A handwritten message on the front door of Farmhouse Antiques and Vintage cautions customers as they come inside.

“Please don’t let the cat out,” it says.

Because on the other side of the door is Main Street — a busy thoroughfare dotted with motorists whose only focus is getting to their destination and not a cat who befell into traffic.

But in all honesty, that cat, a cuddly one-year-old named Red, isn’t making a break for it most days. Though he often darts across the sales floor, the orange and white feline only usually ambles toward the door when he’s greeting customers.

Dawn Ferguson, Farmhouse owner, said her cat, which she rescued from Prairie Paws Animal Shelter, is not just well-known among her customers, but is truly loved.

“People just come by to get their Red fix,” she said.

Ferguson, who opened the business in January 2018, decided to venture into retail after the owner of the former business, Christy’s Market Antiques, decided to close shop.

“The owner kiddingly teased me about taking it over,” she said. “I thought I would do something once I retired, but I’m doing it earlier than planned.”

For four years, Ferguson was a vendor, painting and selling furniture she repurposed in her spare time. But that all changed when she discovered a new paint. She was so impressed she soon became a retailer for the mineral-based paint called Fusion. Today, her shop is stocked with all of the company’s latest colors, brushes and products, which attracts customers from Kansas City and other parts of the country.

“I’m a mentor as well as a merchant,” she said “It’s funny. I found this paint line by Googling ‘the best yellow color paint ever,’ and it came up with the picture of a butter cream. Once I tried it, it was like, where has this paint been all my life?”

Ferguson previously offered classes and will again eventually. Over the years she’s learned the tips and tricks to repurposing furniture, which can be a tricky prospect. One of her biggest tips is to always paint something from the inside out. That way, any mistakes are hidden from view.

“What I do is paint things that need a little TLC,” she said. “I do try to repurpose them, and have people fall in love with that same (piece) in a different way.”

Besides owning a business, Ferguson works weekends at AdventHealth Ottawa. She’s the night shift nursing supervisor - a job she’s had since 1992. While there’s been a lot to learn, she said her customers have made her job a joy.

“Our customers are so nice,” Ferguson said. “And we have fun here. We sell memories. People come in, and they see something and they remember. People tell me stories all the time, and they take their time here.”

“I appreciate that people can talk with me, and we go on this journey to find what they need.”

And while customers can differ on what they are searching for, Ferguson said the current trends she’s seeing include farmhouse and French farmhouse, traditional and mid-century modern. While the farmhouse trend used a muted palette of whites and grays, Ferguson is now seeing pops of color beginning to creep back into home decor.

“We don’t always value the things we should, but it seems like it’s coming back around,” she said. “Especially (women) wanting items that their grandmother had. It’s an interesting market right now. There’s a transition of ages and stages, and there are so many genres: rustic, traditional, Victorian — I could go on and on.”

While her store has an assortment of distinctive items and collectibles, there’s also plenty of furniture. But instead of using a chest of drawers or a hutch in a traditional way, Ferguson said she often encourages customers to think outside the box.

“I try to sell a vision,” she said. “An item doesn’t have to be used in a traditional sense. Instead, I help people think about something in a way they hadn’t before.”

The vibe inside Farmhouse Antiques and Vintage is warm and comfortable — something Ferguson had always wanted to create. For her, it’s all about giving her customers memories.

“It’s been an adventure…an unexpected opportunity,” she said of the business. “It’s been lovely, and really just a nice addition to my life.”

— Farmhouse Antiques and Vintage, 503 N. Main St., is open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday-Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. The store is closed on Tuesday. The phone number is 785-242-4098. The business also has a Facebook page.