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Founders of Riverwalk Art and Antiques stand inside the store's newly expanded space. Left to right: Mary Jo Nelson and Pat and Dan Nistler. <i>Debbie Griffin photos</i>

Riverwalk makes new room for old stuff

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business River Falls, 54022
River Falls Journal
715-425-5666 customer support
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Riverwalk Art and Antiques opened Monday its second expansion since starting in July 2011, adding 600 square feet of space to its lower-level retail area inside the building at 127 N. Main St.

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The hobbyist pottery studio, Kinni Clayworks, moved two doors down to 126 N. Riverwalk and will continue to offer group lessons, parties and demonstrations of pottery making. The move means extra space for Riverwalk, which now occupies the entire lower level.

Riverwalk founders Mary Jo Nelson and Pat and Dan Nistler worked on the latest expansion for about a month, removing walls, cleaning, painting and re-arranging.

They started out not sure if they'd fill the initial space of 2,000 square feet with 10 interested vendors.

Riverwalk now has 5,000 square feet and about 26 vendors, including 16 artists, with a waiting list for future spaces.

Nelson and the Nistlers say people seem to like the cooperative approach to the 'antique mall,' in which booth space can be earned by "minding the store" as vendors work self-directed hours in their booth.

The three say most people displaying at Riverwalk are local but also come from Amery, Beldenville, New Richmond and Somerset, as well as Oakdale and Red Wing, Minn.

Dan said they had a vision upon starting in 2011, "We wanted to breathe life into Riverwalk."

Building demand

The group, each member of which has about 20 years' experience tinkering with antiques, says Riverwalk is not "your grandmother's antique shop."

They stock things in popular style and reject most anything they know was made in China.

All three founders say one trend that's changed in antiques over the years is that people don't so much keep collections anymore -- of baseball cards or period furniture or books -- they obtain antiques for decorating and because they're unusual or unique.

Pat continues to nurture a part of the store she calls the Paper Trail, a room holding all manner of vintage-paper items.

Nelson said people used to strip old furniture and re-stain it. These days, people just paint it. She figures when the trend reverses one day, those painted items will one day be stripped and stained again.

She said people also enjoy the fun and quirky items, some of which are old and not politically correct. Nelson cites a set of glasses painted on the outside with clothed women but showing nude ladies on the inside of the glass.

The three are thrilled that the concept has gained a good foothold. Turns out, it was an auction that vaulted all three into the hobby.

Pat and Dan had bought a tub of items at one then sought to sell them at a Hudson antique place. Nelson said she went out of necessity while in college; she could buy household items for cheap, such as a chair for $2.

"It's even real wood," she laughed, adding that many college students come in for the same reason.

The three say they get good feedback from people. Customers like seeing something new each time and sometimes lament not coming back sooner to buy those one-of-a-kind items before someone else did.

Appraisals draw interest

Riverwalk holds another popular appraisal event 2-4 p.m. April 6 at Riverwalk. The store operators ask that people make an appointment via e-mail on the store's website, but they don't discourage walk-in visits.

Nelson said it's exciting to have the charismatic area auctioneer Jack Hines and antique dealer Gary Donath coming for the event.

Pat says they're in the process of re-naming the appraisal events since they cannot call it "Antiques Roadshow" or "What's in Your Attic?"

The trio says they see lots of chairs and other interesting pieces during the events. One patron at the last event brought in two reverse paintings -- artwork on the backside of glass -- that were worth an estimated $2,000 each.

Nelson and the Nistlers encourage people to visit Riverwalk's website: www.riverwalkartandantiques.com, as well as its Facebook page, where posts help people see what's new.

Contact Riverwalk at 715-425-0149 or riverwalkartandantiques@gmail.com.

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