The American Country Story
Posted on 01/05/2017 at 12:00 AM by Wendy Muench
I am a big fan of Chip and Joanna Gaines. Their story was exactly what I envisioned my life would be, but that was not my destiny. As a long time interior designer who has always been adamant about using reclaimed items and repurposing antiques and curbside finds, I understand the passion and direction their business has taken. Instead I have spent most of my designing years working for a small Iowa venue who encompass many of the same values and ideals as the Gaines’, but not nearly on the same scale.
My boss and long-time friend, Maggie Wynja jumped into the home furnishings business twenty years ago, starting as a small shop in an old house and later moving to a larger shop on Main Street in Ames, Iowa. Many Iowa customers are frugal, and American Country offered designer styles at reasonable prices. We were always different from all of the "big box" furniture stores. Instead of matched living room sets and bedroom groups we were selling pine furniture pieces, slipcovered sofas, bistro patio furniture, wicker and a slew of decorative accessories from many sources. We went to markets all over the US and found wonderful products made in the USA. We went to Paris and brought back several French lines. We found a line of Polish beer garden furniture.
Then the internet happened and in 2000, Maggie was excited about being a pioneer in the next generation of home décor. There was virtually no competition then, and the new American Country was touted as a website with fresh ideas and excellent customer service. Internet customers were at first leery of ordering online, but knowledgeable designers and staff answering questions on the phone or by email made it easy. The business flourished and became a premiere design firm in the mid-western college town and a friendly way for folks to shop on the internet.
Our style changed over the years. We embraced the same clean cut, new “country” look that includes modern, industrial and traditional décor that has become so popular in today’s marketplace. We worked with clients, did photo shoots in California’s wine country and the Jersey shore. We published a catalog. All of the time we raised our families, traveled, enjoyed life and put together great ideas that made us happy and inspired others.
Our American Country moniker had often left our customers unsure of what who we were until they entered the store. It soon became obvious that although we were American Country, this had evolved into something much bigger, more laid back, easier and more inclusive than anyone would have guessed. This includes many exciting brands such as Fermob French bistro patio furniture, Haste Garden Patio Furniture, Dash and Albert Rugs, Sika rattan chairs along with bedding by Pine Cone Hill and Taylor Linens. Our pine furniture, reclaimed wine barrel furniture, slipcovered sofas and funky wall signs are all made in the USA.
Our still Main Street store, now sells most products on our website: www.americancountryhomestore.com as well as maintaining our store in downtown Ames.
Here’s our hat off to Joanna and Chip. To get the look, click on the links below: