The Farmer Grey’s sign might joke about “good junk,” but inside the antique store you’ll find old-school perfection.
Owner Jane Wallace has an eye for intriguing details. Designers are sure to find something delightful, whether it’s a collection of tiny candelabras or a stuffed chicken or cornices mounted on the wall.
On a recent fall day, the store smelled like apples while golden leaves drifted down outside the windows. From one window, you can spy the green sign that marks the building as a historic site.
Where urns and typewriters are now displayed, there was a time when the space held 30 students gathered for lessons, as well as a library of books.
The former one-room school house is located right off of I-94 – but nestled back in the woods, the store feels like it’s a different world from cars zooming on expressways.
“I love how early it is in our history,” Jane said. With Farmer Gray’s, she can share that history along with offering shoppers a chance to take home a piece from the days of old.
Is there anything that makes you stand out from other antique stores?
I specialize in architectural, antique garden and original-finish farmhouse finds.
What is ‘architectural’?
Architectural elements are pieces that are salvaged from buildings that are being torn down, you know, the architectural elements on the outside of a building that are functional, and yet they were made to be beautiful at the same time.
How did you get into this business?
I got into this business when I was a little girl, my mom loved antiques. And I actually had a little red wagon, and I would pull it around the trailer park and I would go door to door knocking and ask people if they wanted to buy any junk. I was about the age of 5 or 6.
How long have you been here in this building?
We bought it in the fall of 2020. We got it painted, just in time before the weather changed. I mean, we were right down to the day on that and then moved inside for the rehab, and we opened in March of ’21.
This is a really unique building. Can you tell me a little bit more about it?
Well, it's a historical property…the building itself was built in 1859 as a school house – and I'm sure it was a meeting house as well, for the rural community. And it was a school house until 1957. Late in the ’60s, it was a church. And then it became several antique shops and then it fell into my hands.
Is there a detail in the building that you particularly love?
One thing that's special to me is, I collect heart rocks. And I feel that God gives me a heart rock on significant days. And one day, there was a challenge here at the building and we went downstairs and we were working and there's this beautiful heart rock in the foundation.
And it felt like it was a sign?
So, when customers come in, are they looking for something specific or are they just browsing?
Well, that's an interesting question. A lot of people come in because they have never seen the inside of this building, because it's been vacant. And they love the building. You know, they're Battle Creek natives. But also, a lot of customers find me from social media, where we have a presence, and they're definitely looking for special treasures because they collect the same look that we offer. So it's a mix.
Anything else you think people need to know?
I'm just glad that we're able to share this building as well as the business. It makes it really unique. We watched that Abraham Lincoln series, and it was really breathtaking to think, oh, my gosh, the school house was being built at that time. And then you know, you look at another facet of the Civil War and the school house was standing.