Building brought back to life in downtown Waupaca
By James Card
“I’ve always wanted to open up a home décor store since I was little. I always small-town shopped with my mom and my grandma and I’ve always dreamed of it,” said Megan Swisher as she affixed price tags to some new products that just arrived.
Huck & Finn had a soft opening on June 4 . Swisher wanted to ease into it. She did not advertise or put up any signs. Not all the inventory was in and the credit card reader did not work.
She said she had a phenomenal first day but there were still some kinks to iron out. They will have a grand opening on Saturday, July 9.
The shop sells a huge mix of items: artwork, mugs, dishware, stoneware, baskets, candles, vases, edgy greeting cards, pillows, throw blankets and house plants. There is also a section for kids and another for dogs.
The name is inspired from the novel “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain.
“It’s just doing of whatever is true to you. I like that in all different ways of life. In homes, don’t worry about what everyone else is doing,” said Swisher.
Two years ago she told her husband Mike: “I think it’s time,” and they started looking for a space. They put their house up for sale and sold off a boat, camper and other belongings.
Swisher came across an outdated listing for 111 N. Main St. Her realtor contacted the owner, they did a walk through and bought it.
There were holes in the ceiling and they had to replace the roof and windows. They did 90% of the remodeling themselves.
The highlight of the shop’s restoration work is the original tin ceiling.
“It took us three months. A lot of blood, sweat and tears – literally,” said Swisher of the ceiling work.
The hardwood floor is made from red oak milled from the previous owner’s woodlot and they stripped the walls to the original bare brick.
“We were told not to touch the plaster on the walls, to just leave it because you never know what you’ll be getting. That was a big leap of faith we took and it was definitely worth it,” she said.
When they took down one wall, they found paper wrappers of straws. Children blew the wrappers up and over the wall back when it was a candy shop.
The building sat empty for a long time. Previously it was a drug store and candy kitchen owned by the Drivas family. She said members of the family are planning to visit this summer and will bring photos and mementos from the old days.
“So many people come in and tell me their memories. It’s incredible,” said Swisher.
They were helped by a grant from the Main Street bounce back program and another grant to help with the outside facade that paid for the new windows.
The windows are large and Swisher was adamant about keeping the original size. Other money was put towards HVAC and electrical work.
The work isn’t over yet. Swisher, her husband and their two sons will live upstairs. That space is a work-in-progress and she hopes they can move in by late fall.
The store hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Swisher says she will be adjusting the hours as needed.