Wye Road home to mid-century modern furniture shop

by Sheldon Ocker

The first thing you notice is the name: RUST. You look around for a 1954 Studebaker or a Plymouth with sketchy paint and holes in the doors. Upon closer inspection, the sign also says Modern Home, resulting in the name of Bath Township’s newest retail business.

Jessica Donaldson and Regan Boothe are the owners of RUST Modern Home, housed in a store that possibly dates to the 1870s, at 794 Wye Rd., next to the Bake Shop.

Inside is an ever-changing collection of furniture, wall hangings, art works, smaller items, rugs and even a few books. Donaldson and Boothe have packed a lot of inventory into 800 square feet, divided into three rooms.

But why RUST?

“I tend more toward industrial and vintage [furniture],’’ Donaldson said. “Regan tends more toward mid-century modern. RUST Modern Home is kind of a mix of those.’’

Almost nothing in the store is new except the two moms as entrepreneurs.

Donaldson has four children between the ages of 6 and 11; Boothe has three kids ranging from 7-12. Shortly after they moved to Bath, the pandemic shut down the world. The women live across the street from one another and spent most of the time raising their children (Donaldson home-schooled hers). But they also became friends, as did their children. When the cloud of COVID-19 began to lift, Boothe and Donaldson decided to go into business together.

“This was our first step into being more than moms,’’ said Donaldson. RUST is open Thursday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on the first and third Sunday of the month from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The limited hours are an acknowledgement that the business partners haven’t abandoned responsibilities as mothers.

“So we’re easing into this slowly,’’ Donaldson said.

They could have started another sort of venture, but they made an effort to join their strengths.

“I’ve been going to garage sales with my mom since forever,’’ Donaldson said. “Regan can build anything. She’s more into the repurposing side of things. She can refinish or repurpose furniture. She’s redone every house [her family] lived in and a lot of the house they live in now. And she does it herself.’’

The emphasis on vintage and mid-century modern furniture is more than personal preference for Donaldson. It’s a sound business.

“Any and all mid-century modern furniture is really popular right now,’’ she said. “We had a small hutch that we sold online before we even opened the store. The art we have has been more popular than we expected, and we’ve already had to replenish it. Small things like vases and pottery have also been popular.’’

The store opened the first week of March and already there have been surprises.

“It seems like every week I would answer the question of ‘what’s popular’ differently,’’ Donaldson said. “One week everyone wanted furniture. … The first two weeks everybody bought candles and candlesticks and small decorative items. Rugs were really popular last week. We didn’t sell a rug for three weeks, then we sold three in one day.’’

Acquiring inventory is time-consuming. Donaldson and Boothe scour estate sales, online auctions and depend on word-of-mouth, hoping to learn about liquidations and home auctions from realtors.

“That’s the trickiest part of what we’re doing,’’ Donaldson said. ∞