Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Part III From Albert Lea: Antiques & memories October 29, 2015

A Halloween mask for sale at Antiques of the Midwest.

One of several Halloween masks I spotted at Antiques of the Midwest in Albert Lea, Minnesota.

DO YOU REMEMBER your favorite Halloween costume? I do. I dressed like a gypsy, pulling a black cotton skirt striped with vivid hues from my mom’s closet and safety pinning it around my waist. I topped whatever blouse I wore with a winter coat. A thin elastic band on a molded plastic gypsy face mask gripped my head as I peered through cut-out eye holes. Strands of plastic beads swayed from my neck. Bangles danced on my wrists. I felt every part the care-free gypsy.

Clown masks can be scary or fun, depending.

Clown masks can be scary or fun, depending.

Memories of my brief gypsy life flitted through my thoughts as I perused Antiques of the Midwest in historic downtown Albert Lea. Among all of the merchandise in this sprawling shop, I spotted several Halloween masks. And that sparked the playback of childhood memories.

Three stacks of JC Penney catalogs dating back to the 1940s are available for purchase at Antiques of the Midwest.

Three stacks of JC Penney catalogs dating back to the 1940s are available for purchase at Antiques of the Midwest.

An Archie mask for sale.

An Archie mask for sale.

Vintage clothing proved fun to peruse.

Vintage clothing proved fun to peruse.

And isn’t that what antique stores play into—cherished memories? Nostalgia sells. Otherwise why would I care about outdated merchandise like uncomfortable plastic Halloween masks that curbed clear vision and psychedelic clothing and stacks of old JC Penney catalogs?

Although I didn't want this vintage 1960s make-up mirror, I never-the-less was drawn to it.

Although I didn’t want this vintage 1960s make-up mirror, I never-the-less was drawn to it.

When you shop at an antique store, what do you find yourself drawn to?

I hold a fondness for old glass pitchers. They are works of art.

I hold a fondness for old glass pitchers. They are works of art.

For me it’s vintage drinking glasses and tablecloths (yes, I already own too many), clocks and art. Oh, how I love a vintage print or an original. Most often, though, I buy these at garage sales or thrift stores. I have enough art that I can switch it out in my home. Often.

If only I still had that toy buggy in which I pushed dolls and cats dressed in doll clothes.

If only I still had that toy buggy in which I pushed dolls and cats dressed in doll clothes.

Filing through a rack of children’s clothing at Antiques of the Midwest, I discovered a red plaid wool skirt just like one I wore as a child. How many of you have clothes from your childhood or teenage years? While cleaning my mom’s basement several years ago, I found a pair of cuffed lime green pants worn when I was a stick thin teen. They are hanging now in the closet of a spare bedroom in my home. Someday, my children will ask, “Why did Mom keep these?” Perhaps the pants will end up in an antique store, but more likely will be trashed.

Antiques of the Midwest holds thousands of antiques and collectibles.

Antiques of the Midwest holds thousands of antiques and collectibles.

Opening the door into an antique shop compares to opening a book about life. Therein, in the collections of items from yesteryear, our stories unfold. Imagine the stories I could write if I sat in an antique store, unobserved, eavesdropping.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Just inside the front door, the canary yellow molded chairs caught my eye.

Just inside the front door, the canary yellow molded chairs caught my eye.

Mannequins always make merchandise seem more usable and personal.

Mannequins always make merchandise seem more usable and personal. I also consider them artsy.

This creative display helps shoppers to visualize this merchandise in their homes.

This creative display helps shoppers visualize merchandise in their homes.

If you're already thinking Christmas, at least one vendor has a sizable Christmas display.

If you’re already thinking Christmas, at least one Antiques of the Midwest vendor has a sizable Christmas display.

Merchandise snugged into a cabinet.

Merchandise snugged into a cabinet makes for a museum like display.

This is the first puppet I can remember finding in an antique store.

This is the first puppet I can remember finding in an antique store.

