Stateline Strong: Urban Farmgirl Shows Everyone and Everything Can be Repurposed

Mary Gulbranston has always had a passion for things found on the farm.

ROCKFORD - You can put the farm girl in the City of Rockford, but you can't take the farm out of the girl.

"I grew up in the country by Davis Junction hence 'Urban Farmgirl'," said Mary Gulbranston about the name of her boutique store on Rural Street in Rockford.

"I remember spending my summers refinishing furniture and dragging things out of our barn to clean up and do something with," Gulbranston said.

Today, not much has changed. Only now, all of Gulbranston's farm finds get tucked inside her city storefront.

"There's something about taking something that isn't so great anymore, that has lived its life, and making it awesome again."

The same can be said for her location that was once an old grocery store.

"My sister actually found this location for me. She told me i needed to come look at it. I said, 'I do not want a store. It's too much of a commitment'," explained Gulbranston, "and I walked in the door and I said 'okay, I'll have a store'."

Customers can only crowd Urban Farmgirl two weekends each month.

"We do that purposefully because we change the store every time we're open. It's a complete reset of every item in the store every 2 weeks," said Gulbranston.

From every hand painted piece that Mary made to the light fixtures and calligraphy covered signs made by other local artists. But some of the best creations come from the women inside a Rockford Rescue Mission craft room.

"We're taking some old tiles, and the girls are decoupaging a pretty Christmas napkin on the top," said Kathleen Robinson, a volunteer with Rockford Rescue Mission's 'Remade' program.

The ladies who participate in the program will make some items that wind up inside Urban Farmgirl.

"When we see the projects come in, they're always perfect," said Gulbranston.

Gulbranston works with 'Remade' volunteers like Robinson. They come up with an idea, and the women carry out the craft.

"I've heard it over and over, 'I don't know how to do that, I can't do that'. And they just learn that they can and it's a huge esteem builder for them," said Robinson

It's also a fundraiser. Gulbranston not only donates to the Rescue Mission when she sells the girls' items, but also encourages her customers to check out the new 'Remade' store.

The store features only up-cycled products that needed a change, just like the artists did.

"They're things that are unused, unwanted cast aside, broken, needing extra love and elbow grease. These women are part of transforming these unwanted things into something really beautiful," said Robinson.

The work at the Mission fulfills part of Gulbranston's mission to remake the most out of Rockford.

"This city has a lot of good things going for it," said Gulbranston. "You just have to look for them."

Gulbranston is selling tickets for her Holiday Open House. It will be held the Friday before Small Business Saturday. To by a ticket for the November 24th event, you can visit urbanfarmgirl.com. All money from ticket sales goes to Rockford Rescue Mission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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