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Creative spirit turns scrap materials into works of art

Dan McClelland

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By Rich Rosentreter

There’s an old saying that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Well, sometimes what was once considered to be junk heading to the dump can be turned into a creative treasure – something that lives on with function and purpose. Such is the case with the items in a new shop on the outskirts of Tupper Lake.

Jane and Joe Denis operate Jane’s Place located on state Route 3 in Piercefield where they specialize in items that have been repurposed. The shop opened in September and Jane said she is gearing up to open for the season over Memorial Day weekend.

Inside Jane’s Place one will find a plethora of items, from basic décor and display items to small furniture such as dressers and shelving to vintage doors turned into a decorative masterpiece. Although each item is unique, they have one thing in common: Each was repurposed from something that either was earmarked for the dump or simply lying around unused.

“It’s a little bit of crafts and treasures. It’s such a good feeling to know that you saved something from going to the dump - and you created something new,” Jane told the Free Press during a recent visit to the shop. She quickly pointed out a headboard that was turned into a bench. “We gave it a new life. This is really a labor of love – and we have fun doing it.”

But Jane does not do everything by herself. Her husband Joe does the building and her son Joshua, who lives in Massachusetts, works on lighting fixtures.

According to Jane, she started building the shop up slowly with inventory in June and after opening in the fall, remained open until just after Christmas. As word spread about her new shop, she started to hear positive comments.

“The initial feedback was great,” she said. “There was a lot of word of mouth, one person showed off their purchase and it seemed to blossom from there. It’s not crazy busy, which is nice because I wouldn’t want it to be that way.”

“Everything we do it’s something different, there are no two pieces exactly alike,” Joe said. “It may look somewhat the same, but there is something different about each piece.”

Getting started

The idea of opening a store began some time ago for Jane, but she traced the genesis to a sign her son constructed for her using old tools that contained what would become the store’s name: Jane’s Place.

“He created the sign and gave it to me as a gift a few Christmas’ ago. That was where the name was created, but I’ve always wanted to do this,” Jane said, adding that after retiring from working at the local bank in June, she was able to find the time to follow her dream.

The shop is more than a dream now as it is a mix of a creative spark and teamwork. Jane comes up with the idea and her husband Joe, who is also retired, builds and crafts items.

“She just tells me what she wants and it’s done, but the painting and refinishing is her responsibility,” Joe said, adding that the labor is pretty easy for him. “I’ve always done construction and stuff like that. I can make pretty much anything out of wood. I don’t know how to use a computer but I can probably make one out of wood.”

In addition to working on lighting, her son comes up to visit often and helps with the placement of the decor.

“He also has access to more (items to refurbish) in Massachusetts as far as flea markets and second-hand stuff,” Jane said. “He’s not here all the time but he plays a role.”

But creating is not new for the Piercefield couple who said they were creating canoe shelves since the early 1990s and going to craft fairs.

“I also did dolls and stuff but that kind of fizzled out. We didn’t have much time anymore to create,” Jane said, adding that as time went on, they once again began to create items for themselves. “A lot of it was us creating things for our own home. We slowly started making extra things with the potential of opening a store.”

The process

Now that Jane and Joe are in full gear, they shared how material is gathered for their shop.

Jane said she travels to sales such as flea markets and garage sales with her husband to bring back items to repurpose for the shop, and they have traveled as far as Tennessee on their mission. One of their favorite destinations is going to the Brimfield Flea Markets – one of the most popular in the Northeast – in Massachusetts. Joe said he once came home with about 40 doors for repurposing after a flea market trip.

“We do the sales together,” Jane said, adding that sometimes they see a piece and an idea is sparked or she’ll ask Joe if a certain project can be done. “And pretty much anything can be done with a particular item. Sometimes I wouldn’t see it as something, and he’ll provide an idea.”

Both said that traveling to find items is a key part of the fun – and many times they come home with a truck full of materials.

Not all the items in the store get sold. Sometimes they wind up right in Jane’s own home.

