POPLAR — A new business that turns unlikely items into custom furniture pieces has opened shop in the village of Poplar.
Rust, owned by Nick and Amanda Korhonen, is located on the site of the former Torrey’s Furniture Clinic along Douglas County Road P.
For Nick, a longtime woodworker, the business allows him to kick a hobby into high gear.
“We like to turn things into furniture that were never meant to be furniture,” Nick said.
This fall, the business owners plan to open a showroom at the space and add interior design services to their menu.
Finished pieces include a toboggan tabletop, a tractor hood sofa table, a railroad cart coffee table and a bench built out of a gun box. The possibilities are as endless as the trove of treasures squirreled away in the main building of the business, a 50-foot by 80-foot insulated steel structure with a second story loft.
Locker baskets waited to be incorporated into a kitchen island or a sofa table; a mangle used to wring out sheets will be the end of a funky bar. A stack of church pew seats sat ready to top entryway benches. Nick envisioned rail carts as coffee tables and a survey tripod as the base of a floor lamp.
Outside, litter spilled from the lower levels of a 1934 turkey incubator. Cleaned up and cut to be more narrow, the redwood piece will be “the coolest back bar you ever saw,” Nick said.
“We are the people you come to when you want a one of a kind piece that nobody else has,” he said.
Amanda called their items “rustic industrial furniture reimagined.”
The Rust brand began in 2019. Nick said he loves being an American Family Insurance agent, but wanted to do more hands-on projects in his home-based wood shop. He started building pieces for a pop-up at the Duluth Junk Hunt. It went well, so he started on more. Then the pandemic hit, putting an end to pop-ups.
The shutdown caused Nick to take a closer look at the old Torrey’s Furniture Clinic property in 2020. The Korhonens live 3.5 miles away from the property.
“This is kind of a Cinderella story on its own for the village of Poplar. We’ve been passing this place for 30 years every day and most people didn’t even look in the direction of this property because it was just riddled with junk,” Nick said.
He contacted the owner, Torrey Johnson, and purchased the property Dec. 31, 2020.
“It took a ton of rehabilitation and cleanup,” Nick said, but the couple, who have been married for 15 years, “have never shied away from a ridiculously daunting project.”
The work included razing the house and garage on the property, carting off old vehicles and rewiring two steel buildings. The couple’s 24th dumpster of waste sat nearly full on the property July 1.
“We have put a lot of sweat and money into that place, but at the end of the day I did it because A, I wanted to see it cleaned up for the village and B, there’s a huge steel building there that’s 50 by 80, and it’s all structural steel and that’s where our shop is and that’s what I wanted,” Nick said.
For the first time since he started woodworking at the age of 8, he was able to build a state-of-the-art woodworking facility.
Village Board President Randy Jones said the seven-acre parcel where Rust sits was the site where the first generation of the Long family, a dynasty of well drillers, settled in Poplar. It’s been empty since Torrey’s Furniture Clinic closed in 1994, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The spot was designated a brownfield site due to the release of volatile organic compounds and metals by Torrey’s Furniture Clinic.
Jones said he was happy to see the site cleaned up and in use again.
Rust is a hobby for Nick, but it will be a full-time job for Amanda, who sold her former business, the Pottery Burn, June 1. She plans to start ramping up marketing for Rust in the coming months and add interior design services.
The business is named after Nick’s favorite color. Rust, he said, “is God’s paintbrush.”
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