GERTIES: Grand Forks shop offers restored, repurposed, restyled items
From a stack of vintage suitcases to a box spring mattress repurposed to hold wine bottles, to a retro kitchen table, Gerties, at 1823 South Washington Street, offers a variety of old items, but almost everything has been changed or altered from its original form.
The new occasional store on South Washington Street is open the second Wednesday through Saturday of every month and specializes in restored, repurposed and restyled home furnishings and decor.
Owners Robynn Ogawa and Kelley Palmiscno have always had a passion for fixing up old pieces. First, they furnished their own homes with them. Then, they started giving the pieces to friends and family members. When there was no one left, they started selling their pieces at craft shows and other stores. Now, they finally have their own store front.
"I've always wanted to do this," Ogawa said. "I've probably been looking for a place to open for a couple years, but everything had to be perfect."
When Fat Albert's closed on the corner of the Town & Country Shopping Center, Ogawa finally found her perfect space. She and Palmiscno quickly secured the location and rented space to 11 local vendors. They each have their own space, where they create a display in their own style, which varies from retro to rustic, to traditional, to vintage.
The vendors are on four-month contracts and each work four hours throughout the month.
Ogawa and Palmiscno named the store Gerties after Ogawa's grandmother, who has always been an artistic, crafty individual.
"My grandmother's name is Gertrude," Ogawa said. "Everybody agreed that Gerties was a little more catchy."
An occasional shop
Both having part-time jobs, Ogawa and Palmiscno decided to make Gerties an occasional store, open just four days throughout the month.
"For a first venture for us, it's nice to be able to keep our other jobs," Palmiscno said.
She also works at North Valley Eye Clinic, and Ogawa works at Edward Jones.
As an occasional store, they said Gerties will have completely new inventory each month. "We don't want them to come in and see the same furniture sitting here," Palmiscno said. "We want to move stuff out of here."
Ogawa added, "We want it to look totally different from month to month."
Any items that don't sell by the end of the business day Saturday will be taken out and replaced with different pieces for the next month's sales. Ogawa said on occasion a larger piece may pop up again, but for the most part, everything will be new.
Sometimes, they'll even add new inventory throughout the four days. If they sell a large piece, they'll call the vendor to let them know. "A lot of times they'll have a piece in the back waiting to go in," Ogawa said.
They encourage all of the vendors to stop by the store at the end of each sale day to fill in their displays, and many do. Ogawa said they usually keep their cars full of items so they easily can fill in what's needed.
"You try to have pieces of every size and every color and different styles," Palmiscno said.
The constant need for new inventory in the store means Ogawa, Palmiscno and each of the vendors have to keep their own inventories stocked as well. They are always searching for new pieces.
"A lot of the draw for this whole thing is the hunt," Ogawa said. "That's the (most fun) part of the whole thing, looking for the pieces."
They go to garage sales, estate sales, auctions and flea markets, looking for any piece they can fix up, restore, repurpose or restyle.
Others look at an old dresser with missing drawers and see garbage, Ogawa said. But, she immediately thinks of a solution: baskets. Whether it's a new color of paint for an old desk or a new purpose for old drawers, she said she always has a vision for the pieces she finds.
"You have to think there's a limited amount of that stuff out there," she said. "It's like they're precious pieces. When you find it you have to get it, it's not a matter of, that would be great but I don't have the space for it."
Ogawa said she buys the piece and worries about storage later.
Palmiscno has pieces in her garage, two extra bedrooms and a separate storage unit. Some of the pieces are completed and ready to sell; others are waiting to be restored or restyled.
The creative process
The pieces can sit for days or months before being touched, or they can be worked on immediately.
Ogawa said the creative process is what draws her to the business.
"I can take hours and hours on a piece," Ogawa said. "They say if you counted the hours you put into it, you'd never make money, but I just see a piece and... it's almost like something you can't turn off."
That love and passion for creating is something she and Palmiscno looked for in their vendors. While they each have a different style, they all share the same love for restoring and repurposing old things.
"Everybody here has that creative need," Ogawa said.
Whether it's painting, making handmade cards, sewing new seat covers for a chair or making necklaces out of old spoons, they each use a different medium to create.
"I'm sure everybody has kind of dabbled here and there in a lot of different mediums," Ogawa said.
Palmiscno added, "You have those creative juices, and they just go into different areas depending on where your life is, depending on your age, where your family is, what you have time for..."
Finding time for creating is the most challenging part for Ogawa and Palmiscno since they opened the store.
"Everyday you're doing something," Ogawa said. "You're either making a call or meeting with someone or going to an estate sale or going to an auction... rearranging, painting, setting something up."
Palmiscno estimated that she spends 75 to 80 percent of her "free time" doing something for the store. "Every waking moment... and that's not an exaggeration. Either I'm thinking about it or I'm doing it," she said. "And if we didn't love it, we wouldn't do it. It's a wonderful, exciting, fun thing to do."
All of their hard work is paying off early. Palmiscno said they sold four times more than she expected in the first week.
"It was so overwhelming," she said. "We were thrilled. This community just embraced us. It brought tears to our eyes."
They will hold a special holiday open house from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 9, kicking off their extended holiday hours, which include every Saturday from Nov. 9 to Dec. 21 in addition to the second Wednesday through Saturday of each month.
Gerties will hold an open house at 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. to kick off their holiday hours, which include every Saturday from Nov. 9 to Dec. 21, in addition to the second Wednesday through Saturday of every month.
Maki covers arts and entertainment and life and style. Call her at (701) 780-1122, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1122 or send email to email@example.com.