“We just did a bedroom,” Jane said, and instead of going to the big box store, she went right down to her den of creativity at the store. “I say I’m going shopping and came to the shop to add. I took a window mirror from the store. I do that with a few items that I created, they wind up in my own home.”

As far as prices go, Jane said she tries to keep everything affordable so customers visit the store again.

“I’ve had a lot of people tell me that my pieces are great so I try to keep the prices down so the items move,” she said. “I try to put a fair price. Really, I don’t want somebody to come in one time and think that the prices are so high and they never come back.”

Ideas for projects

Although many of the ideas for products that wind up in the shop are generated by the Denis family, sometimes ideas come from the customers. Jane said if a customer asks if she could create something specific, the job becomes more challenging.

“There’s a little more pressure on when someone asks for something specific because you try to create according to their expectations instead of just being able to create it,” she said. “A special order is a little bit harder.”

Other times there is something in the store that fits right into a customer’s wants and needs and people comment on the ideas in the shop. And sometimes Jane is able to work together with the customer to fulfill their needs.

“It’s amazing how many people would say ‘I was looking for that one thing to go in a spot and I’d never have thought of that,’” Jane said. “I had a customer who said they needed a coffee bar. I pulled an old dry sink out and she said perfect. I reconfigured it and the customer was really happy.”

And the creativity is all around Jane’s Place. Some examples are: two doors that have been put together to form a very decorative entry; an old door shaped into a form of a Christmas tree; a headboard turned into a coat rack; and another old door turned into a gardening bench. There are also many small items such as signs, wooden decor and a few antique pieces.

“That piece is decorative, sealed for outdoor use and you can hang tools on it. It’s still cute but it serves a purpose too,” she said.

Jane said she tries to stay on top of the latest colors and the popular trends.

“I do what I like or think will sell. I try to keep up with what is trending, the colors that are trending. I look on Pinterest for the colors of 2019 and different things like that,” she said.

One would think Jane is happy whenever she makes a sale, but that’s not the case as she said she would actually love to keep all her creations as a part of her goes with each sale.

“It hurts. I hate to see it go I wish I had space for everything,” Jane said, as she pointed out one creation. “I love this potting shed and would be super happy if someone would take it, but if that space was empty, I would be a little sad. So we would just create something else.”

But Jane was quick to add that there is still a sense of reward.

“People take an item home and I ask them to shoot me a photo. Some of them remember and send a photo, and when I see the item being enjoyed, it’s just awesome.”

Keeping it simple

Although both Jane and Joe have plenty of time as retirees, they do not plan on having the shop take up all of their time – but the way it’s been working, they have fun spending time creating so the shop isn’t a burden. And even though the shop is full of inventory to sell and material to turn into creative products, the couple has no plans on making the space larger.

“We want to finish the porch area and get more items outside, but I don’t want to get too big, I don’t want to lose sight of what I am doing. I don’t want the pressure of getting too busy,” Jane said. “This keeps us busy enough and active, but in a fun way. If we don’t want to open we don’t. There’s a big difference between going to work and enjoying being creative.”

In the meantime, Joe said they’ll do their best to keep up with any demand.

“We just sold a clock, so I guess we’re going to have to make more clocks,” he said. “When we see things that are going to sell, we’ll try to keep up with the demand.”

Currently the pace of demand is reasonable to keep up with – and the next big date on the calendar is the opening weekend of the store, which is also the date of the Great Adirondack Garage Sale – May 25 and 26.

“We’ll probably put some stuff out for that one,” Jane said.

Until the store opens for the season, anyone who wants to check out what Jane’s Place has to offer can make an appointment. Of course any time after opening day, people are welcome to visit and just browse the creative items – and maybe get some ideas for their own projects.

“You can contact us at any time. We’re more than happy to show it off,” she said. “Just contact me. If the store’s not open, I always tell people I only live up the hill, I can just come on down.”

Contact Jane by email at or visit her Facebook page titled “Purdy Things at Jane’s Place.