McGregor Mercantile opens in newly-remodeled downtown building

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Paul and Monica Tiffany recently opened McGregor Mercantile at 258 Main St., in downtown McGregor. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

McGregor Mercantile is a paint and hardware store, offering Benjamin Moore paints, chalk paints from American Paint Company, painting accessories and much more.

The Tiffanys worked throughout the year to remodel the McGregor Mercantile building. Some of the biggest changes were the additions of significantly enlarged front windows and a taller front door.

Built in 1879, the McGregor Mercantile building was originally Robert Lindsay Grocery. Over the years, it has housed a second-hand store, ice cream shop, coffee shop, beauty salon, spa and photography studio.

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Paul and Monica Tiffany, the owners and operators of Preferred Painters, have been a fixture in McGregor for several years.

In December 2015, they bought a building in downtown McGregor, at 258 Main St., to use as a shop for their painting business—a place to keep pressure washers, sprayers and extra supplies. In order to be more efficient, they also planned to use the area to tint their own paint.

“Then, one thing led to another,” Monica remarked. “Pretty soon, we were opening a paint and hardware store.”

It seemed like a natural extension of Preferred Painters, she said, noting, “We already go through so much paint. We’re our best first customer.”

Plus, said Paul, “We understand the paint business.”

Painting is largely a do-it-yourself activity, Monica added, so the store will help them connect customers with the paint, brushes and accessories to use for projects, as well.

The Tiffanys’ store, McGregor Mercantile, opened to the public last Friday as a Benjamin Moore paint retailer.

“Benjamin Moore is the highest quality paint you can have. They’re nationally-known, so it’s nice having a brand people recognize,” Monica explained. “They’re also great to work with and have great marketing materials and displays.”

In addition, McGregor Mercantile will offer chalk paint from American Paint Company—another helpful product for do-it-yourselfers. Painting accessories; deck and siding stains; some lawn and garden items; small tools; nuts, bolts and nails; and a small selection of household items will also be available. 

“We’re starting with the basics,” Monica said. “As we get the business going and see what people need, we can expand the inventory.”

Name gives business historic feel

When determining a name for the store, Monica said she and Paul debated dubbing it Preferred Painters, but ultimately decided on a name that was inclusive of all the products they planned to sell.

“Because the building is older and in the historic district, we wanted a name that brought that feel to it, an older feel,” Monica stated. “Mercantile means of or relating to trade or commerce—a general store. The building has been so many things, so that encompasses that.”

“Everything’s come full circle,” Paul added.

What’s old is new again

Built in 1879, the McGregor Mercantile building was originally Robert Lindsay Grocery. Over the years, it has housed a second-hand store, ice cream shop, coffee shop, beauty salon, spa and photography studio.

When the Tiffanys bought it, years of remodeling had covered up much of the building’s original aesthetics.

“The floor was completely rotted, so we had to replace it,” Paul explained. “The ceiling was nowhere to be seen.”

Monica admitted it wasn’t until they worked on some other projects, including the Peoples State Bank building in Bloomington, Wis., that they began to fully appreciate their historic building and what it could become. 

Their favorite aspect of the bank building was its tin ceiling, and the Tiffanys wondered if they could replicate the look in their own. However, before moving forward, Paul went to the attic on a lark, just to check if a tin ceiling existed.

“There was a tin ceiling up there, and it was in good shape,” Monica divulged. “That was the most exciting find.”

The newly-discovered ceiling was white, but was later reverted to its original copper color.

They also removed the plaster on the walls, preferring the look of the building’s exposed brick.

The biggest changes of all, however, were the additions of significantly enlarged front windows and a taller front door.

“We knew we wanted to open it back up to how it originally would’ve been, with the big windows,” Monica said, “and we knew we wanted a big, tall door like it would’ve had.”

Although a bigger project than they originally anticipated, Monica said she and Paul enjoyed the remodeling, and are almost sorry to see it come to a close.

“We wanted to take something old and make it valuable,” Paul shared, mentioning that, while the windows might be a bit trendy, “I’d like to think the original owner of the grocery store would be impressed.”

Preservation efforts recognized

The changes the Tiffanys have made to their McGregor Mercantile building have not gone unnoticed. On Sept. 24, Paul and Monica received an award from the McGregor Historic Preservation Commission recognizing their preservation efforts.

“We were honored and excited,” Monica said. “We’ve worked so hard, so it was nice that people have noticed and appreciated it.”

The presentation was part of an event that highlighted the importance of historic preservation, especially as a group works to save and restore the Sullivan Opera House, which is just two buildings down from McGregor Mercantile. Paul said it really raised awareness within him.

“The Historic Preservation Commission does a lot for people,” he said. “It’s changed my outlook, and I want to support them where I can.”

Paul and Monica hope their preservation efforts can encourage others to do the same.

“If buildings get fixed up, it does help the community,” Monica explained. “It really makes us want to be community drivers and help other businesses get started and help them fix their buildings.”

Monica said she and Paul look forward to stimulating the local economy and offering more conveniences to local people.

“We’ve gotten great feedback that we’re opening,” she said. “It just takes somebody to get the ball rolling.”

“We wanted to have something here to encourage others. McGregor is a great community,” Paul commented. “Some people think it’s hard to start a business in a small community, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

When to stop by

McGregor Mercantile will be open Monday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. They will hold an open house throughout the day on Friday, Oct. 7, with a free lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event will also include sales, drawings and give-aways.

Over the winter, Monica said she plans to remodel the back half of the building, opening it in the spring to sell home decor items.

During the winter, she said McGregor Mercantile also hopes to host some classes about using chalk paint.

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