Revival of the Discarded
by Beth Steury
Since June, life has been a whirlwind of activity for Tammy Steiner, owner of Remembered Again, the newest retail establishment in downtown Berne, Indiana. “I bought the building in June and opened up Swiss Days weekend,” recalls Tammy. “I worked around the clock to get it done.”
For the past 14 years, this former owner of a business known as The Nut Tree had maintained a vendor booth at The Gathering House in downtown Berne while working as a photo stylist at Annie’s. In 2015, her supply of merchandise had dwindled, so she purchased various pieces of furniture at auction, stashing them in her garage as future merchandise for her booth.
But, the unexpected happened. “The Gathering House closed,” Tammy explains. Her garage was full, but her booth space was gone.
Tammy remembers learning that a retail space had become available downtown. “When I found out this building was for sale, I decided if I was going to open a shop of my own, I had better do it soon.”
After purchasing the building that had formerly housed a portion of Engine House Quilt Shop’s business, she submitted her two weeks’ notice at Annie’s and set out to “bring the building back to its original state.” Prior to housing several retail ventures over the years, this building had accommodated the city’s fire department before the fire station was relocated to the city building on Franklin Street.
The renovations Tammy had planned would completely change the look of the interior. “I exposed the brick—I chiseled off the plaster with an air chisel because it was really attached well.” Her efforts uncovered swaths of the original brick walls.
When the dropped ceiling was removed, Tammy was delighted to discover an original tin ceiling. “I wanted it to have a more industrial look, so I left the pipes exposed and installed lights that looked more industrial.”
Tammy’s family pitched in with hard work and muscle to remove carpeting and scrape glue from the cement floor. A coat of sealant was all that was needed to make the existing cement floor fit the new décor.
By the time the annual Swiss Days festival took place the last weekend in July, the renovations at Remembered Again were 90% complete. The new business venture benefited from the exposure provided by the festival, even amongst the locals, many of whom weren’t yet aware of the shop’s existence.
Remembered Again offers a variety of furniture and home décor. “Basically, what I do,” Tammy says, “is buy items at auction. Then, I either repair and paint them, or I repurpose them. A lot of the items have been discarded or forgotten about, and now they have been revived and remembered again.
“My inventory is made up of mostly one-of-a-kind things. If you don’t buy it today, it may not be here tomorrow or ever again.”
The trendy term describing this popular practice of taking something old or broken or no longer needed and turning it into something useful is “upcycling.” While some items at Remembered Again are antique, most of the items Tammy “upcycles” aren’t quite old enough to qualify.
Tammy mixes equal portions of plaster of Paris, water and latex paint to create her own chalk-finish paint. Furniture wax is then rubbed over the painted surface as a finish.
Where once country and primitive were the trend, the newest popular styles are labeled with such fun terms as industrial, farmhouse (a combination of industrial, country and shabby chic), and French Cottage. Many of these design trends have been popularized by the do-it-yourself shows on TV.
Tammy tackles all the repairing, painting, and designing herself, through trial and error. “I get a lot of ideas from Pinterest, and if I don’t know how to do something, I look it up on YouTube.”
She’s always enjoyed this type of creative crafting. “My dad was a handyman-type person. As the oldest, I was the one who held the bolt or stood by to run get this or that. I observed, and I had a knack for picking up how to do this kind of thing.”
Over the years, Tammy has kept relatives from tossing out old things, saying, “Oh don’t throw that away. I can do something with that.” From a stool to a cupboard, to a door or a dilapidated table, both wood and metal pieces find new life and bring “oohs” and “ahhs” from customers.
Remembered Again also offers a variety of accent pieces to compliment the repurposed furniture. Some of the home décor accessories are also upcycled, but many are new items. Tammy also features purses, candles, and a line of all-natural, handmade bath and body items.
The rear portion of the 1,200 square-foot store contains a work room, where some of the creating takes place. A shop beside Tammy’s home houses her stockpile of wood, each piece waiting to be turned into something unique. Her goal is to have her garage at home empty by the time the snow flies. And next spring, expect to find upcycled items in the small garden off the alley behind the shop.
“I’m very happy with the traffic I’ve had so far,” Tammy says. She encourages shoppers to stay tuned for exciting additions to the store’s offerings in the not-too-distant future.
Store hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with extended hours in December.
160 W. Main Street
Berne, IN 46711