Meet Us on Main Street: The Gafeller Girls
West Branch's historic Main Street is a charming and quaint business district located just off I-80 at exit 254 (just 6 miles from Iowa City). It's home to unique small businesses and boasts an abundance of Iowa history. There's plenty to eat, shop & explore in West Branch but what makes it extra special is the people you'll meet here.
West Branch Community Development Group is pleased to highlight our local businesses with the Meet Us on Main Street series featuring Q&A's with business owners that make our Main Street so special. Today, it's our pleasure to lift up Jodi Clemens, Dana Gafeller and Nicki Brick! These three sisters are the owners of Marg’s Little Red House Antiques and Uniques, a quirky and fun retail shop celebrating TEN YEARS of business this month. Here's our Q&A with the Gafeller girls:
Tell us a little about your background. Marg’s Little Red House Antiques and Uniques is owned by sisters, Jodi , Dana , and Nicki. Our store is named after our great Aunt Margaret, that we all called Marg (hard g like a margarita, not Marge). We lost our grandma before Jodi was born and Marg stepped in and treated us like her own grandkids. We loved staying with her each summer in her red farmhouse near Letts, Iowa. The house was full of family antiques and she got us hooked on old things with amazing stories behind them!
Where can we find you? Marg's is a hobby shop so we are open Saturdays and for special events as we all work full-time elsewhere. You can always find the most up to date information on our Facebook page (watch for online sales too) or on our website at margsgirlsvintage.com.
What motivated you to start your business? We had been hitting estate auctions for years together and always had so much fun (and often overestimated the amount of space we had to bring things home...ha!). Needless to say, we ended up accumulating all kinds of treasures. It’s amazing what people will just throw away if you don’t save it for a new life. We decided to start selling our finds online out of Dana’s garage in Springdale – mainly because Jodi and Nicki’s husbands were already over the edge with our continuous ‘storage needs’. That's when the business was born!
How long have you been operating? We kicked off with an online presence in May 2011 and moved to our current storefront in May 2012. This month marks TEN YEARS in our Main Street West Branch location!
What inspires your work and what sets your business apart? It’s something we (sisters) get to do together and Mom helps us out a ton so it’s a family affair. From a vintage perspective, we only buy things we love and would put in our own homes. We also love mixing finds from decades so you might find an early 1900’s dry sink, a mid century modern cat print, and an orange retro stool all hanging around. We try to have something for everyone.
There is also a healthy amount of "sentence enhancers" found on our newer inventory items so brace yourself for a good laugh when you're shopping at Marg's!
Describe the products/services you offer. If the pandemic taught us anything it was to pivot and make things work. We had always been mostly antiques and vintage with some new home décor and gifts sprinkled in. When estate sales stopped, sourcing became harder and we supplemented with more traditional items to keep us afloat. It has been fun and has worked and now you’ll find anything from tea towels and pillow spray to Red Wing stoneware and 1950’s kitchen tools. It’s an eclectic mix and certainly no longer a traditional antique store but it continues to be our happy place.
What are a few of your top-selling items? The trend continues for vintage that serve a purpose and are functional keeping upcycled items popular. Quirky items for all occasions are our best sellers when it comes to gifting.
What brought you to Main Street West Branch? We grew up in Springdale (just down the road from West Branch) and all went off along the way and eventually returned “home”. It’s a wonderful place to raise kids and the local leaders are second to none. The storefront came about when a friend rented the apartment upstairs from Norma Beecher and she told him it was a package deal. He had no need for the bottom and asked us if we wanted to give it a shot and bring our store into town; no pressure…if it didn’t work we could move out at any time. The rest is history!
What are your plans for the future of your business? We all have a vested interest in seeing the downtown thrive – it’s really important to us. Each of us volunteers in some capacity between West Branch Community Development Group, Historic Preservation Committee and several other local organizations. Our personal plans change from week to week depending on who has the newest crazy idea but we will maintain some sort of presence…what will another 10 years bring? Who knows but amazing things are happening in West Branch every day and we would love to see it become more and more of a destination as the years pass.
Fun Fact: We each have our vice when it comes to purchases. Jodi loves creepy old dolls. Vintage Halloween gets Dana every.single.time. Nicki simply cannot pass up any piece of stoneware to save herself and can often be heard saying, “of course there’s room to get this home”. We know just walking in somewhere exactly what each of us is going to end up dragging home and it’s not uncommon for us to have to call for reinforcements when Nicki is wrong. 😊
Meet Us on Main Street to visit with Jodi, Dana & Nick as you Eat, Shop, Explore at Exit 254!