With the advent of Pinterest and Etsy and other similar websites as well as home improvement and DIY television shows, many people have discovered a lot of creative ideas for re-purposing old "junk". Alternatively, those who have "collected" a lot of old items over the years have suddenly discovered that there can be a healthy and lucrative market for the rusty and the dusty.
New businesses have popped up capitalizing on this junky trend, and existing antique businesses have added to their offerings. We have even experienced the development of "junk tourism". For example, groups of like businesses will band together to create a weekend of deals for those willing to drive from spot to spot. In fact, one of the first posts ever written on Iowa Adventurer was about the Back Roads Junk-It Trail in October of 2017. Additionally, organizers will draw vendors from all over for huge shows that can fill the largest of exhibition buildings. These events will draw thousands of patina seekers from all over with the promise that nearly everyone can find something they cannot go home without.
On a recent Sunday, a friend and his mom invited me to crash their mother/son junk adventure to Marshalltown. They were headed to visit Relics Midwest, a popular junk and primitives business located just a little south and east of the Marshall County Courthouse.
There is a fair amount of parking in their own lot but you can also park on the street.
According to their informative website, "The concept behind Relics Midwest is to supply the re-purposing craft community with an ever-increasing and diverse supply of "cool" vintage, rustic, primitive, retro, rusty, and farm-fresh goodness (or "junk"), all in one place. Many interior decorators have used relics from our place to decorate their home."
The business has regular hours on Monday through Thursday but is closed on Fridays and Saturdays (presumably to go find more junk to sell?). However, every other Sunday, from April through October, they throw a "Let's Go Junkin Sunday" event with hours from 9am to 3pm. Since this was the first one of the year, I thought I would tag along and see what the buzz was all about.
When you walk in this no-frills warehouse, you are immediately met by both friendly staff and room after room of interesting and potentially useful stuff.
The office, which doubled as the spot where you pay, had some higher value items, including some nice art and other collectibles.
In the nearly 45 minutes of our visit after the lunch hour, the place had a steady stream of patrons. These folks, of all ages, were not just looking...many were leaving with all kinds of stuff.
For those that are doing some serious picking, the staff will set you up with your own cart. Items placed on those carts are off limits to the other shoppers. When you are ready to load out, you can just wheel the cart over to a load out dock.
They have a fairly large selection of architectural salvage, such as doors, windows, barn wood, decorative metal work, and more.
However, I was perhaps most impressed with the sizable selection of "live edge" wood that is very popular right now. Live edge wood tends to be rough slabs of wood that still have the bark or other more jaged sides.
They manufacture metal legs that can be quickly connected to make a one-of-a-kind furniture piece.
They have their own wood working shop on premises and they can assist you in making your ideas become reality.
For the junk-a-holic, nothing is worse than leaving without buying something you had your eye on...and then regretting it later. They have a few humorous signs around the store reminding you to not have a case of non-buyer's remorse.
If you are in the market for something or just generally like this kind of place, it can be a paradise of sorts. I've been to stores like this that look more like someone's hoarding problem rather than a "store". The folks at Relics Midwest have things nicely organized...well...as well organized as junk can be. If you are looking for a new place to look for unique stuff, Relics Midwest offers 10,000 square feet to explore. As they say on their website, "We really don't have a clue of what we're doing here but we and everyone else are sure having fun!"
Check out their Facebook page and perhaps you'll be inspired to go junkin' in Marshalltown one of these upcoming Sunday afternoons.
As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit whether in Marshall County or any of the other 98 counties in Iowa. If you have a good idea or would like to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through this site.