FYI: Antiques of the Midwest is open from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday – Saturday and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. It is closed on Mondays from December – March. The shop is located at 218 S. Washington Avenue in downtown Albert Lea.

This is the third in my “From Albert Lea” series. Check back for one final post. Click here to read my first and then my second story.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Bingo, bordellos and a shopkeeper named Audre August 11, 2015

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Audre's Attic, 102 Main Street, Suite 6, in Lonsdale is in a mishmash of rooms in a building next to the Lonsdale Chamber of Commerce.

Audre’s Attic, 102 Main Street, Suite 6, is in a mishmash of rooms in a building next to the Lonsdale Area Chamber of Commerce. Shop hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Thursday – Saturday.

I LOVE A SHOPKEEPER who can talk bingo and bordellos and attempt to persuade me to buy a vintage photo of unknown “relatives” all within the span of about a half hour.

An exterior sign marks Audre's shop.

An exterior sign marks Audre’s shop.

She is Audre, not Audrey, Johnson, owner of Audre’s Attic in Lonsdale. And on a recent Thursday evening, because the farmers’ market was open in this small southern Minnesota community, Audre’s shop was open later than normal. She was, though, about to lock the door when I arrived.

Audre Johnson loves to chat it up with customers. She talks with her hands while she talks. And lovely hands they are, too, with those patriotic red, white and blue polished fingernails.

Audre Johnson loves to chat it up with customers. She talks with her hands while she talks. And lovely hands they are, too, with those patriotic red, white and blue polished fingernails.

About her name. At age ten, when she learned to write cursive, Audrey determined, after an aunt misspelled her name, to drop the “y” and become just Audre. It suits this outspoken and friendly business woman with an engaging sense of humor.

The lamp Audre claims would suit a bordello. She's selling it on consignment for a friend.

The lamp Audre claims would suit a bordello. She’s selling it on consignment for a friend.

When I discovered an ornate lamp displayed on a corner table, Audre suggested it belonged in a bordello. I wondered if I’d heard right. I had, after all, only met this curator of antiques, collectibles and more miscellaneous junque.

The lamp really shown once the overhead light was switched off.

The lamp really shown once the overhead light was switched off.

Then she switched off an overhead light and I understood her thinking.

One of my favorite discoveries in Audre's Attic is this 1950s handcrafted bust. It's not for sale. Audre sold a duplicate, but only after a customer wore her down.

One of my favorite discoveries in Audre’s Attic is this vintage handcrafted bust. It’s not for sale. Audre sold a duplicate, but only after a customer wore her down.

She showed me a vintage hand-painted bust draped with a lace collar and a rabbit pull toy and a child’s toy Singer sewing machine and a rope bed and bingo cards.

Underneath the top bingo card is the bingo card photo frame Audre crafted. And below that is a notebook where customers can jot down items they are searching for.

Underneath the stack of bingo cards is the bingo card photo frame Audre crafted. And below that is a notebook where customers can jot down items they are searching for.

About those bingo cards. A friend told her selling gambling related merchandise is illegal. True or not, Audre wasn’t gambling. She cut a bingo card into a frame, inserted a photo and, ta-da, she’s selling a picture frame.

The sales tag on this vintage photo reads, "Need relatives?"

The sales tag on this vintage photo reads, “Need relatives?”

Despite her best efforts, Audre did not persuade me to purchase a framed sepia photo of a handsome couple. I told her I already had enough family.

Audre's office and display space merge in this room.

Audre’s office and display space merge in this room.

And that’s how things flowed, with Audre inserting wit into conversation like we were long-time friends rather than two women who’d just met.

