Jewell is an off the beaten path gem
JEWELL — Do you need help finding inspiration for home decor?
Or is there just one unique piece that will really make your house a home?
You may find them in Jewell, the small Hamilton County town nestled on either side of U.S. Highway 69 near that county’s border with Story County.
Taking a vintage road trip may lead you to other surrounding small towns too, but Jewell is the gem. In the last handful of years it has become its own hub for antique and vintage shops.
One of them, Gravy Home Goods, has been around since October 2013. It’s owned by Joan Fairchild.
Fairchild refers to her shop as vintage repurposed; Gravy sells harvest-style items, such as the tables that her husband makes, and modern industrial items.
In addition, Fairchild is one a shop owner who opted to live in a residence above her shop when the vintage repurpose market became lucrative. Like most small-town shops, owners need the work week to replenish their stock of repurposed pieces and are able to make a profit just being open on the weekends, Fairchild.
The way that Gravy Home Goods differs from a store that may sell more collectibles or antiques, is due to its design aesthetic. Fairchild referred to the items she sells in her shop as more from the 1970s era, with pops of bohemian, nomad inspiration.
“I sell more earthy items with natural elements tied in,” she said. “Definitely not the chintzy, shabby chic look.”
One thing she sells a lot of are barn wood harvest tables, which are locally crafted or handmade items.
The name Gravy comes from the feeling you get when eating comfort food, including gravy — hence the name Gravy Home Goods. Fairchild hopes you leave her store with a piece that brings the buyer comfort and enjoyment.
DK Soap and Design Studio is another stop to make in Jewell.
The DK part stands for Dirty Kid, which co-owner Rachel Uttecht created when she and a friend decided to make handmade soap as a side hobby and sold at the Ames Farmers Market.
The business grew. After Uttecht bought her partner out of her share of the business, she teamed up with her husband, Jeremy Uttecht, to create the DK Soap and Design Studio in Jewell when a prime location opened up in 2017. With her husband doing the design portion of the business, she was able to perfect her handmade soaps.
Uttechts’ soaps have been featured in Gravy’s shop as well, with names holding significant meanings for Gravy’s shopowner.
At DK, the soaps are sold beside homemade oils, sprays, and deodorants.
The design portion of the shop creates printed graphics on dictionary and map prints. DK also sells mugs and t-shirts with their own designs.
“We tend to see younger urban couples buying our inventory. We do sell some antiques, but 50 percent of the business is the handmade soaps. We do sell a lot of the prints in our booths at different junk shows too,” said Rachel Uttecht. “We will also outsource for other products, like made-from-scratch noodles and jellies. If you can’t find anything to buy in our shop, at least you can buy something to eat.”
Another top in Jewell is Gin and Tarnish, which is owned by Clare Schwager.
The brick and mortar location in Jewell has been opened since November 2017, but Schwager started selling her items in 2014 at area junk and antique shows, as well as out of a shed behind her mom’s own antique shop, J.B. Knackers, which is located in Gilbert in Story County.
“Antiques were a part of my childhood growing up, with my mom owning her own shop,” Schwager said. “There were times the family vehicle would be more full of antiques than kids when going on road trips, so it kind of just happened organically that I would own my own shop.”
The shop’s name came from a love of the cocktail gin and tonic, plus an old family name, Thanisch, that was later changed to Tarnish upon arrival in America, according to Schwager.
The word tarnish also fits in terms of how some metallic antiques would gain a patina as they aged.
The design aesthetic of her shop, according to Schwager, is bohemian meets industrial meets modern farmhouse. Repurposed or found items make up a lot of the inventory. Persian rugs, vintage sofas and brass candlesticks can also be seen adorning the shop, with some items coming from the Midwest or even overseas.
“I think having a story with each item makes the item more special,” Schwager said. “I want people to have fun with what they buy and to be inspired with that individual piece.”
Another must-top is Mustard Seed Revival, which is owned by Maranda and Caleb Van Cleave.
The Mustard Seed Revival has been open since July 2017 at its current location, but it began as a side business for the couple when they were selling items at pop up shows and the Ames Farmers Market.
Maranda Van Cleave had a love of taking a “piece of junk and giving it life again.”
Both she and her husband have full-time jobs outside their shop; Caleb Van Cleave works at a dentist’s office across the street and Maranda Van Cleave works in a school setting.
But it was a passion of hers to own her own brick and mortar shop in a small-town setting where they could display vintage in the best way possible, she said.
Inside Mustard Seed Revival a shopper will find repurposed items, some architectural pieces and, a current feature, some whisky barrel rings made into shelving.
There’s also a mini coffee bar called the Mustard Bean where people can sit and enjoy a hot beverage by the fireplace.
Maranda Van Cleave thinks that all types of shops are important, she said, because they each have their own individual flare or way of inspiring customers.
“I love the natural conversations that are started with all of my customers, and that sense of finding another kindred spirit who is a lover of all things vintage,” she said. “Most of the time they are just looking for pieces that have character and a story that they can fill their homes with.”
The shop’s name came from a Bible verse that reads: “faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains,” she said. The “revival” part of the name comes from bringing things back to life, which is what repurposing antiques is all about.
“There’s been this type of revival inJewell, of bringing that small-town feel back to Main Street, and this type of shift to find that off-the-beaten-path gem,” she said. “All of us small-town shop owners pride ourselves on community. Now Jewell is a destination to go for vintage.”