and began talking politely. Within the first minute of conversation, Nik disclosed "You know who I am, right? I am the Nik Larsen who has been emailing you for the past seven years. I have your art hanging above my toilet"!
Valerie couldn't believe it. All along, she thought Nik Larsen from "Urbane Capital" was some creeper, but he was actually a decent guy that her friend saw to be a good fit for her. He dressed nice, was tall and liked her art. She was interested.
Despite the initial surprise of meeting one’s stalker, Valerie warmed up to Nik and the two hit it off... at least Nik thought. Good conversation, mutual friends and love at first sight wasn’t enough to overcome the next blunder. While saying goodnight to Valerie, Nik made the fateful mistake of asking Valerie to input her number into his phone so that he could take her on another date. After entering her phone number, her name automatically populated in his phone, indicating that he already had her number (he had saved it from her business card he first received when buying her MCAD painting). “That’s weird,” she said, “you already have my number. How?” A deer in headlights, Nik’s scrambled to explain which, alas, didn’t work. Nik was back in the friend-zone.
Another 6 months would go by before they’d meet again. Poor Nik thought he might have let love slip away before it could even start.
Finally. Nik and Valerie meet in-person. Valerie was pleasantly surprised to learn who Nik was.
THE EXCHANGE FOR A ROMANTIC NIGHT.
This is Aimee. On the night this photo was taken, it was her idea to go to the Exchange Night Club. She can be credited for the final twist of fate that finally led Valerie to date Nik.
Nik and Val in St. Lucia in front of the mountain where Nik proposed.
Today, Nik is still the tall, well-dressed gentleman with a love for original art...
For those of you that know the Exchange Night Club, you will understand the facetiousness in this headline—as the Exchange does not provide romantic nights. It was Valerie's friend, Aimee, who wanted to go dancing on a Saturday night. There aren't a whole lot of choices in Minneapolis, so they arrived at the Exchange where they serendipitously ran into Nik.
In a memorable and romantic gesture, Nik said, “Do you want to get champagne drunk with me tonight?” Valerie agreed. Maybe it was the champagne, maybe it was how Nik made Val feel safe from every creepy guy at the Exchange, or maybe it was Aimee's rightful encouragement when she told Val, "I really like him! This guy is worth a chance." Whatever it was, from that night on, Valerie looked at Nik in a different light. At the end of the evening, Nik dropped Val and Aimee off in an Uber at her apartment and said "I'll see you again sometime! This was too perfect of a night and we should end it right there"!
Valerie was shocked that Nik didn't seem to care when he'd see her again. She finally was getting into him, but he was going to let her go so easily after all these years? Not so fast. Val texted Nik the very next morning.
Shortly following the Exchange night was New Year’s Eve. Nik hosted a big party where Valerie fell in love with his hosting ability, his friends and mom, Jantze. At midnight, they shared their first kiss (how cliché). From there, they spent almost every possible waking moment together.
Nik and Val were right from the start. They were meant to find each other at some point in this lifetime, and it all happened with a little faith, a little persistence and perfect timing. They have a relationship filled with respect and true admiration for one another, and a home filled to the brim with art!
Nik proposed to Val at the top of a mountain in St. Lucia. He made her climb all the way to the top to find him there waiting, hoping she'd make it in perfect timing.
Luckily, she did. And she said yes,