You probably know that we’ve opened a vintage shop at Griff Run but many folks still wonder where do we get all of the things? The answer is: it varies…but an experience we had yesterday at an area homestead was exceptional.
I was in Red Barn at Griff Run (‘the shop’) when my cell phone rang. The call was local – from a neighbor named Jim, Jim from Gillingham, who heard that there were some ladies in the area who might be able to help his family. Jim and his wife are retired but need to leave their homestead where the family has spent generations, in order to get their adult, autistic son closer to regular medical care in Marshfield, WI. They had anticipated and dreaded this move for several years, but now the need was more urgent. Would Red Barn be interested in their family heirlooms? I said we’d take a look. Jim followed up with another call a day later reminding us to bring lots of blankets…to ensure the items get to the Barn safely.
When we pulled the dually into their driveway yesterday afternoon, all of the items were carefully placed along the sidewalk to their front door; antique mirrors, sewing machine table, bird’s eye maple child’s table and chairs, a stained glass lamp, a library table from the now closed area teacher’s college, a copper boiler, and boxes full of housewares. It was important to the family that we knew the story behind each item; the full-length mirror belonged to her grandmother, the maple dresser and mirror is one they bought at an estate sale when newlyweds with barely two nickels to scrape together, the child’s rocker was bought for Jim’s wife when she was a child.
We spent quite awhile talking with these neighbors we’d never previously met. Talking about their past, future and their family heirlooms now on the sidewalk. We carefully covered and placed the items in our vehicles. Tears were shed at the loss but also at the opportunity for these items to be truly desired and cared for by someone else. We invited the family to come and sit with us at Red Barn sometime soon before they move north.
Yesterday’s experience was intense and I suspect there will be more just like it because word travels fast in these parts. Word has spread that there are these three ladies in Viola who agree that family treasures which have stood the test of time have value – especially in a throw-away society. Word is also spreading that this is not a shop where dealers are welcome to pick up treasures for next to nothing, cart them across state lines and take the revenue out of Wisconsin. We will meet out-of-state dealers at our area auctions and outbid them…then we will share these family heirlooms with our customers both in-person and online at prices that are fair and also reflect the item’s value to be found anywhere outside of this quiet, unassuming place we call Driftless Wisconsin. We may live in one of the poorest areas in the country…but we are rich…and by keeping the value of these items in Wisconsin we support our neighbors, our schools, our sick, our craftsmen, our local businesses.
It will take us a couple of weeks to get Jim’s family heirlooms onto the display floor at Red Barn. I’m certain you’ll see posts on Facebook and Insta as we do. We’ll also be certain to share the history of these items when you visit or as you have interest because that is probably the most important part about what we do; we are storytellers bearing gifts from the families who settled Wisconsin and the Midwest. When the weather turns in October and our brick and mortar shop in Red Barn closes until spring…we’ll go online through Etsy.com and continue to share these treasures with you…because even in winter, the opportunity to tell and share these stories never ends.
Shawna (Holland and April)