Shining Like Rust: Treasure picking and antique hunting at Rust Never Sleeps in Gardner’s ParkMay 06, 2021 05:44PM ● By DAVID ACEVEDO
Nestled in the heart of the up-and-coming district of Gardner’s Park in Fort Myers, occupying the large space that once housed internationally renowned artist Marcus Jansen’s Unit-A studio, is Rust Never Sleeps—a paradise for collectors of salvage antiques and furniture, designers, artists and vintage lovers. The warehouse-sized store is filled with original, hard-to-find, repurposed, re-created and renewed items from northern parts of the country.
The initial “picking,” a term used to describe the search and acquisition of this particular inventory, was started by Gerhard and Luann Eipert. They moved in 2013 from Iowa to the Fort Myers area to start the business. The Eiperts’ first store, initially located on Fowler Street, focused on antiques, old barn wood, architectural salvage parts and items they collected during their lifelong pickings. It also featured creative furniture made from collected pieces of history.
The shop’s popularity developed with the years, increasing their customer base and interest from like-minded residents. A local family of three decided to take the opportunity to buy the store when the Eiperts retired in 2018. The parties knew each other and coordinated the transition early that same year.
Once Jeff and Kelly Olson, together with son Matt Fabian, became the official owners, they began planning the move to the larger current location. “We still source a lot of our materials from the original places [in Iowa] that remain as contacts from the previous owners,” explains Kelly Olson.
“Our vision and mission for the shop is to continue to help save our precious planet by reclaiming, repurposing and refurbishing anything old that can still be used—either in its original form or repurposed for a new life as something unintended,” she notes. “Let's face it, as the old saying goes, they don't make things like they used to,” adds the proud co-owner.
Rust Never Sleeps’ signature items are its uniquely customized furniture. The main source of materials for the upcycled pieces are live edge (also known as natural edge) wood, barn wood, barn beams and doors from Iowa. The company has contacts in Iowa’s Amish community and other businesses in that area.
They also purchase from wholesalers around the U.S., thus bringing more exotic woods and materials into the store. The architectural and antique items are found all over the nation, including from locals who donate or sell to them on a regular basis. Their large inventory includes old and hard-to-find items such as doorknobs, cranks, stained glass and fixtures, as well as vintage décor and housewares.
Like so many other businesses, the pandemic has impacted the shop. “The hardest step in the history of the store has been trying to sustain a profit during these past months,” Olson says. She also found that earning the trust of the original customers proved challenging. “People loved the past owners and we had to work really hard to show them we could do every bit as good a job as they could.”
The inventory of Rust Never Sleeps is very special. One example is the exclusive cargo flooring, sourced out of old train cars. Live edge slabs of redwood are hard-to-find treats for anyone looking for that special detail. And there is a large variety of vintage windows and doors from all over the country.
Its well-equipped workshop allows for the production of such large-scale furnishings as dinner tables, consoles, custom doors and more. There is no limit to what can be created with these special materials. Many customers seek a custom-made piece of furniture created out of reclaimed wood, while others buy the reclaimed wood to make projects at home.
Remedies Parlor owner Tyna Swingler has been a customer for the past few years. “Just talk to master woodworker Matt [Fabian] and you will find that he can custom make just about anything for you,” the entrepreneur says. Her store is a stone’s throw away from the architectural salvage and working area of Rust Never Sleeps.
“Kelly and Jeff have an amazing eye for unique salvaged pieces and antiques that cannot be found just anywhere,” concludes Swingler, who recently celebrated her fourth year in business in the Gardner’s Park district.
Collectors, designers, creatives, remodelers and all weekend warriors are always invited to find the perfect treasures or that missing piece at this amazing store, located at 1922-A Evans Ave.
To learn more, visit rustneversleepsarchitecturalsalvage.com or call 239-887-3897.
David Acevedo is an accomplished award-winning visual artist and arts writer living in Southwest Florida. He is the founder and owner of DAAS CO-OP Art Gallery & Gifts and The Union Artist Studios. He has a bachelor’s degree in visual arts from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus.