By Eric Sandbulte, The Brookings Register

One of downtown Brookings’ newest stores might be located in a basement, but make no mistake: the bright, cozy location is packed with an eclectic assortment of items to make any space feel a little more homey.
Started by Aaron and Noelle Morford, Found by Funky Junk specializes in offering home décor, with the pair frequently hand-making from rescued scrap the merchandize sold there.

The husband-and-wife duo have always been creative and crafty. A Dakota Dunes native, he liked visiting antique stores with family or friends, even as a teen. Aaron’s interest in building came to fruition when he began helping with theater set builds.

He came to Brookings in 2005 to attend South Dakota State University, where he graduated with degrees in journalism and communications studies and theater.

Noelle, originally from Lake Benton, Minnesota, came from a family of handymen and crafters. Her father, a veterinarian, would frequently build the things he needed for his work, both as a vet and on his farm.

“I grew up with scissors in my hands, always cutting paper and crafting stuff. I went to auctions with my dad. I always loved decorating my room, so this stuff is just in my blood,” Noelle said.

She moved to Brookings in 2006, finding work as a nanny.

Getting started

Before they opened Found by Funky Junk, there was simply Funky Junk. That began out of necessity when the young couple were preparing for their marriage. As they got their housing situation in order, there was the need for furniture, but they didn’t want generic cheap big-box store furniture that would quickly wear out.

“We went and found some older furniture and put on new handles and trims and painted it up to suit our needs. We really enjoyed it, and we started building pieces out of items we found at the ReStore or random items we’d find at garage sales,” Noelle said.

She’d post pictures of their creations on Facebook, where they would attract a lot of attention. People enjoyed seeing their work on social media enough that the Morfords started a Facebook page called Funky Junk specifically for their creations four years ago and started to sell them out of their garage twice a year.

Even then, they didn’t intend for this to become their main work. Aaron worked as the director of purchasing and operations at a promotional products business, and Noelle was happy being a mother for their 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son and working at a daycare.

But Aaron lost his job two weeks after Noelle quit her daycare job. As they went over their options and job offers, they decided to pursue something on their own. Funky Junk was already established and something they both enjoyed, so why not turn it into an official store?

They acquired their space in the basement of The Carrot Seed, now moved into the former Cover to Cover space, at the end of June.

Aaron said that they put a ton of work into getting the basement space up to their needs. Everything except the carpet has been redone. Old pipes were removed and the resulting holes were patched up, metal support posts given a more aesthetically pleasing wooden trim shell – that kind of thing.

Found by us

They added “Found by” to their business’ name – “Because it’s been found by us” – to reflect the changes their little dream has gone through these years, and opened for business Sept. 18.

They balance their work between finding materials to repair and repurpose, actually fixing them up and then selling them at the store.

“I like finding something that’s going to go to the dump: it’s falling apart, it is an antique that has been used and abused,” Noelle explained.

Simply taking an already solid and pretty dresser and sanding it down and giving it a fresh coat of paint isn’t satisfying enough for her.

“It’s really exciting to take bits and pieces of a dresser and a door and a banister and put it together,” she said. “It’s like Frankenstein furniture. Then when I slap the paint on it, it looks like it was always supposed to be that way.”

It’ll come to no surprise then that what’s in the store is a sampling of everything. It is mostly home décor, ranging in size from something that would fit on a shelf to table-sized pieces.

It’s “anything you could need to decorate a home,” she said.

Near the front counter, for example, sat a repurposed tractor hood with brief cases stacked underneath it.

“It was a wrecked tractor, all bent up. My husband and I thought that would be a really cool table that somebody could put in their entryway. You could open the hatch and put your keys there and it’d be a cool piece for a farmhouse,” Noelle said.

That’s not the only time pieces of vehicles have found new life at Found by Funky Junk. They’ve also remade the hood of a 1950s Ford truck into a bookshelf.

That’s not the whole of their offerings, however; thanks to multiple vendors, they also sell such things as soaps, candles, hand-painted signs, laser-etched SDSU products and mittens made from recycled wool sweaters.

She gets inspiration for her projects from all over, Pinterest included. But she doesn’t want to just copy what she sees online and elsewhere; she wants it to be something unique.

As the Morfords get used to the hectic lives that come with operating their own store, they do have further goals for Found by Funky Junk. Someday, they’d like to have their own space.

“I would love to someday have a main-level store where we can literally back up to the back door and do more high-end used furniture. I feel like there’s a need in Brookings for a place to get nice furniture at a decent price,” Noelle said. “I would be able to take things like a couch and have a bigger space to do that. We’re very careful about what we’re building to come down here and making sure it’s easy to move in and out. There is some thought and engineering that goes into that.”

Located at the basement of The Carrot Seed at 310 Main Ave., their store hours are Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. They are open only on these days because of all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into finding and finishing their projects.

Their Facebook page, under their new name, Found by Funky Junk, is where any business updates can be found, and they can be reached by phone at 605-690-9209.

Contact Eric Sandbulte at esandbulte@brookingsregister.com.

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