Creative, imaginative, inventive — all these words describe Jim Clary and Rob Seifert, owners of Country Treasure and Thrift. Their store, located on busy Highway 26 between Juneau and Watertown, is like none you've ever seen. Part of it is in a machine shed, and part is in the lower portion of a barn where a farmer once milked his cows.
The two have converted the former dairy farm into a unique shopping area that includes a variety of farm animals and lots of opportunities for petting or feeding them.
"The petting area is really popular" Seifert said. "We have quite a few animals that we raise right here, and people love them. This spring we had baby lambs, and we ran a contest to give her a name. We also had a contest to name the baby Jersey calf and a baby miniature horse."
Inside the main store, a spade and a rake cleverly serve as curtain rods in the coffee room. Artistic designs on the walls and staircases and in the eye-catching displays throughout the store capture the essence of what the store is all about. It's a store where you can find things that are unique, decorative and useful.
What started out as a thrift shop with a portion of the proceeds donated to worthwhile charities has grown to a multitude of businesses under one roof.
Country Treasure and Thrift is one of the largest concrete statuary vendors in the state, the largest Amish store in a 50-mile radius and a supplier of creative furniture and decor, made from discarded antiques.
About one-third of their business is in the resale area.
"We started as a thrift store but we found our customers were more interested in our repurposed art and furniture pieces, the concrete statues and the Amish goods," Clary said.
Seifert added, "If we have a couple of people asking for something, we'll get it.
"We continue to take donations and portions of the proceeds from the thrift store still go to help various organizations and individuals. Last year alone, we have given to over 10 different organizations and numerous individual endeavors."
They also do estate sales, business liquidations and foreclosure clean outs. With plenty of storage space in the barn, they are able to sort items, putting some things out for sale and repurposing others into clever decorative items.
The Amish portion of their store has gone from 500 square feet to over 3,000 square feet. Their products come from all over the U.S., and they are now at the point of private labeling many of their jams, jellies and canned goods, simply because of their superior quality. They also carry a full line of bulk foods that they package on sight.
"We incorporate numerous Amish craftsmen to make our furniture, including custom projects," Clary said. "We want the public to know that we do not buy from Amish factories. We buy from craftsman with private workshops."
Clary grew up in Richland County and is familiar with some of the Amish craftsmen there. He also goes to great lengths to acquire these pieces. On a cold snowy day this winter, he went to pick up a few pieces and found he was not able to drive up the long icy driveway.
"I walked up the long driveway to pick up the chairs and rode back to my vehicle with the chairs on a horse drawn wagon," he said.
The chairs the store carries have the same design, but he points out that each is unique because they are not factory-style — they are made one at a time.
Country Treasure and Thrift also stocks over 5,000 pieces of concrete statues of every size and style.
They custom paint the concrete to owner's specifications, or they apply their own artistic visions. They do not spray paint the concrete but instead hand paint with brushes to capture all the details.
They also do a variety of finishes and offer concrete restorative work for damaged or faded pieces that customers bring in.
Since Clary and Seifert have opened, many farmers have brought in their damaged or worn concrete cows to have them refurbished.
A unique part of this store is what they have termed "Re-loved furniture."
With help from Beaver Dam craftsman Kevin Ward, who they call their "maestro in the back room," they take cast-off pieces of furniture, doors, architectural pieces, windows and decor and put their talent to work.
"We are busy making once-garbage pieces into one-of-a-kind conversational pieces," Clary said.
Ward formerly worked in construction, building homes and design/remodel jobs. Now he cleverly combines his carpentry experience with Clary's background in interior design, and together they come up with a new artistic piece using left over parts from discarded junk.
Country Treasure also carries a wide variety of Wisconsin cheese, honey and other bakery.
"Our baked goods are Amish-inspired," Clary said. "We have a licensed kitchen and created many varieties of bread, including our most popular vegetable bread. We also make pies, scones, cinnamon rolls and cookies."
On Saturdays they have free popcorn for shoppers and offer many free samples of their products.
The store is located at 3469 Highway 26 in Juneau, 7 miles north of Watertown.