Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

About those creepy clowns October 14, 2016

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POKING AROUND MS. MAC’S ANTIQUES in Janesville on a recent Friday afternoon, I came across clowns nestled in a basket. There was nothing frightening about them. They’re just dolls crafted from fabric—some homemade, others manufactured.

But seeing them on display got me thinking about the clown sightings around the country. Last Saturday evening a clown costumed 15-year-old boy was arrested in Crookston, Minnesota, for allegedly scaring people with a butcher knife. All across the U.S., creepy clowns are showing up in communities, creating fear and sometimes chaos.

Even McDonalds has been impacted. The fast food chain is limiting appearances by Ronald McDonald, apparently thinking he best keep a low profile until this whole clown thing blows over.

 

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In my southern Minnesota community, police are being proactive, issuing this statement last week on the Faribault Police Department Facebook page:

We have now gotten a couple of calls about clowns around town. These are actually young people dressed as scary / crazy / kooky clowns. We have no information to indicate they pose a threat to anyone locally, other than being creepy.

The clown craze is the latest attempt at social media influenced hysteria. There have been several arrests around the country in recent days for making terroristic threats and disrupting public school functions.

If you see, or are concerned about, clowns hanging around, please call us and we will gladly check them out.

 

Clown masks can be scary or fun, depending.

I photographed this clown Halloween mask last October at Antiques of the Midwest in Albert Lea. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

 

In neighboring Kenyon, noted Police Chief Lee Sjolander isn’t taking things quite as seriously. If you follow his department’s Facebook page, you know that Sjolander thinks, writes and acts outside the box. Here’s the Chief’s take on the clown issue:

I was asked by a parent for my opinion on their young child dressing up as a clown this Halloween. I was told this has been planned for a while and I also know our Kenyon Park & Rec. are planning a clown theme for their Halloween event as well.

Here is my opinion. Dress as a clown if you like, and here is why…

We live in a small town, we know almost everyone, and I’m not one to fall into conspiracy theories, rumormongering, fear, or hoaxes. We have had no “clown sightings” and if we do, we will follow up on them just like we would any other call.

I’m also a huge supporter of common sense. Now a young child dressed as a clown walking with their parents or friends holding a bag of candy is way different than an adult dressed as a clown carrying a weapon and scaring people. That’s like someone dressing as a deer and walking through the woods during deer season… Not the best thought out plan and that can lead to someone getting hurt.

When you say “clown” in Kenyon, most people think of Frank and Bob, who are two of the most loved and respected shriner clowns you could ever meet, and they are local residents.

So there you have it. My opinion. I think I’ll dress as a small town cop again this year, like I do every year…

Please use good judgment, common sense, and if you have any questions or concerns this Halloween, please feel free to contact us.

 

Ron, proprietor at Ms. Mac's Antiques, showed me this clown tucked into a storage room. It's a 1940s balloon machine.

Ron, proprietor at Ms. Mac’s Antiques, showed me this clown tucked into a storage room. It’s a 1940s balloon machine.

 

I don’t understand this whole clown thing. I don’t understand why anyone considers it a good idea to dress as a clown for the purpose of scaring, threatening and/or harming people. There’s nothing funny about this. Nothing at all.

Clowns are supposed to make us smile, make us laugh, bring us joy. They are not meant to terrorize.

Legitimate clowns are, as Chief Sjolander writes, to be loved and respected.

Thoughts?

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In Janesville: Discovering Ms. Mac’s Antiques October 13, 2016

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ACROSS FROM THE OLD GRAIN ELEVATOR, in the solid brick building that once housed a bank, Ms. Mac’s Antiques anchors a corner of downtown Janesville.

 

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I was delighted when, last Friday afternoon, the OPEN flag fluttered from a post outside this southeastern Minnesota business.

 

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My expectations were not particularly high. But, surprise. I stepped into a shop so skillfully and artfully designed that it could be featured in the pages of a national magazine like CountryLiving.

 

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My favorite piece in the entire shop because this statue reminds me of me as a young girl.

My favorite piece in the entire shop because this statue reminds me of me as a young girl.

 

For a few moments I just stood there, taking in the vignettes displaying a plethora of collectible, vintage, antique, architectural salvage and other merchandise.

 

Ms. Mac's signature crow sales tag.

Ms. Mac’s signature crow sales tag.

 

And then, after a quick perusal of the front ground level section of Ms. Mac’s, I introduced myself as a blogger to the man behind the counter. He’s Ron Hardeman, known as Mr. Mac in this family-owned business. Susie McConville is Ms. Mac, the talented designer. And the couple’s daughter, Jessica Oberpriller, is Ms. Mac, too. She runs a second shop, Ms. Mac’s, too, in Carver.

