Born in a Barn
Popular Knox Shop Sells Antiques, Furniture, Collectibles & More
Writer / Angela Cornell
Photographer / Jubilee Edgell
It started with an old barn that Jerry Cooley and his brother tore down in 1976. After dividing the lumber, Jerry made his share into cabinets. It didn’t take long for him to discover that he loved building with reclaimed wood and people in the area quickly realized he was a gifted carpenter.
Eventually, it became a side business.
“We were doing a lot of festivals, selling the barnwood cabinets and frames,” Jerry says. “We had to have a name of a business for taxes. So we just came up with ‘Born in a Barn’ since most of our stuff at that time was made out of barn siding.”
By 1985, Jerry had married the love of his life, Vicki.
“One of the reasons we got married was so we would quit bidding against each other at the auctions,” Jerry jokes.
At first, they bought antiques as accessories to accent Jerry’s cabinets, so it didn’t take long for the word to get around that the Cooleys were in the market.
“People would call us. Maybe it was a small estate and they don’t want to have an auction or they don’t want people coming in. We still get calls,” Vicki says.
From festivals and flea markets, the business expanded into different antique malls in the area until the Cooleys opened a shop in an old rental home.
“Our last downstairs renters gave us notice that they were going to move,” Jerry says. “We had always talked about having our own shop. And then we did.”
After remodeling the rental home into a storefront, they officially opened their doors as Born in a Barn Antiques in October 2005.
“I would go in there after work sometimes and work in the shop,” Vicki says. “I would be in there until 1:00 in the morning, but I enjoyed doing it. It was a happy time.”
Now that both Vicki and Jerry are retired they get to spend more time with Born in a Barn, which today features fewer barnwood cabinets and more antiques. They also sell homemade jams, jellies and honey along with locally-made crafts.
“We advertise that we have new stuff, old stuff and some downright ugly stuff,” says Vicki with a smile.
Since the Cooleys are collectors at heart, it’s no surprise that they have a wide range of furniture, tools, toys, glassware and collectibles.
Most of the time, when the Cooleys purchase an antique, it’s because it fascinates them.
“It’s all stuff that we like or we wouldn’t have bought it,” Jerry says.
However, it’s not uncommon for them to find an item that a customer has requested, something the Cooleys keep track of on a small Rolodex.
“We try to stay on the lookout for what people want,” Vicki says.
In the antique market, making a living can be difficult, which is why Born in a Barn has expanded to include other items. The Cooleys have discovered that collectibles in particular, like older advertising clocks, Boardwalk Originals and paintings by Indiana artists make the business possible. However, they rarely have a constant inventory.
“It varies,” Vicki says. “What I think is interesting right now may not be in there by tomorrow.”
Although most of what is featured in Born in a Barn is for sale, some items belong to the Cooleys and are only on display.
“Above our counter, there’s a shelf there that has things from my childhood,” Jerry says. “I have a little red toy barn that my dad made out of an orange crate. I remember him making it when I was about 12 years old. We have things up on the shelf that, at one time or another, got broke or don’t work. You hate to throw them away, but you won’t be able to sell it if it has a crack. So we have stuff like that up on a shelf that’s fun to look at but really not for sale.”
The Cooleys are passionate about their hometown and their work. Everything they do, though, stems from a foundation of faith in Jesus Christ.
“We owe it all to Him,” Jerry says. “We’re not bragging about what we’ve done. We’re bragging about what he’s done for us.”
Born in a Barn antiques is located at 302 N. Heaton St. in Knox. Their hours are 10 AM to 4 PM Thursday through Saturday or by appointment. Give them a call at 574-772-3802 for more information.