- Associated Press - Saturday, March 11, 2017

WAYNE, Neb. (AP) - Two entrepreneurs have expanded their footprint in downtown Wayne, breathing new life into a treasure of an old building, the old Wayne City Hall.

The 1912 Emporium opened Feb. 1. The building, purchased for $70,000 by partners Lukas Rix and Mark Kanitz, is now a restored two-story consignment retail site, offering all sorts of items that may have been proudly displayed on family farms and residences, or, perhaps, were destined for the landfill, the Sioux City Journal (https://bit.ly/2lBaIkg ) reported.

The 1912 Emporium allows Kanitz and Rix to expand their operation, which began on Main Street in Wayne with the opening of Rustic Treasures in the fall of 2012. Rustic Treasures outgrew its first location and moved across the street in 2014. It then added an adjacent coffee shop in 2015, a site that now offers lunch, too.

“We’ve always wanted to make Wayne a downtown destination,” said Rix, who studied marketing and business and Wayne State College. “We know to get people here; you have to give them a reason to show up.”

People did show up, in big numbers. They brought their goods to Rustic Treasures, had Rix and Kanitz value items and then split the sales proceeds 50-50 with those previous owners. The arrangement worked, allowing the partners to expand into their second site, Thrift Warehouse, at the corner of Main and Second streets.

“At Thrift Warehouse, we collect donated items, as we kind of got tired of pricing 50-cent items at Rustic Treasures,” Kanitz said. “At Thrift Warehouse, we can do the smaller-scale items and we make sure that at least 10-percent of our profits there go back into community organizations.”

Last year, the business gave $7,000 back to local groups who applied for assistance with various projects. “For example, we’ll give $250 this spring for flowers to be added downtown,” Rix said. “It’s a unique, one-time gift that will help boost downtown.”

Still, with Rustic Treasures bursting at the seams, the entrepreneurs kept their eyes on the old Wayne City Hall, which had largely been used for storage for the local community theater group. The 1912 structure was built originally for $9,000. The main floor housed the community’s fire engines for decades. The second floor contained city offices. There was even a jail cell on the premises.

At the big-box stores in major retail centers, Rix explained, a shopper encounters rows and rows of sale items in a space devoid of character. The old Wayne City Hall oozes character with its tin ceilings, refurbished hardwood floors, expansive windows and more.

“We think what we have is something that adds charm to what we’re selling,” said Rix, who joined Kanitz and others in doing much of the renovation work over the summer and fall.

A grand opening is planned for March 24.

The recently opened site has proven to be popular among shoppers. Kanitz, who oversees the accounting end of the trade, noted that more than 800 treasure-seekers made their way to the 1912 Emporium on Feb. 18, scanning the shelves and nooks and crannies for once-forgotten goods that have now filled space that totals 5,800 square feet.

A birthday party for a member of the community was held on the second floor of the 1912 Emporium on Tuesday. Attendees took their seats at the oak table used by the Wayne City Council in 1912.

“We didn’t realize this had two stories and had all this to offer,” said shopper Kelly Kapels, of Creston, Nebraska.

“We love this place,” added Kristi Rosendahl, of nearby Norfolk, Nebraska. “We are obsessed with it!”

“Buildings of this era need to be preserved in order to revitalize a community. Taking an old building with rich heritage and a story to tell makes the building part of the destination of the store,” Rix said.

Rustic Treasures, Thrift Warehouse, The Coffee Shoppe and the 1912 Emporium employ 7 full-time and 7 part-time workers. The businesses keep Ritz and Kanitz on the go, scanning estate sales and more for opportunities to give new life into once-used items for practical purposes or home decor.

“We seek to provide a place for unwanteds,” Rix concluded. “Items otherwise destined for the landfill.”

And, in the case of the 1912 Emporium, maybe an entire building.

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Information from: Sioux City Journal, https://www.siouxcityjournal.com

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