 

The picket fence mimics the shape of the old grain elevator across the street.

A section of picket fence inside the shop mimics the shape of the old grain elevator across the street.

 

While Susie still works full-time as a clinic manager in nearby Mankato, Ron runs the shop solo weekdays. He quickly obliged my request to photograph Ms. Mac’s Antiques. As we chatted, I learned that the couple, who live in Mankato, fell in love with the old bank building. I can see why. It has character with worn wooden floors, high ceilings, nooks and generous light pouring in through an abundance of windows.

 

There's lots of merchandise in the basement.

There’s lots of merchandise in the basement.

 

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The basement also provides space for additional treasures.

 

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Still, even a good bones appealing historic building does not make the shop. An eye and hand for displaying merchandise do. And Susie possesses both. Plus, a good strong business sense, connections and networking also make this business work. Ms. Mac’s customer base stretches across the U.S. with antique dealers coming to this small Minnesota farming community to find merchandise they can’t find in their locales.

 

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As I poked around, I assessed that Ms. Mac’s offers an eclectic mix of unique merchandise not typically found in Minnesota antique shops I’ve visited. And, no, the Hamm’s beer bear is not for sale.

BONUS PHOTOS:

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Mother Hubbard items come from a Mankato flour mill.

Mother Hubbard items come from a Mankato flour mill.

 

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Sitting on the front counter, this Scripto service station is being used and is not for sale.

Sitting on the front counter, this Scripto service station is being used and is not for sale.

 

Even the OPEN sign on the front door is creatively appealing.

Even the OPEN sign on the front door is creatively appealing.

 

FYI: Ms. Mac’s Antiques is open from 10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Click here for more information.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Vending rural & rustic in Zumbro Falls October 7, 2016

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TIS THE SEASON OF FALL occasional sales.

 

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Although I haven’t shopped one yet, I showed up a day early for The Rustic Hinge Fall Gathering in Zumbro Falls. Not on purpose. My husband and I were on a day trip, no specific destination in mind, when we happened upon a yard full of stuff in the heart of this small southeastern Minnesota river town.

 

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Stuff would be defined as collectibles, antiques, primitives and such all with a definitive rural and rustic theme.

 

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My disappointment rated high when I inquired and learned the sale opened the next day. And nope, no early shopping. Except window shopping, minus the windows. Too bad for me.

 

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I glimpsed new, aged, repurposed and other merchandise in the Hinge’s outdoor lot across the street from a building presumably packed with lots more.

 

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You have three more days to shop this occasional sale. That would be today (Friday) from 1 – 7 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

You can’t miss the sale. Downtown Zumbro Falls is only a few blocks long.

TELL ME: Do you have a favorite occasional sale that you shop?

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Hot Sam’s Part II: Like an I Spy book August 16, 2016

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One of several beach themed scenes at Hot Sam's.

One of several beach/water-themed scenes at Hot Sam’s.

IT’S EASY TO BECOME distracted by the showy scenes that target your attention at Hot Sam’s Antiques, a multi-faceted attraction in rural Lakeville. There’s so much to take in, to enjoy, to photograph in this wooded site next to a pond.

Grandma in her rocking chair was just sitting there on the ground under the trees.

Grandma in her rocking chair is just sitting there on the ground under the trees.

I’ve learned during two visits here to slow down and look, really look. Hot Sam’s is like stepping into the pages of an I Spy book. Turn the pages (walk) too fast and you’ll miss an object, a find, a work of art, a whatever. To see everything that defines this place which defies defining, you need to focus.

The road into Hot Sam's is lined with treasurers.

The road into Hot Sam’s is lined with treasures.

Art on the fence lining the driveway.

Art on the fence lining the driveway.

More miscellaneous treasures on the fence.

More miscellaneous treasures on the fence.

That visual concentration starts at the gate with a hodgepodge collection of objects decorating a fence alongside the gravel driveway.

There's parking up by the log cabin/antique & collectibles shop.

There’s parking up by the log cabin/antique & collectibles shop. Explore inside and out.

The hard to miss Hardware Hank.

The hard to miss ginormous Hardware Hank.

Don't miss the crashed plane on the other side of the pond.

Don’t miss the crashed plane on the other side of the pond.

Park your vehicle and explore with the eye of a treasure hunter and a riddle solver. Only then, with an I Spy attitude, can you truly appreciate everything that is Hot Sam’s.

BONUS PHOTOS:

One of my favorite works of art at Hot Sam's.

One of my favorite works of art at Hot Sam’s.

No lamb and lion...

An odd pairing of sculptures.