#

BONUS PHOTOS of select merchandise in Audre’s Attic:

 

Audre's Attic, hat on yellow head

 

Audre's Attic, jump rope

 

Audre's Attic, dollhouse

 

Audre's Attic, hallway displays

 

Audre's Attic, bowls

 

Audre's Attic, horse

 

Audre's Attic, sign on floor

 

FYI: Check back for photos from Jim’s Antiques and Collectibles, another Lonsdale shop I visited.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Antiquing in Wisconsin: Mixing machining & merchandising in Redgranite December 2, 2013

I RECOGNIZE THE SMELL. Grease and oil and dirt mingled. The odor hangs heavy inside Mike Schwochert’s machine shop along State Highway 21 in Redgranite, Wisconsin.

Inside Old Time Machine Inc.

Inside Old Time Machine Inc.

The shop smells of history and hard labor and of hours standing upon this cracked cement floor spotted with oil stains.

This place reminds me of the work my husband does as an automotive machinist, although Mike pursues a different type of machining, producing machined parts. He does drilling, boring, tapping, milling, tool and die production, welding and fabrication, and more.

The setting that drew me into the machine and antique shop scene.

The setting that drew me into the machine and antique shop scene.

It is the name of Mike’s business—Old Time Machine Inc—and the neon marker OPEN sign and the hodgepodge of furniture, glassware, gas cans and other items displayed outside the building that initially draw Randy and me here on a Friday afternoon in mid-October en route to Appleton to visit our daughter.

We backtrack, turn off the highway and skirt the backs of downtown Redgranite businesses to reach Old Time Machine because we’ve driven past it. Highway 21 is a crazy busy route through central Wisconsin, meaning it’s safer to do a turn-around rather than slam on the brakes.

Another view of Mike's machine shop.

Another view of Mike’s machine shop.

Inside this building, constructed in 1953, we meet Mike, the kind of guy who, just looking at him, you know will greet you with a welcoming warmth and friendliness that shows in his face, in his smile. It’s no surprise that he promises “excellence and precision in every job,” offers 24-hour emergency repair and works a second job in Appleton.

Madre's Antiques is in the front of the building and Mike's machine shop through the doorway into the larger back space.

Madre’s Antiques is in the front of the building and Mike’s machine shop (that’s Mike back there working) through the doorway into the larger back space.

And you might add third. On this afternoon, Mike is also manning Madre’s Antiques, his wife Christina Tsacudakis’ shop. She took over the former office, a small area at the front of the building that now holds an array of antiques and vintage collectibles.

A local collectible is among the offerings.

A Redgranite collectible is among the offerings.

I find plenty here that interests me such as vintage drinking glasses, a pheasant tray collectible my middle brother would appreciate and a gorgeous red and white enamel kitchen table.

In the white cupboard behind the table sits the small striped Pyrex bowl I purchased.

In the white cupboard behind the table the small striped Pyrex bowl I purchased sits on the second shelf.

I need none of these, But I scoop up a small unpriced striped Pyrex mixing bowl because, well, I collect and use old bowls.

When I ask Mike the price, he admits that he sometimes gets in trouble for underselling his wife’s unmarked merchandise. I buy the bowl for $2. I expect he will be reprimanded.

The fabulous reclaimed parts bins now hold antiques and collectibles.

The fabulous reclaimed parts bin, left, from the machine shop now holds antiques and collectibles.

It’s a charming spot, this cozy antiques store with a back shop parts cubby emptied, cleaned, repainted aqua marine and repurposed to hold merchandise. Small treasures tucked inside multi-sized cubes. Perfectly fitting for this place.

My first view of the shop as we approached from the west.

My first view of the shop, 250 W. Bannerman Ave., as we approached from the west.

Unlike many antique shops, I don’t feel overwhelmed here, but rather at home. Comfortable with the limited offerings, the lingering odors of oil and grease and grime, and the sense of small town history that prevails in this long-time machine shop, purchased in recent years by Mike.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Antiquing in Wisconsin: A stop in Poy Sippi November 20, 2013

POY SIPPI.

The words roll off my tongue with a sound that pleases me.

