It all started with a dining room table. About 15 years ago, Martin and Kathleen Rinnhoffer were in the market for a new table, but they couldn’t find an authentic wood one that they liked. So instead, they purchased an old wooden table, and Martin refinished it himself in their garage. That was all it took for the couple to catch the creative bug. After that first project, they kept going, learning new techniques and trying out different materials.
In 2013, a building in Preston came up for sale and it caught Martin and Kathleen’s attention. “We bought it as an investment,” Martin explained. At the time, they were living and working in Rochester so they moved their business out of the garage into the new storefront and then moved into the apartment above it. They’ve done a number of renovations to the building including installing new electrical, plumbing, air conditioning, heating, and duct work, all while striving to ensure that it retains its value as a part of Preston’s history. “It’s a nice historical part of this town, and we want to keep it that way,” Martin said.
Since then, Urban Artifacts has grown, adding new products, consignors, and classes starting next year. They sell a wide variety of items including refinished furniture, whiskey barrel clocks, signs, wooden flags, Dixie Belle chalk paint, Prima transfers, and more. “We do a lot of things,” Martin commented. Kathleen works hard to come up with new ideas for the store while still working full-time at Mayo Clinic. Martin works part-time at Mayo and spends the rest of his time running the store and crafting new products. One of his favorite items to make are the clocks, which he makes out of old whiskey barrels. “We love taking old pieces and fixing them up,” he said. “We try to reuse as much as we can.”
Kathleen and Martin use a variety of things to create their products, including barn wood and other salvaged materials. Several times a year, they travel to West End Architectural Salvage in Iowa to purchase barn wood from the company, which breaks down old barns and farmhouses into reusable wood. Sometimes locals will offer materials for them to use as well. “We get a lot of support from the local community,” Martin said. He especially likes it when he has the opportunity to create something new from a piece of Preston’s history, such as the wood he received from the owners of Trout City Brewing that they removed while remodeling. He also currently has a small table available that he crafted out of a section of the Victory Cafe’s old counter top, which is especially meaningful as Urban Artifacts now occupies that same space at 117 W. Fillmore Street.
Kathleen and Martin never thought they would someday own a business like Urban Artifacts, but have loved every step of the journey. “Where we are now, we never though we would be,” Martin said. The move from Rochester to Preston has also been a positive change for the couple. “We definitely enjoy Preston a lot,” Martin commented, adding that they appreciate the small town atmosphere. He and Kathleen make an effort to work with other local businesses to support and promote each other by purchasing things locally whenever they can.
While they love coming up with new ideas, Martin and Kathleen don’t have any plans to expand their business other than to focus on building their website. “We don’t want to get too big because we like the small town charm,” Martin explained. “We like having the time to talk to customers.”
You can find Urban Artifacts on Facebook or at their website urbanartifactspreston.com.