When people walk into The Rustic Rose they can’t get enough of the barn lanterns, weathered wood mallets, and peculiar tools. “Stuff that comes out of the barn or shop, that’s what’s trendy now,” says Eileen Breukelman owner of the cottage nostalgia and décor store on the Hamilton Beach Strip.
Eileen and her husband Jeff opened The Rustic Rose five years ago, just as the Beach was entering a new residential growth spurt with high priced homes and condos. They bought the building at 538 Beach Boulevard because “the price was right” but were convinced they could never lose on a place so close to the water.
Nautical nostalgia was the first focus at the store with old wooden buoys and vintage life preservers snapped up by customers living on the Beach. As the collection grew, the couple kept their focus tight and the store curated with a specific vision. Beautiful old tools, vintage Le Creuset cookware, wooden butter and cheese boxes, fishing reels and cheerful picnic ware speak of a simpler time. What’s striking about so many of the pieces is the colour, the oranges, blues, and sunflower yellow found on bicycles, tool handles, and old toys. “If people buy wood pieces I tell them not to refinish or paint, leave the original colour,” Jeff says.
Some customers come in once a month to see what’s new, and more are coming from Toronto, “Many of our pieces are perfect for a condo, the patina of the wood, the colour, it warms up modern, industrial style spaces,” Eileen says. She points to a tin rocking horse sitting high on a shelf, “If you had the room, that would be perfect in an entrance way.”
When the Breukelman’s go looking for new finds for their store, they consider it a holiday. Heading out in their truck, maybe with one of their seven children along for the trip, they search all over Ontario and in to the States for treasures. At auctions, antique malls, and outdoor markets Jeff says they “can see past the dirt for a potential nostalgic "wow" piece.”
Old wood construction ladders are hot right now according to Eileen. People use them as a place to hang quilts or display other accessories. Multi-pane antique windows are in demand too she says, “We have customers who use them as frames for family photos.” If pieces need repair, Jeff does the work, fitting it in around his full time business Jef-Re Construction Services specializing in foundation repair and industrial flooring.
You won’t find fussy china, or fine furniture at The Rustic Rose but you will find crates of old license plates. Vintage car owners like to find ones that match the year of their vehicle. Beautiful metal chocolate molds become a work of art on the wall, and duck decoys never go out of style. Eileen likes to see what her customers do with the pieces when they get them home. “People post great ideas to our Facebook page.”
The Rustic Rose (appleroses.com) is open four days a week. The rest of the time Eileen is looking for new vintage pieces, raising kids or making handcrafted roses from apples. “That’s how it started, I was looking for studio space to make the roses, and then we started displaying vintage pieces when we ran out of room in our house.”
So the shop is full of the cottage chic stuff they love, and there’s only one piece they are tempted to keep for home says Jeff. “The metal horse, if it doesn’t sell, it’s going in our house.”