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Where everything old is new again

This Earth Day Cortney Hauschildt and Heidi Fett were busy recycling. It is both their passion and their business.

The sisters-in-law, Fett is married to Hauschildt's brother, are the owners and creative minds behind Funky Junque. They collect other people's junk and cast-offs with an eye for making something new. That something new can be functional, decorative or just plain fun. It doesn't matter and usually sells.

The two women work out of a large shed that triples as storage area, workshop and showroom in the town of Troy. They said the idea for the business grew out of their belief that other people's junk was way cooler than their own and the notion that they could make it even cooler.

The business began several years ago when the two were collecting items for a large rummage sale for charity.

"People just kept bringing stuff, and everybody said they didn't want any of it back. A lot of it didn't go in the sale but a lot of it was pretty neat stuff and we kind of hit on the idea," said Fett.

Hauschildt said they talked about it and like the idea of making something out of nothing or at least something no one wanted. "If you look around my house, you'll see lots of things like that. It's the way I decorate my house."

The women collect their "raw materials" by offering to take the leftovers from garage sales and the like, and word of mouth on them has spread. People often come with truckloads apologizing for what they are dropping off.

"When we go to pick things up, they will often say, 'I don't suppose you want anything like this' and it turns out to be something incredible. When these truck loads come, we can't wait to see what they've brought," said Fett.

Among the most curious items at this year's spring show and sale are two wooden somethings hanging from the ceiling. Turns out they are airplane wing frames. According to Hauschildt, they'd make great garden trellises.

That kind of thinking is what Funky Junque is about.

"It really is about thinking outside the box," said Hauschildt. "Usually we get a first impression that something has real potential outside its original purpose. And there's a lot of silliness involved and laughing. It is always a good thing when something makes us laugh. And the best part is that no matter what we come up with, it is one of a kind."

Hauschildt couldn't bear to part with her favorite creation to date, a chandelier from her parents' house that everyone liked to make fun of. Now it's transformed and hangs in her daughter's bedroom.

For Fett, it was a metal tool chest. "It was one of those gigantic ones with all the drawers that stood almost as tall as me. I didn't know what to do with it but eventually it became a children's art center complete with chalk and drawing boards on the side and all those great drawers for supplies. A woman bought it for her grandsons."

The women say they purchase very little to make their junk funky beyond paint and other building supplies. Most of the materials they use are recycled from their junk collection, and they say it is part of the challenge to limit themselves to what they have at hand.

Hauschildt said they also like the business because it teaches their children that you can have a creative business, that you can build it out of your home and that you can create a product somebody will buy by using things that already exist.

"We hope they are picking up those lessons and that what Heidi and I have been able to do will help them envision something like it for themselves," said Hauschildt.

The women say most of their collecting goes during the spring, summer and fall. While they do some creating through the winter, the pressure of their fall and spring shows gets the creative juices flowing with them often working 10 to 15 hours a day to get ready.

In addition to the shows, Funky Junque has also started offering workshops for individuals or groups that want to create something funky themselves.

"They send us a photograph of the piece or email it, and we look it over and come up with a few ideas. Then they come in and hit the workshop. We have all the materials they can pick through and the tools they need. They love using the tools and there is always a lot of laughter. They have snacks and lots of fun and leave with something new from their old stuff," said Fett.

Fett and Hauschildt say their business is the perfect fit for them. A former nursing home activities director and a graphic designer, respectively, the two say Funky Junque has the full support of their husbands and children, Chad Fett and daughters Ellie and Abby, and Todd Hauschildt and children Jacob and Alexis. And they get to be productive together. What could be more funky?

See for yourself

The public can check out the latest collection from Funky Junque at a spring show and sale this weekend at their showroom at 276 Glenmont Road just off County F eight miles south of Hudson. The sale runs Thursday, 5-9 p.m., Friday, noon to 7 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. For more information about the sale or about dropping off some junk, contact Heidi Fett, (715) 386-9317, or Cortney Hauschildt, (715) 425-7892. No clothes or hazardous materials, please.

Meg Heaton can be reached at

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

(715) 808-8604