Customers have been making an emotional connection to a new downtown Brainerd store the owners didn’t anticipate.
It happens when they walk in and look through one of the large windows to “gaze” across South Sixth Street. What gazes back hasn’t been seen in Brainerd for decades.
It’s a large photo of the Ransford Hotel, the massive building that once graced the corner of Sixth and Front streets. Now it’s a parking lot and the Mid-Minnesota Federal Credit Union building. Steve and Julie Foy, and their son Matt, recently opened Design Consign in downtown Brainerd in the historic First National Bank building. They worked to restore the interior to its original architecture with Matt Foy spending 62 days on the project.
“I wanted to expose as much of the original as I could,” Matt Foy said.
Gone are the old drop ceilings, revealing the former bank’s room original scale. In working on the walls, Matt Foy found windows that have long been covered and perhaps forgotten. He went to the Crow Wing County Historical Society to get images of the buildings that once filled those window views. Across South Sixth Street, there is the Ransford Hotel and a Brainerd streetscape captured in time. Across Front Street, the historic Brainerd watertower is presented with workmen building it in 1919.
Matt Foy said they’ve had customers come in who remember coming into the bank with their grandfathers. It’s been an added experience for the Foys who created the store as a second business that is separate but related to their S. Thomas and Associates estate sale company. The Foys previously owned the Little Farm Market in Brainerd.
In their estate sale business they found families and older residents who were downsizing may want to sell one or two larger pieces, but didn’t have enough for a full estate sale. They thought a store would fill that niche and provide a needed service for the community, especially senior citizens who may not know where to turn when they want to make a move to a smaller home. They pick up items, clean, price and research pieces and then sell them in store. They recently moved the contents of a Gull Lake home to the store as the homeowner made a move to assisted living.
Design Consign, which opened about nine weeks ago, was styled after a similar concept the Foys saw in Phoenix. In Brainerd, the store has home furnishings, furniture, decor, jewelry, art work. From a vintage like-new 1970s era couch to fine furniture crafted by Pennsylvania masters, the store has a mix. Customers include antique stores, interior designers, as well as residents looking for a new dining set. Inventory at the 6,500-square-foot store frequently changes with new items coming in.
Julie Foy said they’ve had a steady stream of consignment items coming through the door. Although Steve Foy pointed out they don’t take everything that crosses the counter. The store doesn’t carry clothing and is specific about the items added to the inventory.
They also have pieces connected to history — a vanity that was at Pearl Harbor, a clock from Chicago’s Union Station, an ornate cash register from another era. When the Foys handled the estate sale of a $3 million Lake Pokegama home owned by a former railroad president, they brought the sale to the Design Consign store. Steve Foy said 3,000 people came to the store in a couple of days for that sale. They expect to have one or maybe two estate sales in the store each year.
The store has a mix of small and large items and a range of prices from a few dollars to a vase priced at $2,000. Furniture ranges from primitive to pieces constructed in the 1860s in Pennsylvania.
“You can walk in here with $20 and find a treasure,” Steve Foy said.
The bank building itself is a history tale in itself as infamous gangster Baby Face Nelson robbed it on Oct. 23, 1933, after reportedly spending the night before staying at the Ransford Hotel.
The Foys say “you never know what you’ll find here” of their store. But what people will be certain to find is a bit of Brainerd lost to time but worth remembering.