backroads nets

In the interest of transparency, let it be known that Net’s Old Barn Antiques in Madison is not in an old barn. The building started life as a service station and garage, and has served other purposes.

However, it does seem appropriate that Annette Hassenstab, who started her antique business on a farm, has ended up in a structure resembling a barn. “Net” has been in Madison four-and-a-half years, but has been in the antique business 23 years.

“I wasn’t even into antiques,” she said. “When we bought a farm place near Clarkfield, some previous owners left some antiques they didn’t want. I started selling them and that’s how I got hooked. I got to like antiques as well as make a business out of them.”

After selling off of the farm for a while, she had stores in Green Valley and Wabasso. After her husband died she eventually met another man and that’s what brought her to Madison. It just worked out that the antique store owner was ready and willing to sell when she broached the subject with him.

At the Old Barn you find all of the items you would expect: glassware, toys, tools, kitchen items, furniture, hats — and some you wouldn’t expect. There is a wooden milk cooler that looks like a large round tub and would be hooked up to a well, using water to cool the milk. She also has a Holden’s Ideal Corn Tester used to select your seed corn. Patented by Prof. Holden, the unit has trays with 100 cells each. You put kernels from individual ears in each cell along with water and wait to see which ones germinate. Those are the ears you use for seed.

 “I specialize in variety,” she said, and her huge inventory backs up that statement. Despite the expansive building, some items must be displayed outside. That includes horse-drawn machinery, like a potato planter. In fact, her inventory is so large that people come in looking for parts.

If you want to examine everything, don’t be in a hurry.

“My record for customers spending time is five hours,” she said. “They left to go and eat and came back, but it was five hours.”

Net’s Old Barn Antiques is at 101 8th Ave. in Madison (along U.S. Hwy. 75 at its junction with State Hwy. 40). She is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, or by appointment. The business phone is (320) 598-3669; cell: (507) 530-0312.