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Sandy Erdman: ‘If I can’t find it, I will build it’

November 11, 2018
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Jeff Lerum, owner of Greens Stripping and Antiques with a cupboard he made.

Evenings with a mug of hot chocolate and the welcoming of warm furniture — that’s what makes your home feel warm and inviting for the holidays and all year long. And, you don’t have to have new furnishings to acquire this, as many folks today are repurposing items to give pieces a new lease on life.

One such fellow is Jeff Lerum, owner of Green’s Stripping and Antiques, 85 S. Main St., Pine Island, who started the business in 1990.

“The business originally was started in 1978 by my parents, Jerry and Gloria Green, as an antique sales and refinishing. When I was a senior in high school, I built a drop-front desk and sold it at Gold Rush, Oronoco, and I was hooked and have continued to make cupboards, harvest tables and trunks out of old wood.

“I took over the refinishing portion of the business in August 1990, then in 2008 expanded the business to include sales, as I became sole owner of Green’s Stripping and Antiques in a building that originally was a car service station then used for storage. This 30-by-80-foot brick building is the shop and consists of finished or found antique furniture, as well as, a workshop and storage. The building fits the antique theme with some remodeling done on the inside, like the showroom, but most of the building is original.”

This business not only consists of stripping and refinishing furniture for the public, Lerum said.

“I mainly sell wood furniture made before 1920 because most of these items are made with solid wood and are quality pieces. I use barn boards to make harvest tables and pine cupboards that are my specialty. I also go to estate auctions, always looking for parts and pieces. There isn’t a pile of wood I can’t make something out of.

“Since I have been doing this for so long, people know what I am looking for, and either bring pieces to me or let me know where there might be pieces I would be interested in,” Lerum said. “The public keeps me busy year-round by bringing in their old family heirlooms. I also look for materials to build with or repair old furniture when it’s brought in for restoration. Repairing with old wood is easier to match the repaired piece, so I am always looking for quality antique furniture pieces to be restored.”

How about the old farm auctions? “Old farm auctions are the best outlet for acquiring a general line of antiques — from the house to the barns, there was always something to buy, but these auctions are harder to come by as most of them are now online,” Lerum said.

With so many farmhouse catalogs and magazines on the market, if folks have seen something and want a table or bench made like what they have seen, they can come to Lerum, but he’d rather wow you with his imagination.

“This happens all the time,” he said, “but I like to build things and sell them rather than take requests. Having built furniture myself, seeing how some of these pieces were built by hand over 100 years ago makes me appreciate the time and effort put into these pieces. When I would see a special piece come into the shop, I would like to make one just like it, and this has been done numerous times. There is a saying in my shop: If I can’t find it, I will build it. We are one of the few stripping and refinishing shops left in the area and do quality work, so this makes our business a bit different and unique.”

This shop is not on Facebook nor does it have a website.

“I am more than busy enough just by word of mouth,” Lerum said, “so I have not felt the need for a Facebook page or website. I let the furniture speak for itself when customers come in. I try and point out the quality of each type of furniture and explain how it was made, like type of wood or construction. Most people are amazed at the quality of work, selection of merchandise and the fair prices when they stop in. Some customers come from as far as Nebraska, Canada, Iowa, Wisconsin and, of course, most of southern Minnesota, with most being patients from the Mayo Clinic, antique dealers and repeat customers.

“When customers see their finished product they tell me it is amazing, and it can be anywhere from a hug to even a tear, knowing their family piece will live another 100 years, which makes it very satisfying,” he said. “With this, my goal is to keep helping people and taking on as many challenges as I possibly can because every piece has its own challenges.”

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