Iron Age expands to Issaquah, finds early success

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ISSAQUAH - Barb Margolis never thought seriously about the Iron Age store getting any bigger than its simple, homey shop on North Bend Way.

She had been approached by people wanting the store to set up shop at other locales in the region, but the North Bend store has sentimental value for her and her husband Steve.

The couple, who live in North Bend, opened the store in 1996 to sell items they had collected from Mexico while working for Alaska Airlines, along with Steve's own iron works.

They went through pains to restore the once vacant building to its original 1920s design, an effort that won them a state award for historical restoration. The store has a pergola fashioned by Steve's father and originally featured a working iron shop in the back so people could watch the work being made.

"We never thought about expanding," Barb said. "That store is very special to us."

That was until Ruth Mohl came in and asked them to open up a store in Issaquah. Mohl, who built the Gilman Village shopping center in Issaquah with her husband Marvin in 1973, was looking for a tenant to replace a popular garden store that left the facility after the owner got sick. She had seen advertisements for the Iron Age in the Issaquah Press newspaper and came out to North Bend to check it out.

"When I walked into their place, I was just astonished," Mohl said. "I was unbelievably impressed."

Mohl asked the Margolises about opening up a store in Issaquah. They agreed they could do it and after hashing out some agreements with the management, started a frantic but successful move.

"We worked hard to get it open in a couple weeks," Barb said.

The store opened on Nov. 9 and Barb said business has been good. Gilman Village is part of Issaquah's almost constantly busy retail area and lots of traffic goes through the shops.

Located in a big red barn set back from the busy retail strip along Gilman Boulevard, the store has been getting lots of visitors despite its lack of signage and visibility from the passing road.

The eclectic works that have added to the North Bend location's success also cover the new store, from the trademark iron statues to stones for the garden.

There is even an upper loft illuminated with sun light that features the work of toy airplanes, paintings and lamps that look like hanging peppers.

"We are always looking for something different," Mohl said. "They [the Margolises] had a lot of different things."

Connections built from years of searching for the right items to sell helped the Margolises build up their inventory. Their featured work comes from artists all over Washington, including some whose work has been spotlighted at Seattle galleries.

"We've been able to meet artists from all over the place," Barb said. "As soon as people found out about us, we got a lot of calls from people wanting to bring us their work."

Barb said she and her husband now might look seriously into opening another location. They had been asked to open stores all over the state but are now thinking about a possible Tacoma location, depending on how the economy goes this year.

For the time being, though, there is plenty to do at two stores. Despite being the smaller of the two, Barb said the North Bend location will remain the flagship store.

"We just love it there," she said.

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