For the Popeye fans.

For the Popeye fans.

An adorable woodcarving for sale.

An adorable woodcarving for sale.

Details matters, like the suitcases atop the cab.

Details matters, like the suitcases atop the taxi cab.

Just hanging out...

Just hanging out…

Heed the signs and don't explore the restricted area.

Heed the sign and don’t explore the restricted area.

FYI: Click here to read my first in this two-part series about Hot Sam’s Antiques.

Note that you must check in with Kathy or Jake before taking photos as a photo fee applies.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Hot Sam’s Part I: Art, antiques & oddities in rural Lakeville August 15, 2016

A vintage van becomes a work of art at Hot Sam's.

A vintage van becomes a canvas for art at Hot Sam’s.

HOT SAM’S ANTIQUES, rural Lakeville, defies a singular definition. It’s unlike any place I’ve ever toured.

You'll see lots of vintage vehicles scattered throughout the property.

Vintage vehicles are scattered throughout the property.

There are weird and quirky surprises seemingly everywhere.

Weird and quirky surprises are seemingly propped everywhere.

Behind the sunflower and the fanciful treehouse are a log cabin and other buildings housing antiques for sale.

Atop the hill, behind the sunflower and the fanciful treehouse, are a log cabin and other buildings housing antiques and collectibles for sale.

It’s part photo park, theme park, artist’s haven, junkyard, antique shop. It is undeniably unique. And how you perceive this place depends on your individual preferences. If you like the odd, unusual and quirky, you’ll appreciate Hot Sam’s.

Posted at the entry to Hot Sam's located along Pillsbury Avenue just off Interstate 35, Lakeville exit.

Posted at the entry to Hot Sam’s located along Pillsbury Avenue just off Interstate 35, Lakeville exit.

The lovely and friendly Kathy poses for a quick portrait with the on-site pooch.

The lovely and friendly Kathy poses for a quick portrait with the resident pooch.

The Avon Freeway is new since my last visit to Hot Sam's several years ago. Avon collectible vehicles line this log along the driveway.

Avon collectible vehicles line a log along the driveway. A hodgepodge of items decorate the fence.

I first visited this attraction just off Interstate 35 south of the Twin Cities several years ago, returning on a drizzly Saturday afternoon in early June. Things had changed a bit. I couldn’t simply pull out my camera and start photographing the vignettes created by owner Jake Hood and his artist friend Barry. I had to check in with Kathy Sakry, Jake’s partner. With a bit of prompting, she remembered me and then waived the usual photographer’s fee, a necessity, Kathy says, to cover expenses.

The narrow gravel road into Hot Sam's leads to a quirky world of art and finds.

The narrow gravel road into Hot Sam’s leads to a quirky world of art and finds.

Geese wander the shore of the on-site pond.

Geese wander the shore of the on-site pond.

Looking toward a section of the beach, the setting for many water-themed vignettes.

Looking toward a section of the beach and the pond, the setting for many water-themed vignettes.

With Kathy’s OK, I threaded, camera in hand, down the puddled gravel driveway toward the sandy beach. I kept a watchful eye on the overcast threatening sky.

Sand is hauled in to help stage the beach scenes like this cabanna, added since my last visit.

Sand is hauled in to stage the beach scenes like this recently-added cabana.

An inviting tropical scene...

An inviting tropical scene…

Jake visits with a guest.

Jake visits with a guest.

The beach-side cabana, turtle-topped sand dune and dune buggy scene is Jake’s latest project. Thatch materials came from a now-closed business at the Mall of America. No surprise. Jake hints at connections to junkyards/scrappers/other sources from Minnesota to the coasts. You clearly need those ties to create an attraction like Hot Sam’s.

My husband obliges my request to sit for a photo.

My husband obliges my request to sit for a photo.

Butt bar stools, for example, come from some place in Vegas. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. There’s a certain mystique that envelopes Hot Sam’s, although if you had the time, Jake would likely share detailed stories.

This guitar sculpture and other sculptures are perched atop a hill along Interstate 35 south of Lakeville.

This guitar sculpture and other sculptures are perched atop a hill along Interstate 35 south of Lakeville.

Jake and I talk before he takes me and my husband into a hidden paradise.

Jake and I talk before he takes my husband and me into a hidden paradise.

Entering Hot Sam's tropical paradise. This is the only view you'll get of this place tucked into the woods. Maybe Jake will show you if you ask. But then again maybe he won't.

Entering Hot Sam’s tropical paradise. This is the only peek you’ll get of this place from me. Maybe Jake will take you there. But then again maybe not.

