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Broken Broom features repurposed, upcycled furnishings in new downtown Duluth store

Heidi Wieberg (left) has opened Broken Broom, a vintage home décor store at 323 E. Superior St., with the help of Deborah Krebs (right), her main consigner. (Steve Kuchera/ / 2
Broken Broom features older home accessories along with upcycled furniture. (Steve Kuchera / / 2

Heidi Weiberg and Deborah Krebs looked at a lot of store space in Duluth before they found the perfect spot in Old Downtown.

      “We happened to park in front of it one day,” Weiberg said. “It had been there the whole time.”

That storefront, at 323 E. Superior St., had been vacant for a couple of years. Built in 1912, the inside still had the look of an earlier era, with its wood floors and tall ceiling sporting the original tin tiles.

It would suit well Weiberg’s home décor and vintage store featuring repurposed and upcycled furnishings and accessories with a bent toward shabby chic and cottage looks.

 So with Krebs her main consigner and right hand, Broken Broom opened June 18, just days before Grandma’s Marathon.

Since then, both locals and tourists are discovering it. And loving it.

Weiberg’s speciality is giving old furniture pieces with good bones new looks by painting them, usually with Annie Sloan decorative chalk paint, which can be applied directly to surfaces without sanding or priming. Weiberg also sells the colorful paints at the store, the only place in the Duluth area where they’re available.

Krebs also refurbishes old furniture.

“We take furniture people have given up on and make it fresh and new and make it legitimate again,” said Krebs, explaining what upcycling is. “We refinish it with paint, give it more personality or bring out its old personality and make it desirable.”

The store also features the work and wares of a dozen other consigners.

They include painters, jewelry makers, interior designers, weavers, photographers, even junk pickers.

Most are women, like Weiberg and Krebs, who started by working out of their homes. It’s a true cottage industry, Krebs says. Some break out and open their own shops using the occasional shop concept where stores open just once a month.

Before opening the downtown store, Weiberg and Krebs each had retail space at the New Vintage Marketplace at the former Carlson Florist & Greenhouses in Hermantown. Krebs’ store was the Open Window, Weiberg’s was the Broken Broom, a name inspired by the willow brooms her great-uncle made for her years ago.

Krebs and her husband, David, had operated the Carlson garden center before closing it several years ago. The greenhouse and adjacent home that served as the floral shop now house several once-a-month, like-minded shops. Krebs and her husband still own the property and lease out the spaces.

“Heidi moved in last September, and our styles just meshed,” Krebs said. “Next thing, we’re sharing inventory and space.”

Weiberg agreed.

“We had similar tastes,” she said. “We worked really well together. We started merchandising together. We started inter-mixing our pieces together.”

They were able to grow their businesses there, and the idea of opening a bigger store together emerged.

“We actually complement each other very well,” Weiberg said. “She’s excellent in space planning. It just so happens my name’s on the lease.”

Weiberg signed a three-year lease for the 1,400-square-foot storefront. It was last used as a tattoo parlor and had a glass-enclosed snake pit with a drain in the floor.

They quickly got rid of that.

Besides painting and cleaning, little else was needed for their vintage-themed shop.

The interest in upcycling and refurbishing older items is growing, both Weiberg and Krebs said.

“With the economy the way it was, people are taking a real good look at how to repurpose items and things they already own,” Weiberg said. “It’s changed the generation’s eyes on the way we live and where we’re going. We’re not such a disposable society anymore.”

Broken Broom is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays; 11 a.m. 4 p.m. Saturdays; and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays.