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Iowa pickers

Posted May 07, 2014 in Community Featured, Greene County

Shawn and Jennie Olson of Jefferson may be transplanted Californians, but these all-American pickers call Greene County their home.

The Olson family, originally from California, started life over in Jefferson.

The Olson family, originally from California, started life over in Jefferson.

They came to the area with their worldly possession to start over through the good will of a friend who already lived in Jefferson.

The couple had a successful metal fabrication shop in California. Then Shawn contracted the West Nile Virus. The virus nearly killed him and left him unable to work for a year. He sold the business.

The couple had for a number of years been coming to Iowa to find “junk” and antiques out of which they made “steam punk” lamps and other items out of repurposed material such as gears from old agricultural machinery.

They took their finds back to Riverside, California, where they would sell their creations and the refurbished antiques.

Their friend in Jefferson suggested they move to Greene County and helped them get started over by selling the couple a used Dodge pickup truck on payments.

“We were literally starting over with the truck and our business,” Jennie says. “Four years later, we have a little home on Chestnut Street and a store right here in Jefferson.”

The store they now have open, called Roadside Relics, is filled with antiques, refurbished and repurposed items, such as the steam punk lamps, giant antique gas pumps that go from floor to ceiling and much more.

Shawn and Jennie like the idea that the building has its own history. It has had many lives, the most recent one a restaurant before the Olsons purchased it. However, the building started its life as a gas station.

Another point of pride for Jennie is that Shawn, and now their son, Shawn Jr., are members of the local fire department. Shawn Jr., his sister, Merissa, and their families followed the couple to Jefferson after Shawn Sr. and Jennie moved two years ago.

Shawn Sr. couldn’t be happier about the move.

The couple still goes to California to sell their wares and do shows about once every three months. They also do shows in Iowa. Additionally, they have sold some of their creations and refurbished items to West End Salvage in downtown Des Moines.

“We looked at a number of the small towns around here, but some of them seemed too small. Jefferson is small, but it still has things, such as a grocery store and parks,” Shawn Sr. says. “California is so fast-paced and noisy and busy. It is really hectic to live in California,” he says.

Would you like your home featured in this column in an upcoming issue of Greene County Living? If so, email Darren Tromblay at

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