As it was, he invited my husband and me to board his golf cart for a short drive into a hidden section of the property. I hung on as Jake twisted the cart through the woods, down a hill, around a curve and into a recreated island-themed paradise. This party spot is most often frequented by musicians drawn to Hot Sam’s by an over-sized guitar sculpture visible from Interstate 35, Jake tells me.

If you've seen this shark and other hillside sculptures from Interstate 35 south of the Lakeville exit, then you've seen Hot Sam's art.

If you’ve seen this shark and other hillside sculptures from Interstate 35 south of the Lakeville exit, then you’ve found Hot Sam’s. Take the Lakeville exit and go east a short distance before turning south onto Kenrick Avenue.

For years, sculptures have been positioned roadside atop Hot Sam’s hill. For years, I’d seen the art and never bothered to exit the Interstate. I expect many other motorists have done the same.

A scene outside a building filled with antiques and collectibles.

The front porch of a building filled with antiques and collectibles.

That’s the thing. We drive by, just drive by. And then one day, if we have the time and/or inclination, we stop. And then we discover a place that defies easy definition, a place that showcases creativity, a place that everyone should tour. At least once. Or twice. When we’re always in a hurry, we miss the Hot Sam’s of the world. And that is our loss.

You never know what awaits you if you only take the time to stop at a place like Hot Sam's.

You never know what awaits you if you only take the time to stop at a place like Hot Sam’s.

TELL ME: Have you ever toured Hot Sam’s? Or have you visited a place just as interesting and unique? I’d love to hear. Check back tomorrow for one final photo look at this south of the metro area attraction.

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.

Open from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. weekdays (except closed on Thursday) and Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. I recommend calling in advance to confirm hours.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Part III: Feelin’ groovy in St. Charles November 20, 2015

Vintage Treasures and Decor along Whitewater Avenue in downtown St. Charles, Minnesota.

Vintage Treasures and Decor along Whitewater Avenue in downtown St. Charles, Minnesota.

VINTAGE TREASURES AND HOME DECOR read the vivid yellow sign propped against a building in downtown St. Charles. That was enough to draw my husband and me into this newly-opened shop, relocated here from Byron.

Posted, but not for sale.

Posted, but not for sale.

But before I show you some of the merchandise, let’s discuss that word vintage. What defines vintage? I turned to online dictionaries to find synonyms like outdated, old-fashioned and retro. I choose retro. That seems most applicable to the merchandise from my era that captivated me at Vintage Treasures. Groovy.

This merchandise display screams 60s and 70s.

This merchandise display screams 60s and 70s.

You can say all you want about the 60s and 70s, about hippies and Woodstock and peace marches and tie-dyed and psychedelic fashion. But it really was a memorable period in our nation’s history, a time when young people began to question the establishment and the choices made. Not that previous generations didn’t speak up. But the volume seemed louder, the voices more distinct, the opinions shouted in music and fashion and protests.

These berets (or tams) were popular

I remember crocheted berets (or tams) similar to this from the 60s and 70s.

Personally, I was a shy teen coming of age in a rural area, far removed geographically from the unrest of the 60s and 70s. But I still cared. I kept up on current events, listened to rock-and-roll on KDWB, wore too-short skirts and flashed the peace sign.

One of two retro trays I purchased.

One of two retro trays I purchased.

So when I discovered a section of retro merchandise inside Vintage Treasures, I flashbacked some 40 years. This was of my generation. I didn’t need the retro tin Peace and Love trays I purchased for $2 each. But I bought them anyway and would have liked a third, except shop owner Laurie Rucker had already sold the others.

Elvis was a little before my time.

Elvis was a little before my time.

I’m thinking it would be fun sometime to host a 60s and 70s party. Wear tie-dye. Burn incense. Dip cubed bread into a cheese-filled fondue pot. Or maybe fruit into chocolate. Play some Beatles or Chicago. Serve beverages on those trays. Rock it out.

Thoughts? On the definition of vintage? The 60s and 70s?

BONUS PHOTOS: Yes, Vintage Treasures and Home Decor includes more than hippie era merchandise and here’s a sampling.

I remember one of my siblings having a papoose doll. Although not politically-correct today, these dolls are part of our past.

I remember one of my siblings having a papoose doll. Although not politically-correct today, these dolls are part of our past.

I always appreciate handcrafted, like these embroidered pieces.

I always appreciate handcrafted, like these embroidered pieces.

The toy section.

The toy section.

Humpty Dumpty, one of the toys in the toy area.

Humpty Dumpty, one of the toys in the toy area.

Aunt Jemima and Uncle Mose collectibles.

Aunt Jemima and Uncle Mose collectibles.

