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Out with the old, in with the new

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John and Jackie Wetrosky have been operating a business out of the former Silbaugh’s Department store building since 1978. Starting in June, their business model will change once again from a consignment store, to an art and craft mall.

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Some things will not change. The Wetroskys will continue to operate Wireless Woods, where customers can buy cell phones, plans and accessories. They will continue to sell fabrics, kayaks, books, souvenirs and rent tuxedos.

What they will not do is offer consignment. With the closing of JJ’s Trading Post comes the June grand opening of Pine River’s own art and craft mall.

“We are becoming the Plaid Duck Arts and Craft Mall. We are renting spaces to artists with hand-crafted or repurposed or whatever. Spaces are rented by the month. We have a huge variety of stuff. We have everything from paintings on feathers to kooky bird feeders and everything in between,” Jackie said.

Vendors offering painted feathers and bird feeders made from teapots are only two of the nine current vendors. With the grand opening yet to come, the Wetroskys are hoping to soon have even more to offer. John said he would like to see 15-20 more vendors. Jackie envisions 30 vendors. Depending on vendor size, Jackie said they could have room for even more.

“It depends on if they take a large space or a small space,” Jackie said. “I would say we have room for at least 20 more. We can make room for whoever wants to come in.”

The couple said they are opening the mall to fill a local need for a place to showcase local artists.

“We decided since there were a lot of artists in the area that we knew of that didn’t have a storefront, maybe they would be interested in setting up shop with a lower overhead situation. We would basically do the book work and pay the taxes,” John said. “We’re just trying to make it easy. They don’t need to be present with their booth. They don’t need to man their booth, but they are welcome to be there and talk to people.”

The Wetroskys are in discussion with various local artists with familiar names, but said they have begun to sign up people they were never aware of before.

“I’m wowed by the quality of all the different work and the wide variety of the items coming in. Nobody has the same ideas,” Jackie said. “A lot of them are probably neighbors that people don’t even know do this type of work.”

Not just anything can be displayed at the Plaid Duck.

“We jury things to make sure it is real arts or craft. We don’t do any flea market or that type of thing in there. It has to pass inspection to get in. We don’t just let anything in there,” John said. “It’s basically got to be handmade in some way. Something that the person displaying it had some hand in making. We don’t want to be a broker or wholesaler or anything like that.”

John said they researched craft malls in other communities to see what works and what doesn’t work. He said that quality arts and crafts are something there is a demand for in Pine River.

“We see Pine River as looking for different audiences it used to have 35-40 years ago, and one of the audiences was arts and crafts. There is an audience there. We are hoping maybe Pine River can be some sort of an art magnet at some point,” John said.

In the future, John said it might be fun to host demonstrations in the downstairs section of the store or in the wide front windows where passersby can view painters at work. Of course, none of that can be done until after the grand opening, which is expected in early to mid-June. In the meantime, they are welcoming anyone interested in becoming a vendor.

“We are still looking for more vendors. They can stop in and talk to us any time,” Jackie said.

Travis Grimler can be reached at travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com. Follow him at facebook.com/PEJTravis and on Twitter @PEJ_Travis.

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