Rostig brings memories alive

Reinbeck storefront opened as a picker’s paradise

Todd Eckhart is the owner of the newly opened indoor flea market named Rostig at 427 Main Street in Reinbeck. Rostig offers an eclectic variety of antiques and collectibles from here, there and everywhere. – Photo by Darvin Graham

With the emergence of Iowa-based TV shows like American Pickers and West End Salvage in the early 2010s, the state of Iowa has become a focal point for the antique and collectible picking industry.

In late 2021 Todd Eckhart opened up what could become Reinbeck’s claim within the Iowa picker landscape.

Last year Eckhart purchased the former location of the Country Closet clothing and variety store at the intersection of Main Street and Blackhawk Street in downtown Reinbeck.

The commercial building was reopened in November as Rostig, an indoor flea market where old meets new and there’s a little bit of everything for everybody.

Much of what is for sale could be considered antiques or collectibles that customers seek for their own personal collections or for home and business decor.

Eckhart took over the building from long-time owners Jim and Donna Grupp who operated the Country Closet business locally since 1981.

Eckhart, like the Grupp Family, is a Reinbeck resident by way of Vinton. He recently returned to the area after retiring from the construction trade in 2018.

As an avid hobbyist collector, Eckhart saw an opportunity to merge passion with enterprise when he came across the two-story brick building on Main Street.

Another passtime Eckhart enjoys is big game hunting, which can take him to all corners of the country. He said he always makes time to go out picking to help build or freshen up his inventory.

The name Rostig comes from the German term for rust. Eckhart said he enjoys the look and feel of worn and weathered decor and wanted to tie that in with the heritage of the town along with some of his own family’s German heritage.

Since opening in November he said business has picked up gradually with shoppers coming in from as far out as Omaha.

Military items from World I and World II have been among the most popular things he’s seen come and go from the shelves so far.

He described the generational differences he sees in his customers as they interact and relate to the items he sells from various bygone eras.

“As younger baby boomers, we know what this stuff is,” Eckhart said. “You know, my kids don’t even know what Avon is. I can still remember the Avon lady coming once a week to the house and I had to go outside and play for an hour while my mom entertained her.”

By comparison Eckhart said the Gen-X and Millennial generations are similarly interested in things like video games and Star Wars and have an indifference to memorabilia from the decades pre-1980.

“I’ll get young people in here and they’ll see a piece that has a color they like,” Eckhart said. They like it for the color, for the shape. They don’t care about the history. They just like the piece for what it is.”

At present Rostig boasts an inventory of around 725 items large and small, with prices ranging from $1 to $3,000.

Taking a couple laps around the show floor might turn up vintage signs, Hayden Fry Era Hawkeye memorabilia, antique hand tools, a haunted doll, Depression Era cookware, old campaign buttons, handmade pieces from local woodworker Dave Norman, mounted steer horns and a taxidermied rattlesnake.

For some, shopping at places like Rostig is purely a fun and casual way to spice up the living room wall or add a conversation piece to the coffee table.

For others, it can be about finding a tangible connection with a long-lost memory.

“I want to do business with people in person,” Eckhart said. “I get a big kick out of watching somebody pick something up they really connect with. They’ll hold it real close and they’ll almost not want to put it on the counter to pay for it, they just want to keep holding it. There’s nothing I like better than to hear somebody say, ‘Oh, my grandmother had one of those.’ You know, it’s just it’s all about the memories. In the end, that’s all we got is the memories.”

Rostig is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at their downtown Reinbeck location at 427 Main St. For information call 319-529-0004.

When Eckhart is not working behind the counter at Rostig he spends much of the rest of his week picking more inventory either online or at estate sales and auctions.

He said those looking to check out the story could expect to see new items on the shelf every couple weeks. Within the next few weeks Rostig will feature a furniture room with hand-picked furniture items and later this spring Eckhart hopes to add an architectural salvage area for more specific decor items.