It was on one of these amazingly stunning weekend days that I told Doc that I had seen a new shop in a "local" town on TV. It was featured on a show that I record every morning and then watch as time allows in the evening. The show features state points of interests, market and weather news, and brings in local speakers to inform viewers on crafting, cooking and farming trends. It is quite well done and always interesting. The show, Pure Nebraska, archives its episodes online so you are welcome to view them as you wish. As a person that enjoys visiting the locales, the only thing you have to really look out for is that they do, occasionally, recycle some of their stories. So it really is important that you make sure that the place you are planning to visit is still in operation.
On this particular day, whether the shop that had been featured on the show was still there or not, was not an issue. The town was interesting enough that it would surely be an adventure on its own. If nothing else, the drive was a direction we hadn't gone yet, so the scenery was new. Harvest was in full swing, and colour was exploding around the countryside. Doc agreed to being dragged into the sunlight. So with camera in tow, we hopped into the car and pointed her North.
Wayne is a SOLID two hours to our North. There isn't a whole lot between here and there, but we had amazing things to look at. As we drove, I made note of several sites that I wanted to photograph on the way back. We also passed through a slow moving cold front, so our sunny warm skies were replaced by leaden clouds, threatening rain, and winds that howled across the empty prairieland.
As if setting the stage, we approached the village of Pilger, which was practically wiped from the map by twin tornadoes just two years ago. If you didn't know that, you'd never know it by the looks of the town. All of the damaged homes were gone. Lots were empty, but the grasses had taken hold. But for the few verdant lots that had concrete steps standing as resolute witnesses to the homes that once belonged there, the town looked great. Businesses have been rebuilt, life has moved on.
We pressed on.
Mile after mile, hill after hill, one farmstead after another snuggled in, sheltered from the wind in its cloister of trees. We pressed on. After it began to feel like we were on a never ending river of tar treadmill in the Twilight Zone, we crested a hill and the town of Wayne laid sprawled across the valley below us. I didn't know what to expect, but I certainly didn't expect to see a city as large as it was. A village, a town, a hamlet, yes, but I did not expect to see a full sized city. (That'll teach me not to google before I go!)
Wayne is a railroad town, which means many of its older structures are made from precious brick. When you are close to the supply line, it makes it more financially feasible to use the heavy material. Remember, trees were few and far between back in the day, so brick was the obvious, long lasting material of choice, but hard to ship far from the rail lines.
It is also a thriving area for lumber, grain, and is the home of Wayne State University. So the city is a hub for several of the surrounding counties.
Some of the buildings were quite memorable so the camera had to come out.
The brick on this church is a real eye catcher. It reminded me of tiger butter fudge,
a deep rich brown and raw sienna/umber striped brick. In the intermittent sunshine,
the pattern just explodes.
Most of the main downtown area was destroyed in a massive fire in the late 1880s. The buildings
that went up to replace them are stunning in their small details that go
missed by the casual observer passing through town.
A remodeled building on the west side of the main street has shopping
below and apartments above. The designer decided to replace the old time
advertising in the windows. Sometimes it's worth the extra money, eh?
Looking North in Wayne. The old downtown area is a mix
of old buildings and new shops; thrift, antique, gourmet food, coffee, clothing, and
professional shops line the lower levels.
The main purpose of the trip was to find and explore the Rustic Treasures Antique shop. The episode featured a HUGE room filled with bee boxes that had been cleaned and were being sold as art, repurposed furniture, or as the foundation for repurposed items, like chalkboards. The crazy collection and the passion of the owner on the show, begged a visit.
After a two hour drive, despite a stop in Pilger for junk food snacks, I could hear Doc's stomach growling from my side of the car. That's never a good thing. So we opted for lunch before we vanished into the bowels of an antique store. (Read: I get easily distracted and eating takes a backseat to exploring. Dory the fish has nothing on my attention span!) The town has several college town staples, and oddly enough, many steakhouses (must be a railroad- feed lot thing), but we ended up at Dairy Queen, where we KNEW food would be fast and hot.
Then we were OFF! We found parking right in front of the store, which usually means I won't find a darn thing. If I'd parked three blocks away, in a blizzard, uphill, and my truck was full of stuff I meant to take out, then I would have run into a free gold plated bedroom set. I was hoping that my luck would be different this trip.
Upon opening the door and entering the shop, I KNEW it was different. It was like that scene from every movie, when the unsuspecting main character opens a door, and the lighting changes, and uplifting magical fairy music starts playing. Well that ACTUALLY HAPPENED! Ok the music was coming from the coffee shop inside the antique store, but the sentiment was totally there. I distinctly remember saying "WOW" when I stepped inside. How a place can be cavernous, chaotic, eclectically mish mashed, and meticulously organized ALL at the same time is beyond me, but it was!
I did a quick glance around to get my bearings and to figure out a general plan of attack. I didn't want to miss one tea cup, one antique salad spoon, or ceramic pug dog. One of my favorite antiquing things is to find a shop that has yet to either be discovered or whose owner has not been tainted by the dreaded "but it sold on eBay for" disease, both of which drives up prices to unrealistic values. This store was free from both.
|My insulator coat rack - $5|
It is filled with consigners, but was not done in an obvious booth setup. The owners saw that the shop was meticulously maintained and organized, and that items were constantly moving around the shop, and that holes were filled. An item in one spot may go unnoticed, but move it and suddenly it's the star of the shop. As we wandered up and down the isles, creating a "save it for me" pile at the front desk, I couldn't help but to notice the amazing architectural details of the building, and couldn't help to notice the LACK of the wood walls and shelving and beekeeping supplies I had seen on the show just the day before.
