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The Old-Fashioned Way 

Two shops making old new again

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The Back Porch

1380 Ninth St., Arcata

Open Friday and Saturday, 10 am–5 pm or by appointment.

Locals remember when you could go down to the old recycling center in Arcata and get a door, or an old sink, or some random wood for a project you dreamed up that morning. Well you can again, except it's nicer and the project is already made for you.

At The Back Porch, where the recycling center used to be, you'll find cabinets, tables, bird feeders and many other useful items, each one individually designed by owner Martin Ludtke. Most of the furniture is constructed from older components and made "new" again but with an antique feel. "I'd say about 75 to 80 percent of the materials are old growth or salvaged materials," says Ludtke. No plywood, plastic or pressboard is found in his creations. "I'm always looking for new ideas, kind of based on what they did in the old days. I've always done some form of this, collecting and fixing up, so building from scratch is kind of new, and was a learning curve for me to figure out how to do it right."

Ludtke forages throughout Northern California and Oregon for gems — old doors, antique furniture and hardware in need of some love (the older the better, and turn-of-the century items are just right), old growth redwood and anything else that might work to restore an old piece and give it new life.

The Back Porch was one of the first new businesses to open in the blossoming Creamery Arts District of Arcata, home to the Arcata Playhouse, Holly Yashi, Bang! Bang! and Wrangletown Cider, to name a few. The store is only open Fridays and Saturdays, and it's well worth spending some time there on a weekend. Oh, and snap a selfie with the Playhouse's giant, polka-dotted giraffe on wheels while you're there.

Just My Type

501 Third St., Old Town Eureka

Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 am–5:30 pm

In the newly restored Carson Block Building of Eureka, you'll find people engaging in the lost art of letterpress. Well, maybe not so lost anymore. Lynn Jones, who co-owns Just My Type Letterpress Paperie with fellow printer Siobhan Ayres, says the craft has been making a comeback in the past 10 years, and many of the printers are women in their 20s and 30s.

Letterpress was the ubiquitous printing technique for roughly 500 years until offset printing came along in the 1950s. Letterpress involves printing off of a raised surface. The great, heavy machines press a backward image into the paper with ink. "These days we can use plastic plates to do the printing," says Jones. Plastic is much more durable than lead or wood, which used to be the industry standard. As she showed me around the store, she reassured me that most people who come into the shop don't know anything about letterpress printing. "Every visit is like a little tour," she explained.

Just My Type uses a 1920s letterpress to print formal paper items such as wedding invitations, birth announcements, stationery, greeting cards, business cards, thank-you cards, shipping cards for Internet sales and limited edition art prints. They also print all of the packaging for locally made Dick Taylor Chocolates. Visitors can check out the antique letterpress machines that are on display in the store. And business seems to be going well. "We've only been open here since the middle of December," said Jones, "but we've already done four weddings."

The store also sells stationary, gifts, pencils and upcycled and new T-shirts. The owners plan to expand into offering printmaking paper, blocks, ink and other art supplies, and soon you'll be able to take classes in block carving, printing, and the basics of letterpress.

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