Just like this small Wisconsin town. Poy Sippi. Off the beaten path. Sandwiched between busy State Highways 21 and 10. A community discovered a year ago while searching for an alternate route to avoid road construction along U.S. Highway 41 from Oshkosh to Appleton, where my second daughter lives.

Private property or a business? I don't know. But this is one of the first places I notice entering Poy Sippi from the south.

Private property or a business? I don’t know. But this is one of the first places I notice entering Poy Sippi from the south.

This October, my husband and I are back in Poy Sippi, named after the Pine River, called Poygan Sippi by the Pottawatomie because it flows into Poygan Lake, according to the Poy Sippi Public Library website.

As we drive by the Tire Center, I snap this photo.

As we drive by the Tire Center, I snap this photo.

The uniqueness of the name fascinates me as do the poetically pleasing vowel and consonant combinations in Poy Sippi.

Our first glimpse of The Shop in October 2012. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Our first glimpse of The Shop in October 2012. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

We have not explored Poy Sippi, except for The Shop, a delightful antique shop along Main Street/Highway 49.

The corner grocery store and meat market.

The corner grocery store and meat market.

Dan Chier and Co. run the place, directly across the road from “49” Meats & Groceries, the corner grocery store/meat market touting “the best steaks around.” And I don’t doubt that. These small town meat markets often do offer the best in meats, this one specifically noting its home-smoked meats.

Looking toward the front the antique shop.

Looking toward the front the antique shop.

At one time the building which houses Dan’s shop operated as a general store. Dan shows me photocopies of historic photos. It’s no stretch to imagine the former mercantile occupying this space with the worn wood floor, wainscoting on the ceiling and aged double front doors.

Oh, how I wish I had bought this clock, crafted by Don's mom (recently deceased) from an old album.

Oh, how I wish I had bought this $5 clock, crafted by Dan’s mom (recently deceased) from an old album.

I wish I had known about these vintage blue canning jars when my daughter was planning for her September wedding. I rented quart sized jars like this for $2/each. Don is selling them for $3/each. He sold lots for weddings, he says, but the wedding demand seems to be fading. Now some are using the jars for lights.

I wish I had known about these vintage blue canning jars when my daughter was planning for her September wedding. I rented quart sized jars like this for $2/each. Dan is selling them for $3/each. He sold lots for weddings, he says, but the wedding demand seems to be fading. Now some are using the jars for lights. Oh, and see that fruit print on the top shelf. I spotted that framed piece a year ago, liked it then and still like it now. I should have negotiated a deal with Dan. He’s open to negotiating.

More merchandise.

More merchandise, leaning against the building next door which is for sale.

It’s the perfect place for an antique shop.

Friendly shopkeeper, Don Chier.

Friendly shopkeeper, Dan Chier.

I appreciate Dan’s warm welcome as much as the old stuff he offers for sale both inside and outside his shop in Poy Sippi. Off the beaten path. A short-cut between two busy highways.

BONUS PHOTOS:

I was a bit creeped out when I spotted this deer head on the garage next to Don't main shop last fall. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

I was a bit creeped out when I spotted this deer head on the garage next to Dan’s main shop last fall. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Same spot as above, just looking the other direction toward Main Street. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

Same spot as above, just looking the other direction toward Main Street. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

The building to the north of the garage (and deer head) that's for sale.

The building to the north of the garage (and deer head) that’s for sale.

The entry to The Shop.

The entry to The Shop.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Leaving my mark in a Hastings antique shop October 31, 2012

I’VE NEVER INKED my name onto a desktop, never etched my name into a picnic table nor my initials into the bark of a tree.

But I left my mark recently in a Hastings antique shop, because, well, I could.

I stood before the vintage Smith-Corona Floating Shift typewriter in The Emporium and pounded out this message: Minnesota Prairie Roots was here. Clack, clack, clack, clack… Twenty-nine times.

The message I left at The Emporium.

And I didn’t even make a typo, but felt a surge of Lutheran guilt at my self-centered promotion of my blog.

