New business makes a mark

By Chris Steinbach · Tuesday, September 18, 2012
It’s a good thing for West Liberty that Steve Dolan likes both shabby chic furnishings and auto racing.

Dolan, 58, of Iowa City, who retired three years ago as a firefighter, drove to West Liberty one weekend earlier this summer to watch the races with Bob Rogers, his friend of 46 years. It was during that trip that they decided to start Rustic Wonders Farmhouse Furniture, which they opened Sept. 1 at 1505 Highway 6.

“He has built my wife (Lynn) many pieces of furniture through the years,” Dolan said of Rogers. He said his business partner started Rogers Construction in Iowa City and ran that business for many years before turning it over to his son, Tyler.

After deciding to go into business together, Dolan and Bob Rogers leased the former West Liberty Builders building from Larry Regennitter. When he ran his construction business, Rogers had done work for Regennitter.

But since July 1, Rogers has focused his talents on making benches, cabinets and other items – nearly 50 pieces – to fill the new shop’s showrooms.  Once Rogers finishes a piece, Dolan applies two or three layers of paint to give it the distressed look popular with fans of shabby chic interior design.

“Basically, there are unlimited color choices,” Dolan said. “But it seems that mustard and black are our most-popular combination.”

The two men work from photos, magazine clippings and their own drawings to create their new furniture. They start with salvaged windows, doors, headboards and other items and build new pieces around the old items. Most of the items, which can sell for up to $500 or more, are made out of solid pine.

“This isn’t Wal-Mart stuff,” Dolan said.

Rustic Wonders is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. It is open by appointment the rest of the time. But Dolan and Rogers are probably there, building and finishing furniture.

“We can custom build to any specification,” Dolan said. “We’ve (already) had some stuff go out.”

The partners worked hard to open their business in time for the Christmas-shopping season, knowing that the months from now through the end of the year are typically the best annually for retail sales. In addition to building the furniture they are selling, they built a pergola for the store’s entrance and did some remodeling inside.

Once they get through the holidays, Dolan said they will remodel areas in the back of the building where they build, finish and store their furniture.

By then, the pace of their work may have slowed just a bit for the two men.

“We had roughly a couple of weeks to get ready,” Dolan said of opening the store.
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