Rustic Romance owner in Millers Falls closes ‘incredible chapter’ with retirement

Antiques formerly on display at Rustic Romance in Millers Falls. The store closed on Saturday.

Antiques formerly on display at Rustic Romance in Millers Falls. The store closed on Saturday. COURTESY PHOTO/RUSTIC ROMANCE

CINDY BAYER

CINDY BAYER

Antiques formerly on display at Rustic Romance in Millers Falls. The store closed on Saturday.

Antiques formerly on display at Rustic Romance in Millers Falls. The store closed on Saturday. COURTESY PHOTO/RUSTIC ROMANCE

By GRACE LEE

For the Recorder

Published: 03-04-2024 2:16 PM

Modified: 03-04-2024 3:51 PM


MILLERS FALLS — Rustic Romance closed its doors at 26 East Main St. on Saturday, with owner Cindy Bayer heading into retirement after years spent selling uniquely curated antique home decorations to the community.

Bayer served as a kindergarten teacher and caregiver for more than 30 years before she embarked on starting her own business. Rustic Romance operated out of a barn on Leyden Road in Greenfield for five years before relocating to the Millers Falls storefront about three and a half years ago.

“I just kind of fell into [interior decorating] by chance,” Bayer said. “I had an opportunity to create a new chapter in my life and I took it.”

According to the Rustic Romance website, after a decade and a half of not opening her Greenfield barn, Bayer got together with some girlfriends one day and started sorting through the forgotten goods of the past that she was storing. She began selling the items on Facebook and other avenues, and realized there was a real market for the items.

Selling and picking antique goods became Bayer’s newfound passion. The experience “has been amazing,” she said.

Bayer announced her retirement on Rustic Romance’s Facebook page on Feb. 15.

“From the moment I decided to retire, I knew that sharing the news with my Rustic Romance family would be a very important and emotional step,” she wrote. “After all, Rustic Romance has been an incredible chapter in my life! I built Rustic Romance from the ground up, creating a much-loved shop filled with curated farm finds, antiques, vintage treasures, furniture and home decor. It has been an amazing journey that has forever changed my life — from barn sales to vintage markets to my shop in Millers Falls — Rustic Romance has brought me an unforgettable lifetime of friendships and joy.

“I am choosing to retire at the top of my game, knowing in my heart that I have created a very successful small business, of which I am immensely proud,” she continued. “I’ve accomplished far more than I ever imagined.”

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Bayer said she plans to spend her retirement surrounded by family.

“I’m looking forward to much more family time,” Bayer said. “Sunday dinners, birthday parties and traveling with my husband.”

Bayer said her store drew in both locals and shoppers from as far as New York City, Boston and Virginia who were looking for a specific and authentic rustic look. She loved interacting with fellow antique pickers over the years.

Helping customers curate their homes will be the aspect of the business that Bayer misses most, she said.

“People would come in, they would have pictures of their dining room or their living room or their mantel, and they would want it to look like something that I have available in the store,” Bayer said.

During her time running the store, Bayer focused on finding one-of-a-kind items.

“We [sold] a mix of antique vintage foreign finds and new items,” Bayer explained. “I have characters who work for me from coast to coast that find specific items for me.”

Bayer’s husband, Hugh Campbell, did all the furniture refinishing by hand.

“That’s been huge,” Bayer said, “because his furniture is beautiful and it’s really sought after.”

Bayer said that like all small businesses, Rustic Romance faced challenges from time to time, but that economic hardship is not the reason behind closing the store. She believes the uniqueness of her store’s inventory allowed for her business to thrive and resonate with shoppers.

“I am going to treasure all the conversations and all the times that I was able to help someone find just the perfect piece or create a tablescape or mantelscape in their home,” Bayer said. “I am really going to miss that part of it.”