“Who would read this?” I wondered. “A customer? Management?”

Then, in an automatic reflex, I pulled my Canon EOS 20D camera to my eye and photographed the evidence. I would not make a good graffiti vandal.

However, from an artistic perspective, I fell in love with the photo—the simplicity of the image with its strong lines, its fuzzy quality (who says sharp focus is always best in photos?), its artsy quality and the red bands of ribbon and of words.

The gracious Emporium staff allowed me to photograph them.

So as to redeem myself for my self-indulgent infraction, I photographed the staff at the counter—they had no idea what I had typed onto that sheet of paper.

And just to make sure I’ve totally redeemed myself, I’m showing you several pieces of merchandise which particularly caught my eye on the second floor of this spacious, lovely and historic building.

Just loved this Fire King piece and this fruit. Should have bought it.

Artsy and lovely and beautiful.

I have no idea of the identity of this flaming orange-haired woman. I could think only of Cruella de Vil dressed for Halloween.

FYI: Click here to learn more about The Emporium, 213 East Second Street, Hastings, Minnesota.

The lovely architecture of The Emporium.

CLICK HERE TO READ a previous post from the Mississippi River town of Hastings, Minnesota, which brims with antique shops in its historic downtown.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Touring Hot Sam’s, an “antique theme park” near Lakeville September 17, 2012

Northbound on Interstate 35 just south of Lakeville, you’ll see this roadside art marking the location of Hot Sam’s Antiques.

YOU’VE SEEN THE ECLECTIC COLLECTION, I’m sure, if you’ve ever traveled Interstate 35 northbound near Lakeville.

Just another view of the eclectic art collection, shot while traveling the interstate. No stopping for this photo.

You’ll see the fearsome shark first as you’re driving north on I35.

Just south of exit 81 atop a hill on the east side of the interstate, a red ANTIQUE sign draws your eye to a mish-mash of stuff. Several rusting cars. A rather vicious looking blue shark (although I’m sure you don’t notice the detailed sharp teeth while racing along the interstate at 70 mph). A lady bug. A rocket and a submarine. And, heck, there’s an oversized guitar, too.

At the north end of the line, the ginormous guitar.

A view from atop the hill, in the middle of the eclectic collection.

For 30 years I’ve seen the changing collection and always wondered about Hot Sam’s Antiques. Now, after a recent Saturday afternoon visit, I need wonder no more.

Kathy Sakry, left, and Aina Puritis on the front porch of the log cabin.

Honestly, how to begin to describe this place seems an impossibility, until I meet Aina Puritis—pronounce that Latvian first name with a silent “A” and a long “i”—a part-time employee of three months. “I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” I tell Aina.

“You got that right, honey,” she agrees, then offers her definition. “It’s an antique theme park, a mix of this and that.”

The log cabin, back and to the right, is packed with antiques and collectibles. I spotted the charming, cottage style treehouse, left, but didn’t even check to see if I could explore inside. I was running short on time.

Aina nails Hot Sam’s with that description because, in addition to thousands of antiques and collectibles crammed inside and outside a log house, outbuildings and train cars and scattered upon the grass and through the woods and along the sides of the narrow gravel drive, you’ll discover a wonderment of creations fitting a theme park.

Barry was painting a giant sunflower when I came upon him among the junk in the woods.

You might find Barry (no last name offered), a retired laser cutter turned artist, back in the woods among all the junk working on his latest sculptures—painting a giant sunflower or building an oversized motorcycle roped and suspended from a tree limb.

Nemo from the back, looking toward the log cabin on the hill, center, a boat on the left and train cars in the distance to the right.

He takes credit for transforming a vintage car into the Disney cartoon fish Nemo via orange paint, the addition of fins and eyes and some major interior redecorating. Nemo’s beached in sugar fine sand along a ribbon of water which meanders into the 10-acre property.

Inside Nemo, my absolute favorite part of the entire antique theme park. Who would ever think you could turn an old car into something so incredibly magical?

