With a mix of antiques and crafts, jewelry, clothing, art and more finds, plus food/craft drinks and live music, all amidst pretty country surroundings and a friendly atmosphere, the Iowa Gathering at The Barn at Brophy Creek was a pleasant and relaxing way to spend a Sunday afternoon. My pal Kathy and I were among the 600 or so guests to navigate the gravel roads for the 2nd market event organized by Emma and Spencer Hicks of rural Dixon, IA.
A former event planner and hotel hospitality manager, Emma has been selling her hand-picked antiques and collectables, and handcrafted items for about 6 years. She has an online store and blog called mainandsecond.com, named after the location of her mom’s bar and grill in Calamus, IA. Shortly after moving back to the Quad Cities area from Cedar Falls last year, Emma and her husband Spencer got an opportunity of a lifetime – to create a TV pilot for a design network. The filming was done this past July at the Hicks’ first market event near Durant. “We got such good feedback we decided to do another one,” Emma said. They secured the date and The Barn site (more about that later), invited about 30 other vendors to participate and planned decorations, food and entertainment. After a steady stream of Facebook posts and some nice local news coverage, including a spot on Paula Sands Live, today’s event sold out.
While Emma was selling her vintage and hand-made items and interacting with shoppers and other vendors in the barn, Spencer served craft beers, cider and wine from a small room between two nearby silos. He was friendly and seemed at home supporting the effort. We talked about a newspaper article that appeared earlier in the week. It included some sweet comments about how he makes happen the things his wife dreams up. “I spoke from the heart,” he said.
As Kathy and I made our way around the farm to check things out, we were warmly greeted by the other “pickers and makers” operating booths. Many of them were young like Emma, and several had their husbands or other family members along to support them.
Johanna Schaitel offered a clever way of explaining the stuff she sells at her antique shop in Wisconsin and at market events around the Midwest. “My grandma owned it. My mom threw it and I bought it,” said Schaitel who operates reSTYLE & Co with her husband Neil. Galvanized bins overflowed with antique toys, cookware, farm tools and other collectibles. “I grew up on a farm and I liked the junk,” she said.
Fine art was in the mix, too. Shelby Ashlyn is a watercolor artist and recent transplant from Memphis to Davenport. She sells paintings online, at shows and also teaches art classes. I told her about my Aunt Betty who does gorgeous watercolor, and my late Aunt Doris, another painter and art teacher, and my own secret (no longer, I guess) dream of someday trying it myself. “You should!” encouraged Shelby. “With watercolor, you get into a rhythm of strokes with the pigment hitting the fiber, it is just so pretty,” she said. I asked if she listens to music as she paints to help get into the flow. “I do. I like to listen to the Alabama Shakes, the Lumineers and Valerie June, who is from Memphis,” she said. I bought the three paintings shown with the artist Shelby.
Perhaps most interesting of the “booths” were the mobile ones. Ariann Blake and her mom Janita Abbas brought a huge former military step van that Ariann found on Craig’s List about a year ago and restored into a traveling antique shop called Salt & Light Market. The van was packed with glassware, home decor and even sour dough bread. In between shows, they stow everything in grocery bags and snap photos to remind them how shelves are arranged. That makes it easy to reassemble displays when they arrive at the next gig. Another mobile exhibit offered home decor, jewelry and gift items, and another was a boutique of clothing, shoes, bags and other accessories.
Along with the three watercolor paintings, I found a Wallace’s farm sign from Post Monroe Antiques, owned by a young couple who happen to live in my hometown; a vintage crackly blue door; a black sofa table; and the antique desk chair from Salt & Light. Kathy and I both nabbed metal wall decorations from Post Monroe that were new but had a scruffy, rusty vintage charm. Thanks, Kathy, for being a good sport about so many pictures!
Of course, as an ag writer, I was curious about the farm itself and how The Barn at Brophy Creek got started. Thankfully, someone pointed out Kari Eberhart. She grew up on the farm and now lives in the original farmhouse with her husband and four children, the fourth generation. Her grandfather and dad both raised grain and livestock at the farm. About 10 years ago the family sold the farmland but kept 12 acres where her parents also have a home. There are several other large farm buildings and a pond.
A few years ago the family was faced with re-roofing the giant brick corn crib her grandfather built or watch it slowly crumble. Kari’s dad and husband thought it was crazy to spend thousands of dollars on a building the family didn’t use. But Kari had a different idea. She proposed transforming the farm into an event venue that would help pay for the farm’s upkeep. The rest of the family bought into her dream and soon her husband and she set about fixing up the 5,000 square foot metal cattle barn. They did the work themselves to replace the walls with wood, add bathrooms and renovate the floor. The first event was held in August of 2016 and they’ve since hosted 20 gatherings, mostly weddings, for up to 275 people. They’ve slowly added to the main barn: a hog house for smaller events, waterfall, patios and gardens. They recently transformed a machine shed into multipurpose area that was filled today with new furniture from Eastman House in Clinton and antiques. It was fun to talk to Kari – she beams when she speaks of the farm and her family’s roots there.
A few more pictures from today:
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