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Resale shops thrive in downtown Evansville

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Gina Duwe
May 4, 2013

— They've been compared to popular reality TV show hosts on “American Pickers” or “Flea Market Flip.”

“We're junk pickers,” one admits.

But their findings and creations are attracting shoppers to downtown Evansville for items picked from around the region, many crafted into projects found on the popular website Pinterest.

The trend of recycling and repurposing items otherwise headed for the garbage is partially behind the success of several new shops attracting visitors to a downtown that has tried for years to bring people to its red brick street.

With four new shops on Main Street, out-of-towners are beginning to think there's enough to see and do to make an Evansville day trip, the owners said.

“I think that's the big difference,” said Susan Farnsworth, owner of Studio Repeats. “We just all are keeping our fingers crossed.”

Power in numbers

Farnsworth and a partner started a consignment store last May in the basement of the restored Eager building on East Main Street. In August, she moved to 11 W. Main St., where she showcases her collection of “antique, shabby, chic or unique” pieces she picks from garbage cans, curbs, garage sales and auctions.

“I moved up here, and it has made a world of difference,” she said. “It was scary to start with, because you never knew … there were some days there wouldn't be anybody in here.”

Once Erin Simpson opened Vintage Birch Barn down the street in December, Farnsworth said they developed a following from northern Illinois and Madison.

Prices in Evansville are “a lot more reasonable” than in Madison, she said.

The all-in-this-together attitude of the downtown owners has helped, and they're always referring customers down or across the street.

“I think the best way to get another store open is to give them the opportunity,” Farnsworth said.

Incubating success

Vintage Birch Barn rents its space from Farnsworth and her husband, Jeff, who also runs a downtown insurance office. The Farnsworths did a tiered rent system, making it “very, very cheap” for Simpson and her husband, Frank, to get their business started.

“But then she could see success,” Farnsworth said of Simpson.

“We are so grateful,” Simpson said. “They really have made what we do possible.”

The tiered rent was the biggest factor to their success, she said, because new businesses often don't make money immediately.

“Being able to work with our budget and really root for our success, it's been just awesome,” she said.

Farnsworth's storefront also is an incubator for two other local women and their businesses, Sheri Eakins of Fancy Farm Girl and Lisa Riley of Burlap & Bling. The women each have a corner in the back of Farnsworth's store to sell their creations.

If there's only one shop, it's hard to get shoppers there, she said.

“If there's two shops, it's even easier. If there's three, four…” she said.

The shops' success didn't go unnoticed by Cheryl Fuchs, who runs her own remodeling/restoration business but was looking for a chance to branch out with her creativity. She opened Fox and Hound in a building she owns that until recently had housed The Artful Gourmet, which expanded into a bigger location owned by Fuchs down the street.

“This has got to be perfect timing,” Fuchs thought.

'All about recycling'

Fuchs' mix of antiques, collectibles and found/repurposed items stems from a love of reusing items to prevent waste.

Echoing those sentiments is Farnsworth, who enjoys tearing through salvage yards, auctions and estates. If an item needs a little pizzazz, she adds it.

“To me, it's all about recycling,” she said. “I can't see a good piece of wood go to the burn pile or garbage.”

The recycling trend also is evident at Déjà vu Consignment Store, 14 E. Main St.

The red brick street also offers several dining options and the Allen Creek Gallery at the new bridge entering downtown.

Several of the shops opened within months of each other and offered mutual support, said Sue Nettum, who owns The Artful Gourmet with her husband, Duane. The Brooklyn couple had always talked about owning a business, and the historical feel of Main Street in downtown attracted them, she said.

“We really felt like that would be a good place for the store,” she said. “It had the look and feel that we liked.”

EVANSVILLE SPECIALTY SHOPS

Evansville is home to four specialty shops that are drawing people downtown to hunt for unusual treasures:

Studio Repeats

Address: 11 W. Main St.

Details: Owner Susan Farnsworth describes her inventory as “funky one-of-akind treasures—shabby, chic and antiques.”

The back of Studio Repeats also is home to items found and made by two other women and their businesses: Burlap & Bling, upcycled glassware for home décor, weddings and gifts; and Fancy Farm Girl, repurposed, rustic renovations.

To learn more: Find Studio Repeats online at facebook.com/StudioRepeats ? or call 608-289-5122.

Burlap & Bling can be found online by searching on face? book.com ? for “burlap&bling”.

Fancy Farm Girl can be found at facebook.com/fancy ? farmg.

Vintage Birch Barn

Address: 10 E. Main St.

Details: The business is a combination of rusty industrial and barn finds, some repurposed items and antiques, said Erin Simpson, who owns and picks the items with her husband, Frank.

“Bringing new life to old things is what we try to do,” she said.

The couple are invited or ask to go through barns and sheds around the Midwest. Their great Dane, Enzo, makes appearances in the shop on Sundays.

Janeace Milz also sells antiques in the back of the store.

To learn more: Visit facebook.com/VintageBirch ? Barn or call 608-335-5508.

Fox and Hound

Address: 16 W. Main St.

Details: Cheryl Fuchs recently opened her business, which is a mix of antiques, collectibles and found/repurposed items.

She said she enjoys putting items together, pointing to an old five-drawer cabinet she thought would be great in a hallway to collect keys and messages. She slapped a top on it and added a base and sewing machine legs.

“I love to be able to take something that someone has thrown away and utilize it because I hate waste,” she said.

To learn more: Call 608-490-3660

The Artful Gourmet

Address: 11 E. Main St.

Details: The store sells trendy and traditional “gizmos and gadgets, culinary delights and unique gifts.” It opened in August at 16 W. Main St., now home to Fox and Hound, and last month nearly doubled its size in a new storefront down the street.

The additional space allows owners Sue and Duane Nettum to add more items to their gourmet foods and kitchen items. They also sell wine and craft beer and hold special events such as wine tastings.

To learn more: Visit facebook.com/TheArtful ? Gourmet or call 608-882-0995.



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