GRANVILLE, Iowa | A refurbished barn just on the outskirts of this small Northwest Iowa town, the coziness of the holidays merged with the shopping mayhem of Black Friday.
More than 15 years ago, Marlene and Pat Ney opened The Garden Gate, a three-story antique and vintage home décor store with items that feel at home in the converted barn.
Marlene Ney said when the store first opened, shoppers could come six days a week, but in the last few years, accessible days decreased to seasonal dates in the spring, fall and winter.
Last year, Ney said they declined to open at all, but something about the decision felt wrong.
“We just needed to regroup, but we found we missed it. We missed that creative outlet,” she said. “We’ve gotten to know a lot of our customers really well, made a lot of really great friends and we missed them.”
And apparently customers missed them too. The store opened its doors once again Friday to kick off a special holiday weekend to a resounding response.
Eager shoppers formed two lines out the door shortly after opening at 10 a.m. Friday and packed the store for hours afterwards.
It wasn’t your typical Black Friday crowd at the large name-brand stores. Shoppers carefully perused the holiday fare – wreaths, evergreen and holly accents and plenty of festive décor. Others looked at the refurbished farm and home equipment like ladders and tabletop games.
No shoving, no fighting; just smiles and cheer.
“By the time they get to us, they’ve done the mall and big box stores,” Ney said. “They’re ready to relax and have a nice shopping experience.”
While the Garden Gate features one-of-a-kind items, it’s not all about shopping. Julie Kool, of Hawarden, said she’s been a Garden Gate customer since it opened in 2001 near Granville, a eastern Sioux County town of about 300.
She came to find some new rugs, but really just wanted to visit some familiar faces once again.
“I was very excited when I saw she was open again,” she said. “This kind of place just makes your house a home.”
Kool’s mother, Pat DeSutter, also from Hawarden, said their business at the Garden Gate started through a personal connection. Her niece was friends with Marlene’s sister, but then that friendship spread across both families.
DeSutter said the typical Black Friday experience isn’t for her, but she’ll gladly brave a crowd to see what thoughtful touches are in store this year.
“She can put together stuff and give you so many ideas,” DeSutter said. “She’s absolutely fantastic when it comes to that.”
Not all the shoppers are long-time customers. Tara Woodward, Orange City, Iowa, ventured over for a morning swing through the store. She heard about the store through word of mouth and couldn’t believe that despite being just a 10-minute drive from Orange City, she had never visited the Garden Gate.
“It brings back a lot of nostalgia,” she said. “It really makes you think of Christmas.”
Garden Gate will reopen Saturday at 10 a.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and open two Saturdays -- Dec. 3 and 10 -- before Christmas. Ney said the store may be open again afterwards, but that’s still to be decided.
The year away was hard on the Neys and their customers, Ney said, but Friday’s enthusiastic crowd showed that the Garden Gate isn’t just a store – it’s a destination.
“We’re very appreciate that although we stepped back, our customers never missed a beat,” she said.