The tropical beach scene seems oddly out of place given the native swampland grass and surrounding woods and the autumn leaves littering the sand. But no one claims anything’s exactly as it should be at Hot Sam’s.

A close-up of the hippie van parked in a beach setting with fine white sand and even a hammock.

That’s part of the appeal, to see a peace-out hippie van parked on the beach; the wreck of the S.S. Minnow from the 1960s T.V. sitcom, Gilligan’s Island, hugging the shore; the canary yellow tail of a crashed airplane poking through the swampland grass across the water.

“It became a labor of love,” Kathy Sakry says of this whole intriguing place. She’s the significant other of Jake Hood, who, along with his mother, Gladys Hood, 26 years ago transformed a field with a two-car path into Hot Sam’s Antiques. Nine years prior to that, the business was located in Burnsville. Gladys died in December 2010.

Kathy prefers not to explain the story and inspiration behind the antique theme park, choosing instead to hand over a reprint of an article written by Gladys and published in Reader’s Digest. To summarize, Gladys’ father, Hyreeg, an Armenian immigrant living in Detroit, collected scrap metal to raise money for a flagpole upon which he flew a U.S. flag symbolizing his pride in becoming an American.

Inside the log cabin, I found this collectible glassware and this welcoming sign, which seems to exemplify the welcoming spirit of Hot Sam’s Antiques.

Gladys wrote in 2002 that she acquired her father’s love for hard work and collecting (she would go “picking” with him as a child) and continued his legacy via her business. She collected for practical and recycling reasons and for the joy of sharing in the memories of those who visit Hot Sam’s.

I saw at least three Statues of Liberty on the property.

Whether a tribute to her father’s patriotism or not, numerous replicas of the Statue of Liberty are planted on Gladys’ tangible slice of the American dream.

About that business name… Kathy says Hot Sam was Gladys’ nickname, a name she preferred to her given Gladys, which taunting youngsters reinvented into, well, you can figure that out, during her childhood.

Then Kathy shares more about Gladys and a clearer picture emerges of this strong woman. She once raced cars, breaking the land speed record on Daytona Beach in 1956.

This mock, crashed airplane is positioned across swamp grass on the property.

Despite her prior days of daring, competitive racing in a man’s world and of traveling, Gladys seldom left Hot Sam’s once established, Kathy relates. And when she did, it was to attend air shows with her adopted daughter, airline and aerobatic pilot Julie Clark. The bi-plane and staged, mock plane crash at Hot Sam’s are perhaps visual connections to Julie, whose birth father was murdered in 1964 while piloting a plane which subsequently crashed, killing all 44 aboard. Or perhaps the planes reflect Gladys’ general affection for air shows.

While wandering the grounds of Hot Sam’s, you have to wonder where Jake and Gladys acquired all this stuff and Kathy says only that they are buyers and sellers. She wants me to talk to Jake and sets off to find him. But I am anxious to photograph this magical antique theme park in the perfect, golden hour around sunset. I never do connect with Jake.

I am not the only photographer here on this late Saturday afternoon. I meet a young couple and their two children primping for a family photo shoot with St. Louis Park-based portrait photographer Jess Sandager of Olive Avenue Photography. Later I meet up with the family and photographer near the beach. Jess tells me Hot Sam’s is well-known in the photo industry.

Although I’d like more details, I won’t keep Jess from the waning, perfect light.

I watch for a minute as Jess works her camera, photographing the little boy on a tractor and then mom and baby.

The beached Nemo.

Father and son, in the meantime, are now heading toward the orange fish on the beach, toward Nemo—dad walking, son running…

Watch for this sign at 22820 Pillsbury Avenue South directing you onto the narrow gravel road into Hot Sam’s Antiques.

