When you are operating a small retail business in a rural area, you have to get creative in how drive foot traffic to your front door. That's why I applaud fun ideas like the twice-a-year "Back Roads Junk-It Trail".
What is this the Back Roads Junk-It Trail? Until a few weeks ago, I had never heard of it either. But, I'm now a fan.
According to their website, twenty-eight central Iowa businesses, plus other invited vendors, join together for three full days of antiques, vintage, rustic, primitive, retro, rusty, and farm fresh goodness along a back roads trail.
Because of time and schedule constraints, I was only able to participate on the Sunday afternoon portion of the schedule, which was about 4 hours.
In looking at the schedule, I knew immediately that there was zero chance that I could physically drive to all 28 spots in that time-frame, let alone spend enough time at each location to enjoy the experience and explore the businesses and their offerings.
As I live in West Des Moines, I decided that I would start in Colfax and move north from Jasper into Marshall County. My plan was to hit as many as I could before the stores closed up at 4pm.
Spring City Vintage
My first stop on Sunday afternoon was Spring City Vintage in Colfax. They occupy a storefront in the downtown area of town and have a very full selection of everything from furniture and decor to signs and books - and that's just scratching the surface. It's a full store, but it's tastefully and creatively organized. It's only open at specific times and during special events, but it's worth the stop if you are in the area and it's open. Check out their Facebook page.
Bushel and a Peck and The Crazy Cat Lady
After a stop in Colfax, I drove up to Baxter, IA to check out Bushel and a Peck, another business in the downtown part of the community. My stop here was short because it's a pretty small showroom, but they had some nice items. Just around the corner, I found the Crazy Cat Lady, which also has a small showroom. However, the Crazy Cat Lady is big into roasting coffee beans and I was given a very delicious sample of her "Baxter Blend" coffee. Neither store offers a lot of square footage, but they do a lot with the space they have and you might certainly be able to find a new treasure to take home. Check out Bushel and a Peck and The Crazy Cat Lady on Facebook.
Jonnie's Red Barn
After I left Baxter, I realized that I should have hit Jonnie's Red Barn on my way from Colfax. I had to back track a bit but it was very much worth it. Jonnie's Red Barn is out in the country and accessible by traveling on a short section of a gravel road. This had very much a country store feel and there was ample selection of all kinds of interesting stuff, including pumpkins and lots of blackboards. I left with a beverage but not any "junk". I was certainly tempted though. Check out their Facebook page.
Industrial Lace, Hotgers Cornerstone Country Store, & Pitchfork
After my adventures in Baxter, I crossed the border into the tiny Marshall County town of Laurel. There, I found three stops that were all unique and interesting. Industrial Lace and Hotgers Country Store had plenty of antiques, vintage, retro, and primitives, and more. Pitchfork was more of a stop for food or beverage. Pitchfork seems like the kind of place where the locals meet for coffee in the morning - the sort of gathering spot for the town of under 300. There was a nice table of ladies in Pitchfork when I walked in. I don't know if they were local or just pausing for a break while on the trail, themselves. Check out more information on all three: Hotgers Cornerstone Country Store, Industrial Lace, and Pitchfork.
Reclaimed Treasures on Main and Picker's Emporium
After my stop in Laurel, I headed down the road to Haverhill, an equally quaint but nice town in Marshall County. There were two stops in Haverhill and they were both fantastic. The first was Reclaimed Treasures on Main, which I believe is located within the old train depot. It was packed with great items and I nearly walked out with a nice mission oak plant stand that I found hiding in the back. They also operate an old fashioned soda fountain and I enjoyed a delicious mint chip malt. Less than a block away is Picker's Emporium, which appeared to be both a residence and a business. There was a large machine shed (poll barn) full of dusty items and then a garage with smaller finds. The folks at both stops were exceedingly friendly. There was an elderly couple who hit up both locations at the same time I did - and they walked out of Reclaimed Treasures with an antique grand piano music box. Check out both on Facebook: Reclaimed Treasures on Main and Picker's Emporium.
Pack Rats Palace, The Junker Shop, and Frickeville
After Haverhill, I continued to head north to three stops in rose capital of Iowa - State Center. Incidentally, State Center is just as the name implies - the center of the State of Iowa. My first stop was at Pack Rats Palace, which incidentally, was also very aptly named. This place was filled with all kinds of items, but would definitely be a good spot for someone who is interested in toy machinery and tractors. The Junker Shop, which opened in 2016, was a few blocks away and in an old storefront in the downtown area. Lastly, I hit up Frickeville, which was absolutely packed with antiques and other items. So full, there were paths for the shoppers to walk but don't expect to find a lot of room to pass the person in front of you. If you have plenty of time, it's worth just wandering around in as I am sure you could walk through 100 times and see something new and fun each time.
Buzzed Bee Meadery
After State Center, I realized that I was starting to run short on time and I made the decision that I could realistically hit up one last spot. That last stop of the day was Buzzed Bee Meadery outside of Melbourne in Marshall County. To be honest, I had never had mead in my life previous to stopping but the owners were eager to let me taste several of their products and fill me in on the process of making it. What is mead? It's essentially a wine-like product derived from honey. All of their samples were quite delicious. I am a huge fan of agri-tourism and this is a great example. Buzzed Bee Meadery is a growing business that is selling honey, mead, and hosting events at on a very beautiful acreage. I did not leave with any mead, but I did depart a whole lot smarter about the process of making it. I look forward to visiting again when I am in the area. For those who like wine, I'd add this unique business to an upcoming wine-tasting adventure. Learn more about them on their Facebook page.
This was a very full and fun afternoon, yet I did not even manage to hit half of the spots on the trail. The good news is that there are plenty of future opportunities as this is a twice-a-year event.
I love these kinds of planned events and seeing small businesses working together. Without a doubt, there were plenty of "out-of-the-area" license plates visiting these shops and that very likely would not happen without an effort to create this and other similar events. Kudos to all of those who worked hard to put this together.
If you have a suggestion for places or events that I should profile, please drop me a note on the "Suggest an Adventure" website. I look forward to future stops in Jasper and Marshall Counties.