Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Follow the rainbow to a charming antique store in Belview August 9, 2011

Driving north into Belview, you can't miss Rainbow Antiques, Crafts & Junque.

IF YOU’RE INTO ANTIQUING or architecture or small towns, you’ll want to visit Belview, population 375, four miles off State Highway 19 in southwestern Minnesota.

My husband, Mom and I drove to Belview on a recent Saturday morning to see my Uncle Merlin and Aunt Iylene’s “new” old home along the main drag. We also toured the town, checking out the damage from a July 1 EF-1 tornado. And, lucky us, we happened to be in this Redwood County community on the one day a week that Rainbow Antiques, Crafts & Junque is open.

And let me tell you, Don Gunelson runs one heckuva an antique store with the flair of an artist.

You’ll notice the building right away when you drive or walk Main Street. It’s built of beautiful rainbow brick which, in itself, is worth a stop. I know of at least two other rainbow brick buildings in Redwood County—one in Walnut Grove and the other on a corner in nearby downtown Redwood Falls.

Colorful rainbow bricks comprise the antique shop.

Don directs customers to his store with nicely-done folksy signage. I didn’t ask Don if he created the artwork, but he worked as a graphic designer for a construction magazine before returning to his native Belview from the metro some 10 years ago. He also works part-time at the Belview Post Office.

No matter, the friendly painted farmer in the bib overalls who beckons you inside for a “looksee” will already have you smiling before you stroll through the red doors and plant your feet upon the vintage tongue-and-groove floors in a room the color of butter.

Immediately I noticed the old-style screen door painted a vivid red. It’s a perfect fit for setting the mood of this place. I’ve been in a lot of antique shops in my day, and this one, by far, rates as one of the most inviting with plenty of light streaming in the east-facing windows, merchandise displayed in a way that isn’t cluttered and a down-home atmosphere that makes you feel comfortably at ease.

I poked around for awhile, not as long as I would have liked, though, since my mom was waiting for me back at the aunt and uncle’s house. My husband explored, too, and determined the prices to be reasonable—not too high and not too low.

When I got to the back room, I made the discovery of the day, at least in my opinion. And it wasn’t an antique, collectible or junque. I found Don Gunelson’s “Belview Area Photo Art” displayed on the rear wall. I knew from the signage that I was viewing photos, but they sure didn’t look like photos. So I asked Don to explain.

He takes images of area subjects with an inexpensive camera—the fewer pixels the better—edits the photos on his computer and then prints them on watercolor paper with an ink that is more dye than ink. The result is photo art that resembles watercolor paintings.

I gushed over his creations and told him he needs to get these into a gallery—do an exhibit of his “Belview Area Photo Art.”

Now I’m kicking myself for not buying one of Don’s matted and framed creations because, with prices ranging from $7 to $12.50, they’re a steal.

So there you have it, a charming antique store in downtown Belview with an artist running the place.

FYI: Rainbow Antiques, Crafts & Junque, 103 S. Main, is open from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Saturdays. Call (507) 938-4476. Maybe Don will open up the shop if you’re in town on a day other than Saturday.

Ruby red glassware is displayed in a front window. To the right in this photo is the blue Belview water tower.

An example of Don Gunelson's Belview Area Photo Art, an area barn.

Some of the merchandise displayed in the main part of the antique store.

A view across the street through one of the large front windows at Rainbow Antiques.

More Belview Area Photo Art by Don Gunelson.

You'll find plenty of collectibles from the area, including this bird thermometer from Olivia.

This colorful folksy farm family graces the north wall of Rainbow Antiques. This photo was shot looking south on Main Street toward Belview's water tower.

Another view of Rainbow Antiques and Main Street Belview looking south.

Check back for more reasons to visit Belview in a future post.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling