WINTHROP — When Darlene Steele was young and her foster parents couldn’t afford accessories for her Barbie doll, she took wooden fruit boxes and made them into doll houses.

Last winter, when Steele was looking for a new space to house her business, she and her husband, Matt Steele, bought an old doctor’s office at 220 Main St. For the last four months, Steele has been doing to that office what she did to those fruit boxes years ago: renovating it and putting it to a new purpose. The space once belonged to family doctor Stanley Painter.

Steele sells secondhand and consignment goods, as well as decorations and housewares that she herself has crafted from used items: aprons cut out of men’s dress shirts, license plates shaped into dustpans, “pet condos” made from old television sets.

“I’ve always been artistic, and I grew up poor,” Steele said. “So I’ve always been the make-do kind of gal.”

Steele’s work on the building and property is far from complete — a lavender-colored excavator was recently doing work on her driveway, and paint was still drying on her floor — but on Saturday, she will open Main Street Mercantile for the first time. It will be a size up from the store she used to run on Depot Street.

Main Street Mercantile is just the latest in a wave of secondhand businesses that have relocated to downtown spaces that once served other purposes.

Also on Saturday, Cindy Gervais will be holding a grand opening at the new location of Vintage Collectibles & Indoor Market, a business she started last year and more recently decided to move into the town’s old post office at 129 Main St. Gervais had been in the building next door, but wanted more space.

And last April, Ann Nault moved her two-year old thrift store, Shoppers Basement Unlimited, into 5 Union St., a space that once served as a bowling alley, movie theater, car dealership and karate studio — though not all at once.

“It’s got some pretty cool history,” Nault said of her new digs.

The new secondhand businesses join more established ones such as Becky’s Second Time Around and Lakeside Antiques and Collectibles.

That means more competition, but each of the newer arrivals expressed some version of the view that “more is merrier.”

“We’re all different enough that we complement each other,” Steele said. “If I don’t have it, I’m going to tell them about the other spots.”

Steele said her inventory may appeal more to younger families getting started in a new home, but who appreciate quality products. She gets many of her items from estate sales, including old tools and appliances that are in good condition, furniture, some clothes and more decorative items. She also makes her own crafts — some of them rather quirky — and carries products on consignment from area artists.

Down the road, Gervais, at Vintage Collectibles, said she gets a wide range of customers, but that many seem to fall in the 30s and 40s age range. She carries vintage and antique furniture, kitchenware, glassware, artwork and decorations. Much of it she gets from auctions. She also rents out room to other vendors and holds workshops on painting old furniture.

Shoppers Basement Unlimited is more of a thrift store, according to Nault, who also gets her stuff at auctions and rents out space to vendors. She carries clothes, books, knives and other items. She said the low prices are probably what sets her business apart.

Like Steele, both Nault and Gervais welcomed the company. According to Nault, the more secondhand businesses that are here, the more shoppers may be drawn to Winthrop, knowing that they’ll have options.

While there have been a handful of secondhand stores in Winthrop ever since Sarah Fuller moved here 10 years ago, she also supports the new crop.

“It’s always good to have businesses locating in our downtown area,” said Fuller, president of the Winthrop Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce board and chairwoman of the Town Council. “I think they serve a really critical part of the market. I certainly welcome them and hope that they’re successful.”

At the same time, Fuller said, she would like there to be fewer empty storefronts around town and hopes a larger variety of businesses can start here in the coming years. Some restaurants have come to town recently, but Fuller said a greater mix of retail, art, dining and activities will be needed, particularly with the closure of Apple Valley Books last summer.

To that end, the town recently formed a committee to support local businesses and attract newer ones.

“You can’t be everything to everyone, but you want to have enough that you can draw people from around the region,” Fuller said.

Indeed, according to Gervais, for many younger people, and even a few older people, quality antiques will never rival the new, cheap and easy-to-transport furniture available at stores such as Ikea — and unavailable in small towns like Winthrop.

“You’re going to get those people who just don’t like this kind of stuff,” she said. “But I think there’s a market out there for both.”

Besides re-purposing empty storefronts, there’s another, less obvious strength to the fledgling businesses that have been taking shape in Winthrop, according to Gervais: Many are run by women.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

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Twitter: @ceichacker