Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

What art reveals June 15, 2013

An oil painting by P. Willis, purchased Thursday at the Recycled Art Sale, Paradise Center for the Arts, downtown Faribault. The sale continues until 5 p.m. Saturday, June 15. The painting now hangs in my living room.

An oil painting by P. Willis, purchased for $15 on Thursday at the Recycled Art Sale, Paradise Center for the Arts, downtown Faribault. The sale continues until 5 p.m. Saturday, June 15. The painting now hangs in my living room.

AFTER PURCHASING two original paintings at the Recycled Art Sale at the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault this week, I started thinking about the art I choose for my home.

Nearly every single piece I’ve purchased second-hand from thrift stores, garage and yard sales, or that annual Recycled Art Sale. I’ve also been gifted with several works of original art.

Why do I buy what I buy?

You tell me. View examples below of art currently displayed in my home and share what you think the pieces reveal about me and/or why I selected them.

Go.

Displayed on a shelf in my dining room, this watering can was purchased at a craft store many years ago. I bought the Minnesota beverage tray at the Rice County Gas & Steam Engines Flea Market on Memorial Day weekend. I like repurposing like this tray as art.

Displayed on a shelf in my dining room, this watering can was purchased at a craft store many years ago. I bought the Minnesota beverage tray at the Rice County Gas & Steam Engines Flea Market on Memorial Day weekend. I often repurpose items like these as art.

I have yet to find a spot for this gladioli oil painting which I bought for $10 at the Recycled Art Sale.

I have yet to find a spot for this gladioli oil painting which I bought for $10 at the Recycled Art Sale.

I removed the folding legs from this TV tray, attached a ribbon and hung it in my dining room. I have several more of these same trays, purchased at a yard sale.

I removed the folding legs from this TV tray, attached a ribbon and hung it in my dining room. I have several more of these same trays, purchased at a yard sale.

Here's the setting where the fruit tray hangs, next to a vintage family dresser which my husband refinished many years ago. The items on the dresser, with the exception of the candle holder, were purchased at the Faribault Salvation Army (teapot) and at a flea market (wooden box).

Here’s the setting where the fruit tray hangs, next to a vintage family dresser which my husband refinished many years ago. The items on the dresser, with the exception of the candle holder, were purchased at the Faribault Salvation Army (creamer) and at a flea market (wooden box). The embroidered runner came from a garage sale. This is in a corner of my dining room.

Another TV tray, repurposed as art, sits atop the entertainment center in my living room along with dried hydrangea from a bush outside my front door.

Another TV tray, purchased at a garage sale and repurposed as art, sits atop the entertainment center in my living room along with dried hydrangea from bushes outside my front door.

Inside one of the cubbies in the entertainment center, I arranged these books, purchased at an annual used book sale and Faribault, and this alarm clock, bought at the Faribault Salvation Army.

Inside one of the cubbies in the entertainment center, I arranged these books, purchased at an annual used book sale in Faribault, and this alarm clock, bought at the Faribault Salvation Army for a few bucks.

One of my all-time favorite finds is this oblong mirror (only a portion shown here because mirrors are challenging to photograph without getting yourself in the pic)

One of my all-time favorite finds is this oblong mirror (only a portion shown here because mirrors are challenging to photograph without getting yourself in the pic) bought for 50 cents at a garage sale years ago. It hangs in a hallway, reflecting light.

In the guest bedroom, I created this floral scene atop a dresser. The floral print came from a garage sale, bought for under $1. I seldom spend much on any art I buy. The hydrangea are from my frontyard bush and the vase from flowers I once received.

In the guest bedroom, I created this floral scene atop a dresser. The floral print was purchased for less than $1 at a garage sale. I seldom spend much on any art I buy. The hydrangea are from my frontyard bush and the vase from flowers I once received.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The price is right May 20, 2013

I LOVE A GOOD DEAL. Who doesn’t? Even more, I’m especially pleased when I can recycle an item which benefits charity.

Driven by the need to find the 19-year-old son an inexpensive piece of furniture for the living room in his first-ever apartment, we hit the thrift stores in Rochester Saturday afternoon, move-in day.

On the final stop, Caleb found a leather sofa tucked under a merchandise display shelf at the Goodwill store, 239 28th Street Southeast.

Total purchase price for these three items was just over $30, including tax.

Total purchase price for these three items was just over $30, including tax. Additionally, I bought the coasters (about 10 of them) on the table for 25 cents at a garage sale.

His dad and I discouraged shelling out $110 for a sofa he needs for only the three-month duration of his summer internship at IBM. So I suggested he approach a floor clerk and barter. Better a poor college student seek a discount than parents. We temporarily disappeared so he could negotiate.

He and the clerk talked for awhile and then she cut the price to $75. I don’t know what transpired, but in between the time Caleb grabbed the tag and walked up front to pay, she slashed the price even more—to $25.

