As Grand Island’s Railside District grows, so does its variety of retail businesses.
Last month, Deb Ashworth and Julie Callihan opened the G.I. Potting Shed at 206 W. Second St. The store has a variety of items to choose from, including books, record albums, pictures, vintage decor and professional silks.
Ashworth and her husband recently moved to Grand Island after retiring from Union Pacific in Omaha after 37 years of service to the company. She had been a superintendent in dispatching.
“When we retired, I had to make a decision where we want to retire at,” Ashworth said.
Their daughter and youngest son live in Omaha, and their oldest son lives in North Platte. They decided to retire in Grand Island to be halfway between their children and grandchildren.
“What a better place than Grand Island where we can be halfway between both of those locations,” Ashworth said.
But, their new home at Kuester Lake is smaller than their old one in Omaha. Also, there is no basement and nowhere to store the many books she had collected over the years.
“Downsizing had to happen,” Ashworth said. “I had stored almost 30 totes of books, and my husband was gently nudging me to give them to the library.”
But, Ashworth said she had a different idea what to do with their massive book collection. At first, she wanted to sell her books through her Amazon account. She took a course at Central Community College on web design.
But then another idea began to take shape.
Her sister, Julie Callihan, and her husband also live in Grand Island.
“My sister and I talked about opening a shop, and we would sell vintage, upcycled treasures and succulents,” she said. “We also wanted to make it at a price people could afford.”
For Ashwoth, it was the perfect way to downsize. So, “one of the first things I did was to join the Chamber of Commerce, where I met so many wonderful Grand Islanders,” she said. Then she and Callihan started a search for the perfect location.
After looking around the community, they decided to locate it in Railside.
“I love the Grand Island downtown area,” Ashworth said. “It is one of the best that I have seen. “
That is where she and her sister found, “this perfect shop location.”
Located along Highway 30, their first customer was a Canadian woman passing through Grand Island and saw their store. She stopped and shopped and immediately loved its ambiance and its selection of vintage treasures.
That was a good omen for Ashworth and Callihan as their first customer immediately recognized what the two sisters were trying to accomplish with their new store.
“It is small, but it is so welcoming looking,” Ashworth said about their store.
This all happened pretty quickly. The Ashworths moved to Grand Island in November, she rented the new store’s building in January and opened for business last month.
It took them six months to prepare their store to the vision for the upscale, vintage treasures they wanted to sell.
“My sister is a floral designer for Williams Floral in Grand Island, and she is all about colors,” Ashworth said, and her “talent for floral design is evident in the store.”
Also, during that time, they wanted to incorporate the idea of also having consignments as they knew other people shared their vision of “upscale vintage treasures.”
“We wanted to give a diverse offering to our customers,” Ashworth said.
The consignments at the store are more about home decor.
For example, one of their friends had Holly Hobbie plates from the 1970s she wasn’t using and decided to sell them. Another brought their collection of old schoolhouse chairs. Another decided to sell their vintage LPs.
Right now, the store is open by appointment only; call (402) 519-4420. They also have a Facebook page.
One of the reasons they are open by appointment is Ashworth is continuing her works with the railroad through Operation Lifesaver. While working for U.P., Ashworth was also a safety supervisor. She focuses her attention on train safety, especially about train crossing safety, with children and has given several presentations at elementary schools in the area.
Through the chamber, Ashworth has established Operation Lifesaver in Central Nebraska to inform people about railroad crossing safety. To learn more about that program, visit www.oli.org.