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Barn's new role creates more room for shop's antiques


GRANVILLE -- Every room and hallway of Barb Franks' two-floor vintage store, Foot Loose, is packed with shoes, clothing, books and pottery on shelves and racks, from floor to ceiling. And there was once more stuff, hidden away in chests and drawers that Franks would turn customers loose to rummage through on their own.

In the midst of this treasure hunter's heaven, those special items -- say, an oak dresser from the early 1900s or a Mid-Century Modern cabinet -- were lost in the sea of more pedestrian items.

So when an earlier idea of turning a restored barn in back of the vintage store on South Prospect Street into a taco bar fell through, a light flashed in Franks' mind: Why not use the building to relieve her space crunch by turning it into new "stage" on which to showcase the best of her vintage merchandise?

"The barn is a showcase of my créme de la créme," Franks said.

In a short few weeks, the idea turned into reality, and Franks' antiques showroom is open for business. To distinguish it from the main building, she has given the barn the name O.S. Mercantile, honoring the man who built it in the early 1800s, Otto S. Jones.

The annex's manager, Brice Corder, had free rein to pick out what he wanted from the main building's collection and display it to suit his own design inclinations. Corder, the former manager of Green Velvet, the downtown antiques and gift shop, dove in, retrieving items for their quality and high design standards.

A set of Libbey glass tumblers caught his eye, he said, because the designer disdained commercial sameness and ventured into a more contemporary style. The deer motif, outlined in red and gold, was based on an original artist's sketch, he noted.

To avoid the jumble of many antique stores and to make shopping more pleasurable, Corder arranged the merchandise much like it would be arranged in a contemporary homewares or art shop. Downstairs, he set a late 19th century harvest table with vintage cups, plates and vases and placed bright-colored Herman Miller chairs around its perimeter.

In the upstairs textile department, vintage fabric, tablecloths and needlepoint fabrics are displayed on racks, and quilts and coverlets, folded in bands, are spread artistically on a vintage bed. While the second floor focus on textiles will be constant, first floor merchandise will rotate, Corder said.

"We are going to be constantly moving things in," Corder said. "We have attracted some new higher-end dealers in furniture and glass."

The barn's age percolates through the shopping experience, accentuating the act of antique buying as an adventure back in time. Since its early days housing a horse-drawn coach service, the barn has played multiple roles, including storage for ambulances and cars, and later, the sale of antique furniture.

Visible between ceiling beams are wide, flat boards from the original barn, darkened and worn from age. Franks' business partner Dan Rogers, who did the restoration, salvaged every board he could find from the original barn. He even discovered several boards in the attic of the vintage store. While Rogers reinforced the building with new upright beams and laid a new foundation and floor, he left in tact the original structure.

"I never took one piece of old wood off," said Rogers. "The building uses all the old wood."

It was after a Granville Planning Commission meeting several weeks ago, Franks said, that she realized the commission's concerns about parking and access would doom the plan for a taco bar.

"It couldn't be better for me," she said. "It came out better than a taco restaurant. I feel we are in a good place."