More than 400 consignors represented, creatively displayed in classic farm setting near Rose City
Cindy Haffner creates barn quilts in her rural home a mile and a quarter north of Rose City. And Rose City is 25 miles northeast of Alexandria (about halfway between Parkers Prairie and Eagle Bend). The sign at the end of her driveway says “Country Consignments.” Her creative pursuits give new meaning to a diversified farm operation. And it all started in a barn.
The Haffner’s classic hip-roofed barn was built in 1930. Because the barn’s architect knew something about the importance of ventilating moisture from the lower level and built-in wooden box vents that direct the air to the cupolas on the roof top, the joists, walls, floors and rafters are in excellent condition for a barn in its ninth decade. It served as a dairy barn into the 1970s, then as a space for corn storage for another decade or so. Then it sat empty. And then Cindy had a dream.
“I was really sick,” she said. Not in danger of dying but after three days she was willing to do anything to get better. “And I dreamed I was selling stuff in the barn.”
She had been thinking all that great barn space should be used for something, but she hadn’t hit upon what that might be until her feverish brain gave her an idea. Back on her feet and without further consideration or formal business plan, she started scrubbing the barn. With the intention of putting her seven years of experience as a visual merchandiser for J.C.Penney to use, she would set up the lower level of the barn as a consignment shop.
“We filled the gutters with sand and poured a new concrete floor,” Cindy said. The stanchions had already been
removed. “We pressure washed everything. It took 15 tanks of gas in the pressure washer,” she said, pointing out the clean wall and ceiling boards, original to the structure.
Country Consignments opened in 2008. Two years later, with lots of items on display on the main floor and two successful years of accepting handcrafted items, antiques, collectibles, clothes, furniture and shoes on consignment and selling them to visitors from all over the country, Cindy decided it was time to expand into the hayloft. Since the most recent residents of the loft had been pigeons (you can still see the bullet holes up high on the end walls from young pigeon hunters), it took a fair amount of time and ingenuity to prepare the space.
“I couldn’t pressure wash the walls and floor because items were on display below so I used a brush tiller and spent two weeks cleaning. Then it took nine gallons of varnish to seal the floor. It looked so nice I hated to put anything on it.”
Though friends suggested a barn dance, Cindy followed her original idea, and with a new stairway leading from the lower level to the upper one, she started hauling merchandise. Creative lighting and themed displays make people gasp as they reach the top of the stairs.
All of Cindy’s hard work has not only been appreciated by shoppers, but the barn was also recognized with an honorable mention award in 2012. Friends of Minnesota Barns (www.mnbarns.org) named it in the “Best Use of Non-agriculture Adaptive Re-use” category.
Now in her eighth season, Country Consignments is open during the warmer months of the year, May through November, Wednesday through Saturday (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Cindy creatively displays items from more than 400 consignors. Handcrafted wooden bowls mingle with pot holders made from jeans and themed fabrics. Gifts as diverse as handmade soap, no-tie aprons made from dish towels, horseshoe art, Amish rugs, locally made honey and BBQ sauce, replica Indian Motorcycle signs, wallpaper journals, jewelry, antiques, collectibles and much miscellaneous are all unified by themes: fishing, patriotic, wine-related, roses, whatever makes sense to Cindy’s artistic eyes.
Recently Cindy has added barn and garden quilts to the gift line. She started painting quilt designs on medium density overlay (MDO) board a couple of years ago. She found that her early years of drawing animals for extra credit in grade school, and community education art classes taken as an adult, when applied to painting geometric patterns that tell a story, were more satisfying than sewing and ripping out stitches when making quilts. At 2-foot by 2-foot, 4-foot by 4-foot, 6-foot by 6-foot and 8-foot by 8-foot, her barn quilts have color punch and visual impact. Cindy buys her paint in primary colors plus black and white and mixes all the various hues and shades needed for her outdoor art. She prices these one-of-a-kind paintings according to the complexity of the pattern, the number of colors used as well as the size. Seven of her barn quilts hang on barns and other buildings in the Rose City area.
Country Consignments always has the welcome mat out for Red Hat groups, tour buses, small groups and individual shoppers as well as those who bring items to consign. Cindy is also getting ready for a special display of the barn and garden quilts at the farm during the Rose City Threshing Festival (which is three miles down the road) July 30-31. She’ll keep the regular hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Her beautifully landscaped yard and gardens, featuring 300 hostas (166 identified by small signs), will be available for self-guided tours. If you think you’re seeing red as you drive in, it’s more likely Cindy’s unique butterfly garden designed in the shape of a butterfly and intended to attract them. It’s filled with four flats of salvias, as well as red impatiens, red zinnias, a red chair, and a red hat. And that big red barn looms in the background!
In addition to the regular items in the barn, and by way of her color-coded tagging system that keeps track of how long each item has been on display, Cindy will move marked-down items to the garage for the two-day sale.
You’ll find Country Consignments at 19832 County Road 18 NE, Eagle Bend, MN or 1 1/4 miles north of Rose City. Call 218-738-5683 for information and find them on Facebook.
When you stop in, be sure to say “Hi” to the Haffner’s speckled pup Pepper and the three spotted donkeys: Half-pint, Monique, and Cruiser. Since it’s a 500-acre working beef cattle and grain farm, you might hear Cindy’s husband John making background noises with farm implements. Keep an eye, and ear, out for the whistling frog, too. Whimsy and creativity abound on this diversified farm operation.