FYI: Click here and here to read two previous posts I published in this three-part series from an early September stop in St. Charles.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Part II from St. Charles: Shopping for antiques at Sarah & Jim’s place November 19, 2015

Sarah's Uniques and Jim's "Man"tiques recently moved into this aged building in downtown St. Charles, MN.

Sarah’s Uniques and Jim’s “Man”tiques recently moved into this aged building in downtown St. Charles, MN.

MY HUSBAND AND I DELIGHT in perusing antique shops. We’re never seeking anything specific and seldom do we purchase anything. But occasionally we do. For us, antiquing is more about the experience, the memories connected to an object we discover on a shelf.

A security mirror reflects inventory in a section of the shop.

A security mirror reflects inventory in a section of the shop.

We found an especially lovely antique shop, Sarah’s Uniques and Jim’s “Man”tiques, during an early September stop in the southeastern Minnesota farming community of St. Charles. I love this couple’s shop. I love it for the variety of merchandise showcased in a way that’s artful, sectioned by themes (not disordered clutter), surprising and inviting.

This pottery is displayed as if in a gallery.

This pottery is displayed as if in a gallery.

Oftentimes I become visually overwhelmed by antique shops crammed with too much merchandise. Sarah’s and Jim’s offers a lot, but in an organized, creative sort of way.

There's plenty to interest both men and women.

There’s plenty to interest both men and women.

Perfect, a pedal car by the gas pumps.

A kid’s toy car pulled up to the gas pumps.

Steer around the bear rug to get to the pumps.

Steer around the bear rug to get to the pumps.

If you’re into gas station memorabilia, you can detour into the section of old gas pumps. Just veer around the bear rug.

This was not with all of the other horse stuff, but would certainly have fit there.

This was not with all of the other horse stuff, but would certainly have fit there.

In a small room, horse-themed items—including stirrups—entice equine appreciators. Or you might find a book like Singing Wheels, which I remember from my youth and which a customer snapped off a shelf.

Remember Red Owl and Gold Bond stamps?

Remember Red Owl and Gold Bond stamps?

Or fixate on grocery store memorabilia. What fun it would be to own the Red Owl sign, reminding me of that now-defunct grocery store chain with the cute check-out boys who carried grocery bags to my parents’ Chevy.

An antique shop can even offered unexpected humor.

An antique shop can even offer unexpected humor.

Randy and I chuckled at the signage about rubbers. We remember when rubbers were merely a protective covering slipped over shoes.

This beautiful cupboard was acquired from a local and had been in the family for generations. It's not for sale.

This beautiful cupboard was acquired from a local and had been in the family for generations. It’s not for sale.

No matter how many antique shops I’ve shopped, I find they are all different—some musty holes in the wall while others gleam. Organized or chaotic. If I was rating antique shops, I’d give Sarah’s and Jim’s five stars (out of five). It’s that outstanding. One sweet surprise in the small town of St. Charles.

On the side of the cupboard, family members recorded their travels abroad, during the early years to serve in the military. Sarah treasures that detailed history, the reason the cupboard is not for sale.

On the side of the cupboard, family members recorded their travels abroad, during the early years to serve in the military. Sarah treasures that detailed history, the reason the cupboard is not for sale.

And, bonus, co-owner Sarah Kieffer is the type of shopkeeper who welcomes customers (and browsers) with genuine warmth. Her friendliness showcases the passion she holds for merchandising antiques, primitives and collectibles. That attitude brings folks in the door, to browse and to buy.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Dainty cups and saucers for the collector.

Dainty cups and saucers for the collector.

A unique table that punches color combined with orange chairs.

A unique table paired with orange chairs punches color.

Canning jars, especially blue ones, hold timeless universal appeal.

Mason jars, especially blue ones, hold timeless universal appeal.

I grew up on a dairy farms, so this sign caught my eye and my heart.

I grew up on a dairy farm, so this sign caught my eye and my heart.

Likewise these farm notebooks reminded me of my farmer dad.

Likewise these farm notebooks reminded me of my farmer dad. I loved when he would give me a notebook like the Funk’s one.

Outside the shop I saw this cute Dutch couple.

Outside the shop I saw this cute Dutch couple.

Minnesotans

Not something I would collect. But I definitely like the Paul Bunyan art. Fitting for Minnesota.

A perfect canvas for art.

A clean canvas for art.

More treasures...

More treasures…

A close-up look at the exterior signage.

A close-up look at the exterior signage.

FYI: Sarah’s Uniques and Jim’s “Man”tiques is located at 912 Whitewater Avenue in the heart of downtown St. Charles.

Check back tomorrow when I’ll show you another antique shop across the street. And click here to read my first post in this series from St. Charles.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling