Picking, painting and passing it on: Apple Valley sisters renew old furniture

  • Article by: LIALA HELAL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 3, 2013 - 6:41 PM

Two sisters are teaming up to run an Apple Valley store that turns old furniture into refurbished treasures.

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Patti Donahue-Peltz, known as “the painter sister,” demonstrated how to refinish furniture to a class at the Next Act furniture store that she runs in Apple Valley.

Photo: Photos by Bruce Bisping • bbisping@startribune.com,

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Patti Donahue-Peltz swears by baby wipes.

She regularly makes trips to Sam’s Club to stock up. But babies are the furthest thing from the 59-year-old’s mind.

“I love them because then I can tell exactly what it’s going to look like,” she said as she wiped the moist sheets over an old chair she chalk-painted red and sanded to distress and reveal snippets of a turquoise layer of paint underneath.

The baby wipes show her what the piece will look like once it’s waxed. “I’m a visual girl. You can tell me about it forever, but if I see it, I will remember,” she said at a recent painting workshop.

Donahue-Peltz is the creative side of Apple Valley’s Next Act, a store that sells refurbished and repurposed old, vintage or antique furniture and decor. She comes full circle and teaches people how to do it themselves.

She’s known as “the painter sister.” Her younger sister, Nancy Donahue, 56, owns the shop and is known as “the picker sister.”

The two moved to Burnsville more than 40 years ago from Massachusetts, graduated from Burnsville High School and married men from Burnsville. The duo opened Next Act just nine months ago at the Time Square Shopping Center.

“People avoid working with their siblings. I find that bizarre, because I never considered working with anyone but you,” Donahue said to the painter sister on a recent morning.

“They ask us all the time, ‘Why would you work with your sister?’ Well, why not? We have a 56-year history. We giggle at the same things, we mock the same things. And we fight, because we’re sisters.”

Donahue-Peltz chimed in with a smile. “It works quite well, because you’re not afraid to say what you think. What’s she going to do, leave you?”

As the picker sister, Donahue looks for things that can be accented and pieces that have structure and versatility. All pieces are local.

She goes to garage sales, flea markets, estate sales and auctions, and she occasionally shops online auctions. Some of their business comes from people bringing their own furniture to be refinished.

The pieces are picked very selectively — no “funky junk,” Donahue-Peltz explained.

“We try to keep it out of the landfills and give it a fresh look — a next act,” Donahue-Peltz said.

Both are self-taught in the business.

When picking, Donahue keeps in mind what would go along with the pieces the store already has and what could be offered affordably to college students or seniors downsizing to a smaller home.

“It’s the fun of the hunt,” Donahue said. “It’s like putting a big puzzle together.”

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  • Nancy Donahue, Patti’s younger sister, is known as “the picker sister” and owns the shop, which opened nine months ago in the Time Square Shopping Center. Nancy looks for pieces at garage sales, flea markets and estate sales.

  • From left, Sharon Brunet of Burnsville, Sandy Pastucha of Farmington and Denise Hall of Eagan listened to Donahue-Peltz at a workshop on repainting and refurbishing furniture. “You get so many ideas when you come here,” Pastucha said about the store.

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