FYI: To get to Hot Sam’s Antiques from Interstate 35, take exit 81 near Lakeville and go east on Dakota County Road 70 about half a mile to the stoplight. Then turn south onto Kenrick Avenue/County Road 46. Continue approximately 1 1/2 miles on Kenrick, which turns into Pillsbury Avenue. Hot Sam’s is located on the west side of the road at 22820 Pillsbury Avenue South, Lakeville. You’ll see a sign.

Hours are from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. weekdays (except closed on Thursday) and Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Check back for more photos from Hot Sam’s because there’s so much more I need to share with you.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A garage sale in Stockholm, Wisconsin November 4, 2011

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YOU KNOW HOW every once in awhile you discover this treasure of a place and you can’t wait to tell family and friends, “You have to go there!”

Honestly, that’s my feeling toward Stockholm. Wisconsin. Not Sweden.

I’ve already published two posts on Stockholm—about J. Ingebretsen’s av Stockholm and Chandler’s Books, Curios.

Today you’re going to get another look at one of the shops tucked into this quaint Lake Pepin-side village of 89, just across the Mississippi River from Minnesota.

We’re stopping at A+ Antiques & Oddities, billed as “2 floors of quality antiques & art, vintage, handmade & new items as well.”

Sometimes the building that houses a shop draws me in as much as the merchandise. Such is A+ Antiques, based in an old garage. With the overhead door flung open on an autumn afternoon, I walked right into this former auto repair shop (I assume) and marveled that the smell of grease didn’t linger in this space of white-washed cement block walls and a bank of windows in the rear overlooking the train tracks out back.

The overhead garage door entry into A+ Antiques & Oddities along Wisconsin 35 in Stockholm.

But if there were traces of grease or oil spots on the cement floor, I didn’t notice. Maybe because I was too busy gawking at the goodies, wishing my sister Lanae was here to try on hats, straightening a mannequin’s wig and wiggling my way around all the tight spaces with a camera bag on my hip.

Lots of merchandise, including these lamps, fill the old garage.

These casseroles caught my eye and I considered, just for a moment, purchasing them.

I found the mannequin as intriguing as her hat.

My sister Lanae is insisting the women in the family all wear hats for Christmas Eve church services. Perhaps the men should, too. I see some fine choices here for my brothers. Remember when men wore hats to church?

I should tell you right now that even though I really, really enjoy browsing in antique shops, I seldom buy anything. I’m a bargain shopper and prefer to purchase my vintage and/or antique treasures at garage sales. Yes, if you’re attentive to word usage, you would stop me right here and say, “But, Audrey, this is a garage sale.”

You would be right. And you would be wrong. Because you know what I mean.

I found plenty I wanted to buy. Bowls. A lamp. Perhaps a hat for my sister—if I could have decided which one. (She knows how I struggle with fashion choices.)

But the print of singing turkeys was not on my “I want” list.

I especially like vintage prints and paintings, but not this one. Would you buy it?

When I saw this piece of art, I felt my face involuntarily screw up into an expression of disgust. It would make the perfect Thanksgiving hostess gift, as long as you aren’t coming to my house for Thanksgiving.

After perusing the first floor of merchandise, I walked outside, around the building and down the hill, following the path of bales, to the basement. I stepped inside. The Lone Ranger and Tonto greeted me. Childhood memories flashed before my eyes.

Awaiting me on the lower level...the Lone Ranger and Tonto. "Hi-ho, Silver!"

That happens to me often whenever I browse in an antique store. And I suppose that’s as it should be, because, truly, aren’t sales connected to memories?

No memories in this metal box for me. But perhaps for someone.

FYI: If you want to shop at A+ Antiques & Oddities, make haste to Stockholm. Wisconsin. Not Sweden. The store is open Thursdays – Sundays until November 15 only, after which it closes for the season.

The shopkeepers at A+ Antiques & Oddities.

All of Stockholm doesn’t close down, however. Many upcoming special events are planned, including Stockholm Women’s Weekend this Saturday, November 5, and Sunday, November 6. Click here for more information.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling