For about two months, Jill Rinner had a “nagging feeling” to go see her old colleague, Carol Lamb, owner/operator of Lambs’ Gate Antiques in Old Town. The two women met in the early 2000s, when Lamb was operating an antique shop in Grand Ledge and Rinner was one of her regular customers. The two grew friendly over the years as they ran into each other at estate sales, but it had been a few years since Rinner had visited Lamb.
“I couldn’t quite place it, but I just felt compelled to pay her a visit,” Rinner said. “Turns out, the universe was trying to tell me something.”
Earlier this month — unbeknown to Rinner — Lamb announced that she would be retiring at the end of February. She had planned a massive, month-long sale to sell everything she could — including shelves and the cash register — to make way for the next tenant before heading into retirement from retail.
“It was a bittersweet decision, but I’m in my 60s now, and I just want to slow down,” Lamb said. “The shop is doing well, but my husband’s retiring this year and we want to do more traveling. I think I’ll always be an antique (dealer), but it was time to get out from behind the counter.”
For several years, Lamb rented space in antique malls where she sold items she had collected and “picked.” Then in 2001, she opened the original brick-and-mortar version of Lambs’ Gate Antiques in Grand Ledge. Styles and items varied, including clothes, home décor items and memorabilia. On any given week, Lambs’ Gate shoppers could pick their way through old cameras, antique art, vintage dresses and old-timey straight razors.
“It started as a ‘chick shop,’ with flowers on everything,” Lamb said. “But over time, I made a point to include children’s things and stuff that guys like. People think of antiquing as something old ladies do, but the last few years, I’ve seen a huge increase in younger shoppers, many of them men. Reusing and repurposing older things has become very popular.”
The Old Town store became Lamb’s second location in 2010, and two years later, she closed the Grand Ledge store to focus on the Lansing shop. But as she watched her grandchildren grow up — she used to keep a playpen behind the counter for them when they were babies — she felt the pull away from a full-time job.
“I had always dreamed of having my own store, and I’m very lucky to have made it work for the last 16 years,” Lamb said. “But with all my grandchildren moved out of state now, it’s given me some perspective. It’s time for me to say goodbye.”
That’s where Rinner comes in. She is the co-owner of Bungalow 47, a Haslett-based company that designs specialty paint lines. The business grew out of a new and vintage home décor store of the same name she started in Williamston in 2011 with her business partner, Chantelle Deimling. The duo worked on some projects using chalk and clay paint, a natural product first used by in early human cave drawings. For antiquers, it’s easy to distress and works well on a variety of surfaces, including wood, metal, glass and ceramics.
“This type of paint became quite popular in the home décor marketplace about six years ago,” Rinner said. “We were part of the beginning, and we found ourselves wanting to create a product that worked to our specifications, and for the retailers around the country we sold to, small boutique shops like us.”
Rinner and Deimling worked with a chemist to develop a chalk-and-clay-based paint that is solvent free and American made. The paint line took off, and it now features 20 designer colors. That success necessitated a move into a larger building in Haslett. They also reached out to national home décor brands to develop customized paint for their customers. Junk Gypsy, a Texas-based brand, offers 18 colors, and Shabby Chic, based in California, has 10. Last summer, Rinner and Deimling decided to close the store to focus on the paint and support for their over 300 U.S. retailers.
“But I really missed it,” Rinner said of the retail business. “Then I found myself in Old Town last week, and I gave in to this nagging feeling I’d had to go see Carol, and she told me she was closing. And just the day before, a deal with a different business to take over (the space) had fallen through. Carol said to me, ‘You should really take this over.’”
“I couldn’t think of anyone better to turn it over to,” Lamb said. “She’s going to be a great fit for Old Town. Her style and approach to antiquing are going to appeal to a lot of people and keep my regular customers coming back.”
Last year, Rinner started a blog, The Life That’s Lived There (thelifethatslivedthere.com), where she waxes philosophical on personal life goals, adventures in picking and, of course, the world of home décor. That will also be the name of the new store when it opens sometime this spring: The Life That’s Lived There Vintage Marketplace.
“The landlord is going to redo the floors, so everything’s coming out before I get to move in,” Rinner said. “And it’s definitely going to have a different look. My style is different — a little funkier, a little weirder. I’ll be keeping a lot of things that people like, (such as) the postcard area, which some people spend an hour and half going through. But I plan to have everything (staged) differently and share my vision of how to live with vintage items.”
Rinner will continue to co-run Bungalow 47 with her partner, with The Life That’s Lived There being more of a “nights and weekends” gig. She said the store will have more of a homelike feel but with “a few surprises” mixed in. She’ll continue to use the five pickers that Lamb purchased from but will add her own flavor.
“My design philosophy is to include sentimental objects in your designs but to make them your own,” Rinner said. “You can take grandma’s dresser, give it a coat of bright paint, and you’re able to use something old in a new way. All the people who love Carol’s style are going to feel at home here, but I plan to bring in lots of new pickers as well. I’m just glad I listened to that voice in my head.”
Lambs’ Gate Antiques
1219 Turner St., Lansing
11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday
(517) 999-7277, facebook.com/lambsgateantiques