reputation grows on top floor
of downtown store
MAYVILLE – A Mayville couple has been working to beautify the places people live and work for decades, and their latest venture continues those goals.
Personality opened Nov. 16, 2019, in the second floor of the former NAPA building at 125 S. Main St. After NAPA owner John Gable retired he offered the first floor to a pop-up gift and fashion shop, “Posie.”
In the meantime Jean Natrop and her husband Jay were looking for storage.
“I was doing staging for people trying to sell their homes and had a large collection of furniture,” Jean said. “I was storing the furniture in the Red Brick School (formerly Mayville Middle School) until it was sold, and was attempting to clear it out when John Gable came by and offered the basement and second floor to us.”
“We jumped at the opportunity,” Jay said. “Eventually we got our heads together and decided to open the second floor to the public.”
The NAPA space had been built in 1913 as a car dealership. Gable remodeled the building and remained there for 35 years. When he sold the franchise the new owner built a new building on the city’s west side. Although he offered the vacant building for sale for a time he later decided to offer it as an incubator space – to allow new businesses to get a start. Both of his tenants are still there.
Although the space was vast and full of potential, it did need some attention.
“We did a lot of cleaning and painting,” Jay said. “When the roof collapsed in 2015, the contractors put down plywood over the old floors. Painting them made them perfect for our use. Paint also brightened the masonry walls, where windows had been replaced with glass blocks. They let a lot of light come in, which is nice.”
It is now an industrial loft, providing approximately 1,500 square feet of display and office space.
Even after the couple’s clear-out sale, a large inventory remained.
“We’ve got a wide variety of things from antique to contemporary,” Jean said. “We just recently brought in some office furniture that had a few nicks. We’ve repaired it so it’s as good as new. Everything we sell is in good to near mint condition.”
“We’re often sorry to see things go, but happy that they have found new homes where they can be used and enjoyed,” Jay said.
“It’s recycling at its finest,” Jean said. “All of our furniture is repaired and/or re-imagined to suit many tastes. We continue to expand our inventory which is always changing.”
They also accept consigned items.
One of the things that the couple finds most fulfilling is that high quality furniture and decorative items are being appreciated by a new generation.
“It’s all made of real wood and can last forever if customers want it to,” she said. “Since it’s so affordable they can also enjoy it for as long as they want and replace it when they like. This is a phenomenal place to come and get really nice looking pieces for really low prices – often less expensive than the cheap furniture found in the marketplace today.”
Offerings also include items for babies and children – at a fraction of the cost of new.
“A lot of kids change their minds about what they want their bedrooms to look like so we can help with that as well,” Jean said.
She also offers decorating tips, easy pickup using the building’s massive elevator and seeks out particular pieces that clients are looking for.
Repurposing is where the Natrops shine. Jean, a graduate of the Layton School of Art (now the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design), has had an eye for design since childhood. Now she often enhances traditional furniture with painted designs. The family’s homes on John Street and Kekoskee streets have showcased the couple’s talents, along with their enterprises at “Artistry” in the Red Brick School building on North Main Street and at The Carriage Haus Shops in downtown Mayville.
“We’re not a vintage store where we have everything everywhere,” Jean said. “Customers who come in will see furniture and accessories in room-like settings, not in rows. I’m always trying to give people ideas about what will match up and what will work well together. People can come in, sit down and see what furniture can look like in their homes. It’s all in vignettes so people can see a glimpse of what it can potentially be.”
Furniture can also be held for clients preparing for a move or changing environments.
Decorating ideas are on display throughout.
“We want people to have a good time and enjoy seeing the latest finds and ideas,” Jean said. “We love to see people stop by, whether they find something on that trip or not. Hopefully they can make a connection with something they need or a friend needs. Either way we’re happy to see them.”
The entrance from the first floor can be easy to overlook, but both Jean and Jay urge people to make the effort. Posie staff members are keen to point out their second floor friends, helping to make a prominent downtown corner into a popular destination. The businesses at 125 S. Main St. are just a part of the downtown revitalization. They are all, in fact, working together to support each other during the COVID pandemic and beyond.
“We always ask people if they want to have a nice lunch or get a cup of coffee or are looking for a special gift,” Jean said. “We all support each other which makes downtown Mayville a very special place to come, shop and have a great time.”
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