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Ground Floor: Retired cosmetologist now updates, sells vintage furniture in West Branch

It's a whole different kind of transformation

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By Deborah Neyens, correspondent

WEST BRANCH — Donna Zender sees a clear parallel between her former career and her new business.

Working in the cosmetology field for four decades and as owner of her own salon for 32 years, Zender used to spend her days transforming her clients with updated hairstyles and color.

“Now, instead of people, I’m working on furniture,” she said.

In September, Zender opened It’s New Once Again in West Branch. The shop sells vintage furniture that Zender has updated with modern touches such as new color and hardware.

“I like working with furniture that has good bones and a bad complexion,” she said.

Zender started recycling old furniture two years ago after she retired and sold her downtown Iowa City salon and spa. She discovered chalk paint — a versatile decorative paint with a matte finish — and taught herself how to use it to create different looks on furniture.

“The first thing I painted was a trunk,” she recalled. “It was a great trunk to use as a coffee table.”

Soon, the garage of her rural West Branch home was full of her completed projects. When her husband told her she needed to find a new home for them, she rented a stall at a weekend market event and sold 20 of 23 pieces.

Bolstered by her success at the market, Zender decided to set up shop in an available space in downtown West Branch. The front of the shop is a showroom where Zender displays and sells her refurbished vintage pieces along with modern accessories and home decor. The back of the shop is a work space.

Zender said a turning point for It’s New Once Again came about two months ago when Mari Shackelford walked through the door. Shackelford had just moved from Tennessee to West Branch the day before and was looking for furniture for her new home. She left with two items and a deal to become Zender’s creative partner.

“I fell in love with the place and wanted to be part of it,” Shackelford said.

The two spend much of their time getting product on the floor.

“We create together,” Zender said. “We work on pieces separately, but mastermind the creativity together. We talk about how a piece speaks to us and how we can enhance it.”

The business offers several options for customers: They can purchase existing inventory, bring in their own vintage pieces to be customized, or order pieces to be custom made. Some consignment options also are available.

“My vision has always been quality, solid furniture made modern for the modern home with modern accessories,” Zender said. “We’re constantly changing out furniture and accessories. We’re all about change.”

At a Glance

Owner: Donna Zender

Business: It’s New Once Again

Address: 106 West Main Street, West Branch

Phone: (319) 643-3001

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/1LpWLr5

Know a company or manager who has been in business for less than a year that would be ideal for “Ground Floor”? Contact Francie Williamson at francie.williamson@thegazette.com

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