Revitalizing downtown: New antique store thrives in Evart

Second section of Rusty Gold Antiques opens Oct. 1

EVART — Locals, visitors and antique enthusiasts have a new place to shop in downtown Evart.

“Rusty Gold Antiques opened its doors on July 2, right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic,” owner Joe Bixman said. “It was scary. We started during the pandemic and have done way beyond our expectations. It’s a thriving business. We have only had one slow day out of 2 1/2 months of being opened.”

Named "Rusty Gold Antiques" because of his love of rust, Bixman has an eclectic array of old farm tools, toys, dishes, furniture and other sundry items.

He said he chose to open his store in Evart because it was where he found a property for the right price.

“We had looked at a couple of elementary schools, one in Edmore and one in Blanchard, with the idea of having an antique mall with a hairstylist, a tattoo parlor, a bookstore, a thrift store and a flower shop, along with the antique store and a wedding venue,” he said. “We were negotiating with two different schools, but the owners sold out to someone else. Then we came here. The owner showed us this property, and we called the realtor and made an offer.”

“Working with the city was a lot smoother than I ever imagined,” he added. “When we asked what we needed to do to open a business, they basically said all we would have to do is turn the utilities on and we were ready to go.”

Eric Kehoe, director of the Evart Downtown Development Authority, said the city works to make it easy for someone to start a business in Evart.

“Joe did it on his own, but we try to make it easy for businesses to open up,” he said. “The DDA is here to help businesses get started, and if you need help finding a location on Main Street, we are here to help with that also."

“This town has reached out and grabbed me like you wouldn’t believe,” Bixman added. “I have a lot of repeat customers because they know how things change. They are coming in on a weekly or bi-weekly basis because that is the antique business — stuff moves fast.”

Business has been so good, in fact, they are already planning to expand.

“Oct. 1, I will be opening up the second section of the store,” Bixman said. “I have vendors that already have about 2/3 of the space reserved before it has even opened. The rest of the space will be used for my items.”

Bixman said he has always bought, sold and traded, and that is how the idea of the antique store came about.

“I was buying faster than I could sell,” he said. “I filled up two pole barns, my girlfriend’s house and my trailer. It was time to buy a store.”

In addition, he said, he has been collecting carnival glass for about 15 years. Carnival glass is glass that has a rainbow effect when held to the light.

“I have over 700 pieces,” Bixman said. “I have so much of it in boxes in my garage, I can’t display it all. I will eventually get it all out of my house and bring it up here and sell it.”

Bixman said he gets his items from yard sales, estate sales, auctions and Facebook sites.

“You name it, I do it,” he said. “I’ve traveled to Ohio, to the Upper Peninsula and to the bottom of the state. I’ve been to North Carolina. Whenever I am on vacation, I look for stuff, and I try to hit yard sales whenever I can."

“We have cast iron, pottery, porcelain, farm ware, furniture, handmade jewelry, wood carvings and many other items for sale,” he added.

Along with his own items in the store, Bixman takes items on consignment and rents space in the store to other vendors. In addition, he encourages artists to bring their work to the store to sell.

About two-thirds of the store is his own items, the rest is consignment and vendors, Bixman said.

“The consignment items people bring in, I look over to see if it falls into the category of what I want in the store, and most of the time it does,” Bixman said. “The owner pays a 30% consignment fee when the item sells.”

The vendors rent a space in the store and pay a commission on the sale of items, and also volunteer to work at the store two days a week.

“I ask them to work two days in the store, that way I don’t have to hire someone else,” Bixman said. “That helps to keep my prices down.”

“I am not a high-priced store, and I don’t want to be,” he continued. “My prices are probably 20% lower than other antiques stores. You don’t make money, if you don’t move things.”

Bixman added that with antique stores, people aren’t really coming in to buy big items like furniture unless they see something that impresses them, but are more willing to spend $30 or $40 for an item if they like it.

“If you have an antique store, you have to ‘smalls’ because smalls is what makes your business,” he said. “If you don’t have smaller items, you’re not going to make it. I’m not after the big sale, and if people don’t like my price, I am willing to barter.”

Bixman said, along with the renovations of the inside of the store, he plans to update the outside of the building with new roofing and updating to the facade over the next three years.

Kehoe said the DDA offers building improvement grants for interior or exterior renovations.

"It is a one-to-one matching grant that can assist up to 50% of the cost for paint, signage, awnings, masonry — whatever needs done," he said.

Rusty Gold Antiques is the only antique store in Evart, but Bixman said he would welcome another antique store to the area.

“If another antique store wants to open up here, I would promote it because it will help my business too,” he said. “If customers are going to one store, they are going to come to mine also, and vice-versa.”

He added, all the local businesses help each other. He can direct customers to a local place to eat, or whatever they need, and if they are at a business and they see there is an antique store nearby, they will come visit.

Rusty Gold Antiques

201 N. Main St. in Evart

Hours of operation:

10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday, Friday, Saturday

• 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday