New owners excited to show off Whiffle Tree Mercantile

LeeRoy (far right) and Jan Mootz started Whiffle Tree Antique Mall in February 1992. Last fall, Mootz sold the business to Bobby and Heidi Krum of Amber. Both are lovers of antiques themselves, and look forward to carrying on a great Monticello business tradition. (Photos by Kim Brooks)

Whiffle Tree Mercantile offers visitors and shoppers the “old general store” feeling when they walk in. You’ll find local souvenirs, collectibles, antiques, and more.

Whiffle Tree will offer space to vendors and consigners. One booth contains 3,000 collectible items.
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     In October 2020, Whiffle Tree Antique Mall in Monticello, a staple since early 1992, changed hands. Six months later, the new Whiffle Tree Mercantile is set to open tomorrow, Thursday, April 1.

     Another staple of Whiffle Tree is former owner and self-proclaimed “hello man,” LeeRoy Mootz. While the business is now under new ownership, Bobby and Heidi Krum of Amber, Mootz will remain at the store to help out in any he can.

     Mootz recalled the year he and his wife, Jan, opened the antique business.

     “The day before Christmas 1991, we looked at the building,” he said. “We told our kids about it on Christmas Day, and they were all OK with it. We started working in here the day after Christmas.”

     On Feb. 29, 1992, Whiffle Tree opened its doors, selling antiques and collectibles.

     “Antiques have always been the main drive,” Mootz said, a business he’s been in since the mid-1980s. “They were very much in demand.”

     He said at that time, people enjoyed and wanted refurbished antiques.

     Before the store even opened, Mootz retired as vice president of Monti Implement in February 1985. Both his father and Jan’s were suffering from cancer. Mootz’s father refinished and repaired antique furniture. When he got too sick, that’s when LeeRoy and Jan stepped in.

     “People kept giving us projects to do,” he said after completing those his father started.

     Eventually the Mootzes started buying and selling antiques at various stores and malls. It got to be a lot of traveling, and one night LeeRoy came up with the idea of opening their own antique mall, a centralized location to sell all of their antiques.

     “She was very understanding,” Mootz said of Jan’s commitment to the business.

     When Whiffle Tree opened its doors, Mootz recalled a visit by Melvin Hein of Monticello.

     “He asked what I was going to do,” said Mootz. “I told him I was the ‘hello man.’ Melvin knew Jan was the brains behind the operation.”

     Sadly, Jan passed away in August 2018.

     Last fall, Mootz was approached by someone who had interest in buying his building.

     “I was not ready to quit then,” he said.

     Bobby started paying visits to Whiffle Tree on the weekends, becoming fast friends with LeeRoy. He would help move furniture around and established a Facebook page for the business.

     “He was eager to help,” Mootz said, and was grateful for the assistance.

     The Krums share a passion for collectibles and antiques, much like Mootz. Heidi joked that Bobby is the number-one collector of Amber, Iowa, antiques.

     “Bobby told me if I ever decide to sell the business to call him,” Mootz shared.

     In late August, the Krums and Mootz started having that all-important conversation. And by October, but business was sold.

     “Things moved quickly,” Bobby said.

     Bobby, known as the “mayor of Amber,” and Heidi have been interested in collectible items and nostalgia for about 15 years. They enjoy visiting “general stores” in various towns throughout the country, and in fact, that was their vision for Whiffle Tree Mercantile.

     “We wanted to bring back the old-time feel with a family-oriented business,” Bobby said. “We wanted to make this an experience for people to buy souvenirs.”

     Aside from the various unique souvenir items, the Krums wanted to sell things they look for and purchase while on vacation, things that are not available anywhere else in Monticello. They also have candies, classic toys, a selection of BBQ sauces, jerky, popcorn, chocolates, classic bottled sodas, and more.

     “Antiques are still part of the lineup,” noted Bobby.

     The entire second floor is dedicated to antique furniture and housewares. Whiffle Tree is also offering spots for vendors who want to sell their items, as well as those on consignment. Some of those include: farm toys, toy cars, repurposed décor, advertisement pieces, candles, coins, and so much more. One vendor booth actually contains 3,000 items, all for sale.

     “We wanted to offer a good variety for our shoppers,” Heidi said.

     “We want this to be a destination for people to frequent,” added Bobby.

     The Krums also bought Agnes Duit’s Watkins products to sell, too, adding to the antique feel of the business.

     “This couple will do what Jan wanted done here,” Mootz said of carrying out his wife’s mission. “The name is staying alive. Jan would pat them on the back for a job well done.”

     In fact, it was Jan who came up with the name of the business. “Whiffle tree” refers to a piece of equipment used with horses.

     “We were both farm kids,” Mootz said of knowing old farm equipment.

     Once the Krums took over, there were a lot of renovations that needed to happen before they could even re-open. That’s what took the most time.

     “We wanted to be open car show weekend,” Heidi said of the late-February car show at the fairgrounds in Monticello. “But that didn’t happen.”

     The interior work included tearing up two layers of carpet to expose the original patina flooring. A clear epoxy was applied to the floor to being out the colors from when a John Deere dealership used to be located there. They also eliminated the drop ceiling, upgraded the electric units, redid the duct work, and upgraded to all LED lights.

     “I liked the look of exposed floor joists,” Bobby said. “That drew things out a lot longer.”

     The Krums wanted all of the renovations complete and a place full of inventory before they opened to the public.

     “We’re excited to be part of the business community here, and want people to shop local,” urged Bobby.

     “They’ll be a good addition to the businesses here in Monticello,” remarked Mootz. “They are serious about what they do.”

     The Krums not only work full-time jobs during the week outside of Jones County, but they sell some of their antiques at Vendor Village in Anamosa.

     “We wouldn’t be able to do this without LeeRoy’s mentorship and his insight on so many things,” thanked Bobby.

     “We were put here to help each other,” added Mootz.

     Whiffle Tree Mercantile will be open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.


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