Hallelujah. A comfortable couch to fit a college student’s budget.

Goodwill had originally priced the sofa at $150.

Scrubbed later with a leather cleaning product, purchased for under $4 on our way back to the apartment, the sofa really shines. Plans to return the couch to Goodwill in August have been scrapped; the son wants to keep this piece of furniture now that it looks so good. That will be open to negotiation.

Prior to the Rochester move, we also secured several other apartment items at thrift stores, including a free end table from All Seasons Thrift Store, 310 Central Avenue, Faribault. The freebie was a $10 reward for spending $50 in the store. I’ll reveal those $50 purchases in a future post.

All Seasons proceeds benefit food shelves in the nearby Kenyon and Wanamingo areas.

Finally, the $3 lamp which now rests on the freebie end table next to the $25 leather couch comes from a New Ulm thrift store, The Treasure Haus, 1209 South Broadway.  As a bonus, the lamp included a three-way light bulb. Sales from the Treasure shop go toward Christian schools, programs and missions.

There you go, readers. It is possible to partially furnish a living room for around $30.

Now, let’s hear about your thrift store bargains.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Sweet finds in Montgomery, Part II: Thrifting April 11, 2013

LONG BEFORE REPURPOSING, upcycling and recycling became fashionable, I realized the value in shopping second-hand.

Sweet Repeats, a thrift shop in downtown Montgomery, Minnesota.

Sweet Repeats, a thrift shop in downtown Montgomery, Minnesota.

Thus you can imagine my excitement when I discovered not one, but two, thrift stores in downtown Montgomery during a recent visit.

In this second installment focusing on the businesses my husband and I perused in this small south-central Minnesota community on a recent Saturday, I highlight those two thrift stores.

A sampling of the merchandise inside Sweet Repeats.

A sampling of the merchandise inside Sweet Repeats.

First stop was Sweet Repeats, which offers a wide variety of merchandise ranging from furniture to glassware, old tools, books, clothing and everything in between. Sifting through all the merchandise takes considerable time; I’m certain I missed some gems. But, because the building wasn’t heated—or at least it felt that way to me—I shopped at a faster speed.

I kept circling back to this chair, one of four paired with a rectangular glass-top table. I love the bones, the artsy design of this chair as well as the fabric. But I walked away from it, but not before testing the chair, which was too hard for my comfort.

I kept circling back to this chair, one of four paired with a rectangular glass-top table. I love the bones, the artsy design of this chair as well as the fabric. I walked away from it, but not before testing the chair, which was too hard for my comfort.

How well I remember S & H and Gold Bond stamps.

How well I remember S & H and Gold Bond stamps.

I stopped long enough, though, to reminisce when I saw an S & H Green Stamps book, recalling my mom saving, licking and pasting those stamps into books to redeem for merchandise. Funny I can’t remember a single item she got with stamps, only the stamps and the booklets.

Just like the camera my mom used when I was growing up.

Just like the camera my mom used when I was growing up.

I also admired a Brownie Hawkeye Camera while Randy eyed a set of poker chips like his grandparents pulled out on Saturdays.

Sweet pieces of Frankoma pottery.

Sweet pieces of Frankoma pottery.

For the collector, Sweet Repeats offers some sweet pieces of Frankoma pottery. I don’t know going prices on such collectibles. But the owners of this thrift store seem quite aware of value, meaning if you expect to score a steal simply because this is small-town Minnesota, you likely would be wrong.

Love the name, Bird's Nest, of this thrift store.

Love the name of this thrift store: Bird’s Nest.

Just up the street at The Bird’s Nest Thrift Store, a cozy non-profit shop that supports local projects, the merchandise offerings are mostly clothing and basic household necessities. I scored a summery straw purse for $2, perhaps a gift to an aunt or maybe I’ll just keep it for myself.

A nice selection of purses at the Bird's Nest.

A nice selection of purses at the Bird’s Nest.

The "make-an-offer" wedding dress.

The “make-an-offer” wedding dress.

Randy and I also examined a wedding dress as our eldest is shopping for a gown. The volunteer male tending the store was totally clueless as to any details about the unmarked, unsized dress stained with wine on one sleeve. But he offered to call Myrna while I photographed the gown.

You simply have to appreciate such a nicety which reflects the overall friendliness that prevails in Montgomery. These people are just plain nice, friendly folks. Exactly what I’d expect in a small town.

CHECK BACK for the next installment featuring downtown Montgomery businesses my husband and I visited. To read previous posts, click here and then click here.

And if you missed my first piece on an old-fashioned barbershop in Montgomery, click here.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Thrifting at the mall March 28, 2012

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Terry's Curiosities and Collectables offers mostly collectible glassware, not at thrift store prices, but lower than at an antique store. So for purposes of this post, I'm terming Terry's a thrift store.

