GREENFIELD — Steve Wilson holds up a small, round utensil of some form by the handle.
“What do you think this is?” he asks his wife, Courtney, as the two recently went about the business of squaring away their downtown Greenfield shop full of antiques, vintage items and primitives.
It’s not an unusual question when a store is stocked with things that haven’t been seen for 50 years or more.
The general consensus on the mystery utensil favored some form of rotary material cutter for sewing.
The Wilsons, Shelby County residents who moved out of Indianapolis about nine years ago, opened the doors to Wilson’s Vintage Vault at 14 W. Main St. about a month ago, and have been hanging on through the hard backside of this year’s winter to get to spring and more foot traffic downtown.
Business hasn’t been bad, despite the weather, Steve said, and the store is quickly taking shape.
Though the Wilsons have been collecting for years, the new downtown storefront is their first venture into permanent retail space.
They have been operating booths in Edinburgh, Greenwood and Shelbyville, but when Steve saw the historic exterior at 14 W. Main with its façade and concrete canine heads at the entry banisters, he fell in love with the place.
“I liked the location so much,” Steve said.
The mammoth Citizens Bank of Greenfield vault that dominates the interior of the shop visually and physically was a pretty good draw as well, he said.
“When I saw that and the dogs out front, I thought this was probably the coolest store site possible, and I literally called on the spot to see if it was available.”
The brightly lit shop is now jammed with a broad range of antiques and collectibles from vintage Sunbeam mixers your grandmother used to the old Bell & Howell model 252 spring-loaded, wind-up 8 mm movie camera that your dad captured every reunion and picnic with.
“I’ve always been collecting,” said Steve, who works as a mortgage contractor as a day job. “It’s just been within the last five years that I’ve started selling.”
With a bent toward primitives and “old grungy stuff that’s really cool” Steve said there’s really no rationale behind his purchases.
“There’s really no rhyme or reason to it,” he said. “If I see a good deal, I buy it.”
Which is probably why the store has everything from antique and vintage bottles and glassware to old farm scythes and tool boxes.
A friend got Courtney started poking among piles of stuff in search of treasures years ago.
“It just kind of snowballed,” she said.
Now the couple spends a good deal of time on the road, looking for inventory and anything else that strikes their fancy.
Vintage cameras and skeleton keys tend to catch Courtney’s eye while Steve may latch on to just about anything, they say.
Downtowners are happy with the new addition as it’s one more shop to draw traffic when spring and summer shopping season hits.
“The Vintage Vault is such a cool shop,” said Greenfield Main Street Program Manager Shelley Swift. “It’s just the kind we’re looking for in downtown Greenfield.”
In addition to allowing the couple to test the vintage retail market waters full-time, the new venture provides Steve with another perk – the family garage is a bit more manageable, if not empty.
“I can walk around in it now, though,” he said.