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‘Reclaiming’ Grand Avenue through retail

Grand Ave Artifactory opened on Wausau’s southeast side in late August

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January 9, 2024

WAUSAU – Some things are just meant to be.

Combine a love of repurposing vintage items and crafts and building up the local community, and you’ve got Jenni Phillipson and her shop, Grand Ave Artifactory.

“I’ve always thought about (owning a business), but I’d never had the time or opportunity,” she said. “I’ve done craft sales, but I’ve never been able to have my own business.”

When a vacant building on Grand Avenue on Wausau’s southeast side became available near Phillipson’s neighborhood, the now owner said she knew she wanted to take her passion for antiques, repurposed items and homemade (pieces) and use it to breathe new life into the space.

“There’s not a lot of life on Grand Avenue, as far as retail goes,” she said. “I wanted to bring new life to that building.”

After renovations, researching the right licensing and curating stock, Grand Ave Artifactory opened at 2312 Grand Ave. at the end of August.

Small businesses and upcycled pieces

Phillipson said when you step into the shop, you can expect to see a variety of different items – from reclaimed pieces to goods from small businesses across the Badger State and beyond.

“We have a lot of vintage stuff that’s either been upcycled or used differently,” she said. “I like to look for stuff that’s repurposed or recycled so we can bring new life to those products.”

Thankfully, Phillipson said there’s no shortage of antique items – as she has multiple outlets in which she sources the shop’s vintage goods.

“I’ve been able to collect (pieces) over a long time,” she said. “Otherwise, there are different online auctions. I’ve had several people who stopped in and said, ‘you know what, we have a lot of stuff we don’t use, and I’m thinking people could use it for this now because I’ve never thought of using it in that way.’”

Most of the repurposed items in the shop, Phillipson said, are vintage industrial and farming goods.

“And then (we have) household stuff that we plant stuff in and things like that,” she said. “I’m always looking because those kinds of things are hard to find.”

Phillipson said she also collaborates with other small businesses throughout the state that repurpose materials, such as reclaimed woods and metals or homemade products, whose items she can sell in her shop. 

“Part of the fun is finding small businesses that are in small towns (that) maybe people have never heard of,” she said. “This allows them to be in a store (that’s located) right in the middle of Wisconsin.”

Some of these items, Phillipson said, include preserves from The Quince & Apple Company in Madison, candles from Repour’d in Kenosha and freeze-dried candies from Avenue117 in Weston.

Fulfilling a need

With the Artifactory now open, Phillipson said she hopes to see more retail businesses open up on Grand Avenue. 

“We have a lot of retail in Rib Mountain, and then we have more business over in Weston – even downtown Wausau is growing tremendously, which is awesome to see,” she said. “(On Grand Avenue), we’ve got a lot of car dealerships and gas stations. There’s no stores really, that are retail.”

So far, Phillipson said Grand Ave Artifactory is fulfilling its purpose of bringing more people to that area to shop. 

The customer response has been “really positive,” which she said is “one of the most fulfilling things.”

“People look around and they see some of the antique and vintage stuff,” she said. “And then you hear people saying, ‘we had this in my house when I was a kid,’  or ‘I remember my mom using this’ or ‘this reminds me of my grandma.’ To me, that’s special.”

Phillipson said when she can find a specific vintage item someone is looking for in her store, “that’s what’s fun and rewarding.”

“I had someone the other day who was looking for a specific sized vintage box, and I happened to have one,” she said. “That person was so happy they were able to find exactly what they were envisioning… It’s not just selling something, it’s creating something for them.”

Events, future plans

Since opening in August, Phillipson said Grand Ave Artifactory has hosted a few events, including two during the holidays – which included hosting Santa Claus to raise money for the local humane society and selling Christmas trees out in the lot.

She said she would like to be able to do more in the future.

“I’m already looking for other vendors, like food or coffee trucks that travel, or fundraising groups… (where) we could use part of the parking lot to promote their needs or their cause,” she said. “I feel fortunate because the lot the building is on is on the corner, and it’s a nice sized lot with some gravel area in the back.”

Phillipson said she is “cautiously optimistic” about the future of brick-and-mortar shops. 

“You hear about the future of brick and mortar, and all the hardships that are faced,” she said. “You have to… make sure you’re understanding what the people in your neighborhood and community are looking for when they shop,” she said. “I’m always looking for feedback from customers – understanding what it is they want access to.”

Grand Ave Artifactory is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday during January.

To learn more about the shop, visit

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