Perplexed, I asked an employee about the bee boxes. He said that the room full of bee keeping supplies was in the basement and the whole area was off limits to the public as it is a safety issue (no fire escape access). He then followed that with, "BUT the owner is having lunch, and I'll ask him if he'll take you down when he's done."
Tripping hazards, uneven floor, stacks of antiques, low ceiling, hanging wires, old stock, no marked fire exit vs. private showing?! BRING IT ON!
Folks, the basement was amazing! The history of the building above practically oozed from the uneven old concrete flooring. The leftover glass shelving remains of the now defunct Ben Franklin craft store lay stacked in a back corner, a silent witness to change. As old light switches were flicked on, the glow from several old incandescent yellow bulbs illuminated the shelf upon shelf, upon shelf of wax trays, queen separators and bee boxes. It went on and on, back to the dark recesses of the old basement.
The owner went on to explain what little he knew of the building and how he came to be the owner of all this sweet goodness in the basement. He had gone to an estate sale, which had been a former apiary. Upon seeing ONE bee box, he just couldn't leave the rest behind! Now could he? So they all followed him home, and he sorted and power washed each and every piece, and meticulously dried and placed them lovingly on shelves. He's figured that some people will want them for actual bee boxes. But most will want them for their repurposing value. Old painted, distressed wood is hot right now and he has a few ideas. The trays can be painted with chalk paint and made into rustic message boards. Bee boxes can be stacked and topped of with their lids for a quaint storage side or coffee table. Wax boards are art in and of themselves, but could be further sealed as serving trays. We nodded in agreement, as I fell in love with a wax board of my own. I sat it down so I could finish the tour.
The basement continued through an archway which had been the wall between one buildings basement and the neighboring basement, all now one property. This room was piled with furniture, and fixtures. There was an old room that appeared to have been some sort of large pantry with OLD wood shelving, and a large heavy door. Further in the back, another large heavy door, reminiscent of a walk in cooler was both beckoning and foreboding. The creepy room beyond had no electricity, so three humans whipped out three smartphones and pushed their flashlight buttons. The cavernous space seemed to shrink from the probing lights, coyly hiding its secrets as the beams wandered the room. One long wall held nothing but large wooden shelves, old small, used cans of stains and oils sat scattered. The opposite wall supported a long counter, scared with long forgotten projects. The tool racks above, empty of their charges. A double sink and a large food warmer were all that were left.
The owner moved quickly over these sights, as he has seen them many times before. Instead, he focused on an odd piece of abandoned machinery on the floor. The Doctor Jeckle and Mr Hyde quality of the room did not go unnoticed to me and this machine on the floor only bolstered that feeling. The owner had no idea what it was. Its knee high hulking mass on the floor was interlaced with tubes, hoses, valves, dials and gauges, and piping to nowhere. It appeared to me to be the sick love child of Rube Goldberg and a Steam Punk fanatic.
Of course while I started to wonder where the bodies were buried, Doc was, as usual, attracted to both the mystery and the functional beauty of the mechanical beast. As he poked and prodded, followed pipes and tubes to their ends, and pondered its use- I fully expected it to emblaze the room in light and start to scream "EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!" No sooner had this thought crossed my mind, and I began to wonder if I would be able to outrun both Doc and a Dalek, Doc shouted, "IT'S A GENERATOR!" I darn near jumped out of my skin. I'm glad I found something to entertain him.
Mystery solved, we exited the odd little room back into the basement. It was then that I noticed something odd, well MORE odd than anything before. For an almost dirt floor basement with raw walls, exposed joist ceilings that were only about 6.5 feet high, raw light bulbs dangling, pipes and wires exposed, there was intricate TIN CROWN MOLDING around the entire basement. WHO would do that, and WHY?
It certainly wasn't a public space, so why on Earth spend that kind of money on putting up Tin Ceiling crown molding, and without the ceiling, which there was no evidence of ever having existed. Odd. We kept moving and I made sure to snag my bee frame. Now back upstairs in the land of the day dwellers, we thanked the owner for his most generous tour through time and continued to walk through the shop, where we continued to find treasure after treasure. Doc disappeared to the adjoining coffee shop to peruse the internet and to put an iced vanilla tea out of its misery.
Knowing I had lost Doc to technology, but knowing he was safe, fed, and fully entertained, I told him that I was going to stroll to the end of the block to a newly opened thrift store. The thrift store was owned by the same set of managers that own the antique store, so it had to be GOOD. Being a thrift store, I wasn't expecting much. Again, I was pleasantly surprised. It was clean, well lit, organized and everything was perfectly priced. All the proceeds went back into the community! A great place.
Satisfied with a great trip, we knew the trip home was two hours long, and we were racing a fast encroaching sunset. So with that we turned the silver fiberglass horse south and headed home.
Thanks for coming with us.
Update: Two days after this visit, I learned that supposedly the best onion rings on this side of the state are in Wayne. Now that I know that, we HAVE to go back!
Oh, and I JUST had to share this Treager grill we saw at a Farm Store on the way home. I mean really, who DOESN"T need a piggy grill?!