BUSINESS BUZZ: Evart antique shop keeping yesterday alive

Owner: 'Things move here; they don't just sit'

This article is part of Business Buzz, a series designed to feature small businesses that make a big impact on the community. Participants featured will include all the locally-owned businesses that make up the fabric of Big Rapids and the surrounding area.

EVART — Joe Bixman is single handedly keeping the past alive with his shop, Rusty Gold Antiques, which can be found downtown on Main Street.

To open a traditionally face-to-face business at the height of a pandemic was a nearly indescribable task, but Bixman is glad he did it.

“Me opening an antique store in the middle of COVID was crazy, but I did it, and I did it for a reason, because I like what I’m doing,” Bixman said.

Bixman has been an avid collector of antiques for most of his life, and initially had the intention of opening up his own antique mall, complete with a thrift store, antique store, wedding venue, beauty shop and bookstore. 

After that fell through, he decided to set up shop in Evart a couple of summers ago. 

Although the idea of opening an antique mall still appeals to him, Bixman is happy to have his store in Evart.

“It’s still an option, but I’d hate to give up my base, because this town has been good to me,” Bixman said.

Bixman, who lives in an apartment above Rusty Gold Antiques, said the location was originally a restaurant, and was since turned into a bicycle shop.

In order to fit his items and live comfortably — roughly two pole barn’s worth of antiques to start — he knew that he needed to clear out some space and do some necessary remodeling. 

“Wires hanging from the ceiling, no lighting, nothing on the walls,” Bixman said. “In order to use my apartment, I would have to go outside, lock my door, walk over to the other door, unlock it, and then lock it as I’m walking up so people don’t go in the house.”

After the remodel, Bixman now has a set of stairs up to his apartment that are located directly behind the front counter.

The walls of his store are lined with items from the past, including cast iron oil lamps from the late 1800s, vintage Coca Cola bottle collections, and virtually everything in between.

In addition to two main showrooms at the front and back of the store, the walls on the hallway connecting them are lined with items.

Despite the short time his store has been open, Bixman has already developed a loyal customer base.

In fact, Bixman said it isn’t uncommon to see the same customer more than once in a week.

“Every single day, somebody will walk through that door trying to sell me something or bring me something in for consignment,” Bixman said. “Things move here; they don't just sit.”

Bixman said he likes to keep his prices at least 20% lower than the average competitor, and emphasized that no item in his shop has a fixed price.

“It’s me running the store; I’m the one to barter with,” Bixman said.