Antiques Give Grain Bins New Life
In the hills south of North Platte is evidence of what happens when an idea comes to life.
Grain Bin Antique Town is one of those small treasures you just about have to get lost to find. It is a collection of 16 octagonal, Depression-era grain bins, each filled with a carefully curated selection of antiques and linked by a wooden boardwalk made from antique timbers.
Husband and wife team Pat and Lori Clinch run Grain Bin Antique Town in the rolling hills south of North Platte. The landscape is quintessentially western Nebraska, with rolling pastures, scrubby shrubs and grasses. It’s quiet and peaceful on the top of the hill with the bins, and the Clinches say they often see people just sitting on the benches enjoying the serenity.
Though the paint is flaking off in places on the outside, there is warmth to the bins – if history has a smell, this is it. This place wouldn’t be the same if the paint were white-washed new. The bins’ old wooden insides have been polished and preserved by years of grains rubbing oil into the planks. Back in the 1930s these bins were distributed to farmers in the Midwest as a way to encourage farmers to store grain, as opposed to selling grain crops all at once. Now these bins are used to house the mementos of the past.
Each bin has its own unique grouping of antiques, each telling a story.
Tables are covered by antique plates and crocks. Vintage cabinets and cupboards host mismatched cups, cranberry colored glass and rustic goods. Mid-century trinkets find their way into any remaining space, but nothing is cramped or stuffy.
“I grew up with antiques,” Lori said. “And even before we started the business, Pat and I used to go antiquing.”
For the Clinches, Grain Bin Antique town started with just one bin.
“We would use it as an outdoor sitting room,” she said. “We would put wicker furniture in it and sit outside and just look out over the hills.”
On their way to western Nebraska for an entirely different errand, the Clinches saw the 15 additional bins near Hayes Center. No one was home when they stopped, so Lori took down the name on the mail box and sent the owners of the bins a letter explaining her interest. A few days later the owners called the Clinches back.
“We were on our way to look at the bins, because I thought we were going to get them for some friends,” Lori said, “and when we got in the car, Pat says, ‘I think we should keep them and turn it into an antique shop.’ ”
Originally Lori figured the Grain Bin Antique Town would a small part-time business, open only by appointment. But the reality turned out way more amazing than they dreamed, Lori said.
As it turns out, their idea caught on and business has been constant ever since. Customers have been everyone from Red Hat Ladies to travel groups, all looking to explore the remnants of the past.
The building of Antique Town isn’t finished yet, either. The Clinches still are on the lookout for wooden grain bins in good repair. Their dream is to eventually have their boardwalk illuminated with antique lights so it will look like a little town.
“People love the history of this place and the antiques here,” Lori said. “Hardly anyone leaves without finding something that speaks to them.”
Kids run up and down the boardwalk, listening to their feet pound on the wooden boards. Their parents wander through each bin looking for a little piece of the experience to take home with them.
Lori thinks back to how the whole experiment began – the chance finding of the 15 bins in good condition, the call back from the previous owners and Pat’s epiphany to open an antique business. “I guess God just wanted us to have an antique store,” Lori said.
Address: 10641 S. Old Highway 83 Rd
Phone: (308) 539-7401
Hours of Operation: Wed-Sat, 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m.