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Childhood memory inspires vision for business

Fort Dodge’s Rachel Maehl refreshes and sells classic items through White Barn Market Iowa

—Submitted photo
Rachel Maehl shows a framed piece of work for her White Barn Market Iowa. Maehl’s inspiration for her business is rooted in a childhood memory of her great-grandmother’s white barn.

Driving down the gravel road as a child and looking up to see a picturesque silhouette of her great-grandma’s white barn is a memory that has been etched into Rachel Maehl’s mind.

That fond childhood perspective was the inspiration behind her love of the country lifestyle and the style of early times as she began her adventure.

Maehl, of Fort Dodge, created White Barn Market Iowa, where she refreshes and sells classic items. She also creates new items with a vintage feel.

“The whole story behind White Barn Market Iowa was when we got the opportunity to buy my great-grandma’s acreage,” Maehl said. “We drove down the gravel road and saw the white barn and it brought back great memories for me. We were able to take a Century Farm and establish our home here.

“We thought we could share things built on memories, and the barn was a significant older thing. Its sturdy foundation brought back a special memory for me.”

—Submitted photo
Rachel Maehl holds up pieces of decor for her White Barn Market Iowa.

The love of older items and collecting pieces from earlier times has been the influence behind Maehl’s business that she started over five years ago.

“I love old stuff and I am a collector, you could say, that just had an eye for that sort of thing,” Maehl said. “I appreciate how things looked back then. I went to flea markets around the area and started picking up pieces.

“I realized I had a lot of stuff and started to do a few markets and selling those pieces.”

The items she creates can be found on Facebook or Instagram at White Barn Market Iowa or rachel@whitebarnmarket.com. Maehl also sets up at flea markets around the area.

Maehl’s vision has also evolved into new items as she builds custom-made signs.

—Submitted photo
Rachel Maehl holds up pieces of decor for her White Barn Market Iowa.

“When I was growing up I was known for my handwriting,” Maehl said. “I thought, ‘How can I share that?’ So we started doing signs. My handwriting is all over our house and it’s special to see that.

“Ryan (husband) helps me with those and we design them with things that we say to our kids all the time.”

When Maehl finds an item, it isn’t about restoring the piece, but bringing out the natural beauty of its structure.

“My personal likes and color trends seem to change so quickly that I typically keep items pretty neutral,” Maehl said. “After all, I can’t be the only one who can’t make up their mind on colors. We really focus on the ‘bones’ of a good old piece, and allow buyers to personalize from there. That really helps to keep our prices down as well.

“I also don’t sell things that I wouldn’t have in my own home, which does make them difficult to part with sometimes. Most of our signs, handmade pieces and vintage finds, tend to fall in the boho-farmhouse-industrial style category. It’s fun to mix and match those styles together. I enjoy the perfection of a piece that might show its age in imperfections.”

In fact, inside the family home there is a piano that seems to change colors often.

“We have an old piano in our house that I’ve painted three different times,” Maehl said. “There is a running joke at home: ‘What color will mom paint the piano this week?'”

With the love of finding and sharing older items, Maehl and her husband, Ryan, along with their four children, have joined for the adventures.

“Ryan and Brody set up when we are at the flea markets and Brody can pack a trailer like it’s Tetris,” Maehl said. “The girls (Lainey and L.J.) love staging things and Blakely loves to talk and smile. The kids have fun with it and they’re excited to do markets. It’s a comfy sort of feel and hopefully they will have fond memories from it.

“We’re a DIY family by nature. Many of us need to figure out how to do things cheaper. We have a square dining room, so it was tough finding a dining room table — we needed a round table. Our family can be kind of rowdy, so we decided we needed to build a big sturdy table and that’s how most of our pieces end up.”

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