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Published August 26, 2011, 12:00 AM

Barn filled with treasures

Hawley, MINN. - On modern farms, most old barns get filled with junk and look like they’re a bucket of nails from collapse.

By: Helmut Schmidt, INFORUM

Hawley, MINN. - On modern farms, most old barns get filled with junk and look like they’re a bucket of nails from collapse.

But Becky and Jeff Olson have taken a decidedly different tack, filling a 1920s-era barn with treasures, and making it a visual treat for those who appreciate the past.

The result of months of work and gallons of paint, polyurethane and sweat, is their store, Hayloft Antiques. It’s housed in the massive hayloft of the picturesque barn that dominates their 10-acre rural spread.

“We just wanted to move out into the country,” Becky said. “And we just started and took the leap.”

The former Fargoans found their homestead, which is about 12 miles east of Interstate 94 along 90th Avenue South (also known as Clay County 10 or the Downer Road), in 2008.

A year later, they decided to put years of collecting expertise to good use and renovate the barn for the store, which opened last year.

“We both just liked antiques and collected and we enjoyed going to auctions,” Becky said.

Inside, the roof trusses of the barn soar to the ceiling high above, lending it a stark, almost cathedral-like grand symmetry.

Due to its cavernous size, the interior is a bit dim, though as the eyes adjust, the sales floor spreads out into a space some big-box stores would be happy to have. It’s filled with antique or collectible tables, cabinets, chests and sets of glassware, dishes, crockery and lamps.

If you’re a bull, tread lightly. This is a china shop.

The couple also stock a collection of modern giftware and decorations, from iron wall art to soaps.

“We’re both collectors. I like library tables and old kitchen cupboards,” Jeff said. Becky likes dishes and tables.

“We try to keep something for everyone,” Becky said.

Becky used to work as a paramedic for F-M Ambulance, but quit that job in May, now working with the business full time.

Jeff works as a service manager for Liberty Business Systems in Fargo.

She grew up in Mooreton, N.D., and graduated from Wahpeton (N.D.) High School in 1986.

He grew up and attended high school in Golden Valley, N.D., graduating in 1989.

They married in 1995, and lived in Grand Forks, but they moved after the flood of 1997 to Fargo.

Two years ago, Jeff painted the barn its classic red and added some windows. Last year, a front door for the business, more windows and a desk were added, Becky said.

Jeff said that when they were refurbishing the barn, it took a month just to clean the floor. The wood was so dry that it drank up 27 gallons of the polyurethane sealer, he said.

The lawn is a lush, green country idyll, following a gravel road going past the couple’s two-story home and curving up to the barn, past a riot of color created by a 30-foot bed of zinnias.

A rooster named “Elvis,” a dozen chickens, a Guinea hen, five ducks, two dogs, and a varying number of stray cats strut around the place and complete the country look.

If you go

- What: Hayloft Antiques

- When: Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, and holiday Mondays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from mid-May to the end of October. A Christmas open house may be held at the end of November.

- Where: Hayloft Antiques, 24778 90th Ave. S., Hawley, Minn.

- Info: (218) 937-5746

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583