LONG BEFORE thrifting became fashionable, I thrifted. I shopped primarily at garage and rummage sales because second-hand stores simply weren’t all that common nearly 27 years ago.

Yes, I’ve been thrifting that long, since before my first-born was born. Baby clothes and kids’ clothes, books and toys comprised those early bargain purchases.

As the years passed, my shopping habits shifted away from the needs of my growing-into-teenagers kids toward myself—to the vintage tablecloths, drinking glasses and prints/paintings/miscellaneous artwork I collect.

And as the years have passed and thrift stores have opened in my community of Faribault, I find myself turning more to those stores than to rummage sales to shop on the cheap.

I also focus more on nostalgia, discovering that which connects me to days gone-by. The older I grow, the more I appreciate my past.

Let me show you some of the merchandise I perused on a recent stop at Terry’s Curiosities and Collectables (sic) and the Salvation Army Store in the Faribo West Mall.

As long as you’re tagging along with me on this shopping trip, let’s play a little game. I’ll show you the goods and you guess which I purchased.

Here we go:

I remember when my mom popped these Sylvania flashbulbs into her camera.

I remember the time my son saw a rotary dial phone in a thrift store and had no clue how to use it. Heck, I remember life without a phone growing up on the southwestern Minnesota prairie.

This vintage piece is as much clock as art. I call her "The Girl with Attitude."

A working General Electric alarm clock made from wood.

A hand-stitched rural scene.

I found games packing shelves at the Salvation Army, including this vintage version of Password.

Alright then, have you made your guesses? Which of the above two did I buy?

And which of the above two did I wish I’d purchased?

PURCHASED: The General Electric alarm clock for $4 and the needlework art for $2.

SHOULD HAVE PURCHASED: The Password game at the Salvation Army and “The Girl with Attitude” clock (which I think was out of my thrifty price range) at Terry’s Curiosities and Collectables.

Would you have bought any of these items?

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

An historic fashion find in Faribault February 3, 2012

IT WAS AN IMPRESSIVE FIND. There, hanging on a circular clothes rack jammed with winter coats, I discovered the soft suede coat collared in fur.

I beckoned my daughter to come, try it on. Wrap yourself in this finely-crafted coat with covered buttons and deep pockets and hand-stitched lining at the collar. Try on this fawn-colored coat that reminds me of Mary Tyler Moore when I picture you wearing it.

But she hesitated, not certain about wearing a coat trimmed with fur, a fur we couldn’t identify because we’re not accustomed to such luxury.

Eventually I coaxed her into slipping on the tailored garment from Ochs of Faribault, a fine, but now defunct, department store that served communities in southern Minnesota for nearly 100 years with branches in Owatonna, Waseca, Rochester and Austin and, later, a store in New Ulm.

That deep history alone made the coat worth purchasing. Ochs, established in Faribault in 1888 as a seller of dry goods and notions, became “the” place to shop in the heyday of department stores.

I’ve lived in Faribault long enough to remember Ochs. I couldn’t afford to shop at this elite business, although my husband rented our wedding tuxedos there in 1982. Not long after that, Ochs closed, about the time high-end department stores began disappearing from Main Street.

Buying the coat would equal acquiring a piece of history. I impressed that upon my 25-year-old daughter as she pondered purchasing the coat. Soon she pulled $12 and some loose change—I threw in the remaining coins—to total $12.50.

She’d just purchased a finely-made coat from one of Faribault’s finest department stores for half price at the Faribault Senior Center’s Clothes Closet.

I thrilled in the thrift store find and followed with a back yard photo shoot to document our discovery.

And then I suggested to my daughter that she pose for a second photo shoot next to the Mary Tyler Moore statue on the Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. She, like the actress in the 1970s The Mary Tyler Moore Show sitcom, lives in Minneapolis and is a strong, independent, single working woman.

Such a photo would be a fitting tribute, I think, to the strength and power of women. When Verna Love Ochs became the president of Ochs in 1969 upon the death of her husband, she was one of only five women in the country serving as a department store president. That’s according to a Faribault Heritage Preservation Commission Downtown Walking Tour video clip produced by Daniel J. Hoisington of Edinborough Productions.

Note the Faribault Ochs store in this mid-1920s photo from the private collection of Daniel J. Hoisington.

Verna Ochs, who died in 1989, was also a member of the Rice County Historical Society and a charter member of the Faribault Heritage Preservation Commission. She’d likely appreciate the restoration of the Ochs Department Store building several years ago by the State Bank of Faribault.

Will my daughter value her new suede coat? I expect, given its history, she will.

CLICK HERE to watch a video clip about Ochs.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Vintage photo courtesy of Daniel J. Hoisington