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Scene in South Bend: Junk Evolution

| Thursday, December 4, 2014

Scene in SBKeri O'Mara | The Observer

Main Street Coffee House, located in downtown South Bend, recently began displaying images from a new art project titled “South Bend: Then and Now.” The project features pictures of South Bend locations found by the Studebaker National Museum juxtaposed with modern photographs of these same locations. As I sit in the coffee shop, one particular photo grabs my attention: an expressionless man on a horse-drawn grocery delivery wagon stares at a camera, while a curious little boy around the corner timidly looks on. When I look at the current photo, I see a familiar destination also committed to preserving history of forgotten items: Junk Evolution.

Junk Evolution is located at 528 E Colfax Ave. in South Bend,  situated at the corner of Hill and Colfax in the East Bank Village. Featuring a beautiful mural showcasing stores and other parts of the East Race neighborhood, the building serves as an important part of South Bend history. Constructed in the 1890s, the building has served a variety of functions ranging from grocery store to residence to its current fate, Junk Evolution.

Junk Evolution has existed in this space since March 2010, continuing a long legacy of repurposing this building that hasn’t changed much since its creation. This doesn’t seem to be an accident, as discovering new uses for old items seems to be at the heart of Junk Evolution.

“We’re all about sustainability and repurposing and recycling,” owner Linda Sherck said. “So that was our initial theme, trying to save things from the landfill and keeping things from being thrown away, and that is what it remains today”

During a season where consumerism runs rampant and the pressure is on acquiring the newest, latest gadget, Junk Evolution encourages the community to look at already existing products in a new light. Offering beautifully repurposed products, entering junk evolution feels like entering a well-curated treasure trove.

“We’re everywhere,” Sherck joked as she described the extensive hunt that staff members go on to find products to repurpose for the store. “We’re a lot of your usual suspect places. Goodwills, thrift shops, estate sales, auctions, friends. We’re dumpster divers, taking things off our neighbors garbage piles; we’re not above that.”

All of the staff’s hard work pays off, as the store manages to offer a unique experience to shoppers with a different theme each month. Fittingly, the store features a special Christmas theme for the month of December, which includes various toboggan sleds coated in garland hanging from the ceiling.

In addition to various home goods, visitors can also pay a visit to the Circa Arts Gallery and buy vintage clothes from the company Vintage Twill or products from Carpenter Gothic. “The way we have it set up, items can be rung up at either place, and see things are definitely more cohesive between the two businesses,” Sherck said. Despite the variety of goods offered in the space, the focus of Junk Evolution has always remained on selling repurposed home goods.

“We have always been a home décor store that focuses on repurposing and recycling,” Sherck said. In terms of home goods, Sherck believes that functional and versatile items often are the most popular items in the store. “Buffets are a really big item, dressers also are very big sellers for us, tables and chairs. I think with the way the economy has been, people are interested in buying things that are useful and functional. People aren’t quite buying useless and frivolous things for themselves yet.”

For individuals who miss a particular month or would like to see the full inventory of the store, Junk Evolution offers a warehouse sale once a month that features products from previous months that have not been sold or items that would not fit in the store on Colfax. Located at 1212 High St. in South Bend, the warehouse sale occurs on the third Saturday of each month. However, due to the Christmas holiday, the December warehouse sale will occur Dec. 3, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Featuring items ranging from vintage clothing to finished dressers and paintings, the event provides unique Christmas gifts for everyone on the Christmas gift list.

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