New business specializes in ‘upcycling’ furniture
Our Town Norway
The name was coined by accident, they said.
A friend asked Vicki and Rob Kuehl what they were going to call the new store they were preparing at 1028 Main St., a former lumber business that most recently was the Norway Deli.
It was tough to come up with a proper name, Vicki responded, because “it’s not just another resale shop.”
That description stuck.
Not Just Another Resale Shop opened in August, showcasing not just resale items but the couple’s ability to refinish and “upcycle” furniture that otherwise might end up being thrown away.
The Kuehls came to the area roughly a decade ago from the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis, after Rob retired from his business as a contractor in the Milwaukee area, where he’d been a “jack of all trades,” doing additions, siding, window replacements, concrete work.
Both began volunteering at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Kingsford and noticed donated furniture that was in rough shape, “that just needed help,” Vicki said.
So they decided to step in, adding paint or a new coat of varnish or fixing broken parts. “And it would sell,” Vicki said.
Rob has a knack for woodwork, while Vicki had majored in art in college. Though she kept the books for their contractor business, that art background let her advise his clients on color combinations and design for a kitchen remodel or other home makeover projects.
“Customers appreciated the personal touch,” Rob said.
The Kuehls’ ties to the region stem from Rob’s uncle, who they’d helped care for, leaving them a property in Dunbar, Wis. But Rob, an avid fisherman, after awhile became weary of the 20-some mile trip to reach the Menominee River. So they bought part of an old sod farm on New York Lake Road in Vulcan.
“I’ve always liked the U.P.,” Rob said. “There’s a lot of water, a lot of fish.”
They made the move to the area early enough their son, Jason, now 22, could attend the local high school, which they thought was a good fit for him. He still lives with them and occasionally can be seen at the store. Each also have two children from previous marriages.
The store had its genesis about two years ago, Vicki said, when they looked at clearing out what had accumulated in their basement, garage and other storage space at home. Having a rummage sale was not an option, they said — a neighbor had been robbed shortly after such a sale, by someone who had cased the home under the guise of shopping.
The store offers a mix of furniture and “miscellaneous houseware items,” such as glassware, crystal, teapots, decorative pieces, dolls. Much of it came from buying the estate of a Marinette, Wis., woman who was an avid collector.
“We’ve got a lot of big furniture that I like to decorate with these accessories … give people ideas on what they can do to decorate,” Vicki said.
She also can do burned-in designs, painted artwork or prints that have been fixed and varnished onto the piece. One favorite example of her work is a dresser that she covered in front with a poster of Hogwarts castle from J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series.
Rob focuses on making, refinishing and refurbishing furniture. For his own creations, his favorite materials are oak, cherry and maple, especially the bird’s eye or curly varieties, he said.
They will repurpose items as well, such as converting an old radio cabinet to hold wine glasses and bottles.
And Rob does repair work. A man recently brought him a 125-year-old rocking chair, originally from overseas, that had a broken runner. He was able to replace it with hickory, a very strong wood, and match the finish so the repair wasn’t apparent.
“So many of these pieces, they talk to you. They’ve got some life to them,” Rob said.
They will present customers with a photo of the piece before they went to work on it.
That and the prices — “people say they’re reasonable,” Vicki said — has helped the business thrive in just a few months.
“Word of mouth is golden,” Rob said, adding, “in small cities, we’re finding people do talk a lot.”