Young Entrepreneur Opens Vintage Shop in Unusual Digs

By: Melody Parker, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
Date Published: Monday, December 10, 2012

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- Tucked into a garage behind an old house off a short gravel road and marked by a hand-lettered sign, the location is as funky as the goods inside.

Welcome to Stew's Vintage and Junk.

A stack of old tin ceiling tiles leans against a shelf. Letters in all sizes cut from tin hang from hooks, along with a collection of small chandeliers. Old quilts are rolled up and stuffed in a box, and old dressers, mirrors and chairs await refinishing or repurposing by new owners.

Mason and Ball jars stacked on an old plant stand are actually fragrant soy candles. In one corner, a small meat grinder has been transformed into a lamp with a metal colander shade. On another table, a new-but-vintage-looking metal "breastplate" lamp glows. There are toys and games, burlap-wrapped Styrofoam Christmas tree forms, and kitchen items, as well as accessories, aprons and more.

The vintage commercial coffee grinder is still used to grind beans for the big coffee pot proprietress Emma Steffens fills on the days she's open. Hot apple cider and cookies also are available, and in the afternoons an old popcorn popper fills the garage with a familiar aroma.

It's a starter location for the ambitious and inventive Steffens, 21, but right now it's perfect for displaying and selling the "picked" and reclaimed items she scores at auctions, garage sales, barn sales, on Craig's List and even alongside the road.

"I've been going to auctions and sales with my mom since I was young, and I've always collected all sorts of things. I wanted to open a business and needed something cheap. I found the garage for rent on Craig's List. I imagine the owner pictured some vintage Mustang or other car being stored in it. Then I pitched my idea. It surprised him but he was all for it," says Steffens, an interior design major at Hawkeye Community College. Read more...

Thumbnail photo by Tiffany Rushing, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.