Rae Steckler–A Busy Lady!

dia de los Muertos self portraitRae Steckler’s mother, Casey Steckler, opened the Iron Dog Antique shop in Niles 14 years ago. Every October for those 14 years, she and Rae have built a Day of the Dead altar and placed a Catrina in the window of the Iron Dog to honor their Latin blood from her grandmother, Patricia Martin. People who saw the altar often came into the shop to chat and confide that they, too, had altars to their loved ones at home. After a time, locals began to anticipate seeing the altar and Catrina every October in the Iron Dog window.

As locals embraced the custom, Rae thought about starting an altar walk in Niles. Three years ago, she made her love for that Day of the Dead tradition a reality with the first Niles Altar Walk. She was resolved that the tradition be inclusive, so she invited everyone in town to set up altars at their homes or at the Uptown Gallery to honor beloved relatives who had passed on before them. The altar walk became an immediate success! The tradition has grown so much that this year, the Uptown Gallery will also have 10 altars outside in the courtyard, as well as numerous altars inside the gallery.

A tradition that is close to Rae’s heart is now close to all of us in Niles. And she says she could not create the altar walk without the help of the Niles Altar Walk “Skeleton Crew” (and you know who you are!)

In addition to introducing the Niles Altar Walk, Rae was interested in bringing a farmers market to town. She knew the timing was right: The Vine restaurant had opened and was cooking local produce for a menu that appealed to food aficionados from all over the Bay Area; Melissa at Joe’s Corner was serving fresh cheeses, meats, and breads from local producers; and many residents were looking for places to donate the bumper crops of their own home-grown vegetables and fruits.

To establish the market, Rae contacted a promoter who was already successful in creating farmers markets for towns such as Half Moon Bay, Los Gatos, and Carmel. Together, they worked through the city process and put out an invitation to local farmers and food artisans to take part in the Niles Farmers Market. The response has been good, and now every Saturday morning, you will find great organic food and produce, as well as other items, such as organic soaps, and some organic music, awaiting you in booths erected in the parking lot next to the plaza.

Seven years ago, Rae moved to Niles to be closer to the Iron Dog, where she assists her mother, Casey, in making all things beautiful. The shop offers a mix of antiques, from late 19th century to early 20th century, with a fondness for the Art Deco era. Emerging local talent and extraordinary artists are featured and encouraged to show their work at the shop. Artists with a “vintage” feel to their work, as well as Rae’s own Latin-influenced art works, are blended into the mix for a truly diverse selection of antique, Art Deco, and mid-century modern eye candy!

Rae is no rookie to volunteering. She worked for 5 years with SAVE (Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments). In 2011 she joined the Niles Main Street Association board and has been in the midst of volunteering for NMSA events ever since. She has a passion for Niles and a passion for music, culture, good food, and all that makes life just a little more special in this old town!

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