The oldest brick building in Montgomery, built in 1880, has been everything from a saloon to a harness shop to a place where small engines are repaired.

That same building, renamed the Rustic Farmer, now welcomes clients to host special events.

Julie Bifano and Scott Stasney purchased the building at 209 First St. S two years ago. Since then, they’ve restored the interior, keeping the old-fashioned ambiance. The venue holds up to 49, and Bifano said customers look for almost any excuse to rent the space.

“We’re excited about the response that we’ve gotten to date,” said Bifano. “We’re getting quite a number of calls. We’ve had two baby showers, a couples shower, and a 97th birthday party. It’s endless the things people are thinking about.”

Outside, Bifano said the signage painted on the building a few decades ago, which hadn’t been visible for 30 years, has been touched up for the time being.

Unique features inside the space add a touch of nostalgia. Holes in the walls indicate where a coal stove served as a heating source years ago. Black and white photos on one wall show the former F.J. Turek Harness Shop, and exterior shots depict Kolacky Days in the 1930s. Other photographs, more modern than the others, show animals on Stasney’s family farm.

Bifano acquired the bar in the Rustic Farmer from a Montgomery auction barn before purchasing the building. Originally, the Stahl House in Mankato was home to the bar in the 1800s. An old-fashioned cash register from the same era and a dial phone are items Bifano purchased for show.

Although she’s decorated the venue for fall, Bifano said she has Christmas trees and winter trinkets on deck for when the season changes.

Bifano and Stasney customize the Rustic Farmer to fulfill their customers’ needs and expectations. Recently, they partnered with a local pizzeria to host a baby shower. Posy Floral and Gifts provided the flower arrangements for the tables, but the Rustic Farmer also provides decorations if customers don’t involve other businesses. Since the Rustic Farmer has a full liquor license, customers might request a bartender for events if they wish.

“Right now we don’t have a kitchen available, so another driving force is [customers] can choose their own caterer,” said Bifano. “They can have it catered by anyone they want. From a cost standpoint I think it’s important to give people that option.”

Bifano cultivated relationships with other business owners even before opening the Rustic Farmer. She sees the party vendor as an opportunity for everyone to “leverage each other.”

Beyond the intent to house special events for customers, Bifano and Stasney also plan to use the Rustic Farmer as an entertainment venue for musicians, comedians and other performers. Their goal is to give area residents the type of experiences offered in the Twin Cities. Bifano said these ticketed events will likely start in winter, when people want reasons to get out of the house.

Coming up in November, Bifano and Stasney will host a pop-up retail venue for anyone who wants to look at the space. They’re also organizing an artisan day as part of Small Business Saturday. The pair picked local artisans to sell their wares at this event, which Rustic Farmers hosts Nov. 24.

Still further in the future, Bifano and Stasney intend to turn the space above the venue into a European-style nightly lodging called the Czech Inn. The building next door they plan to transform into an event center. Decisions for these concepts must first align with Historical Preservation standards before being applied to the buildings.

“Scott and I both have day jobs, so this is a labor of love,” said Bifano. “What we’re doing with this building and the building next door is what we’re viewing as our legacy. We want to have something sustainable beyond our time here.”

Reporter Misty Schwab can be reached at 507-744-2551. Follow her on Twitter @APGmisty.

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