Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Part II from La Crosse: The impressive Pearl Street Books March 23, 2017

The tiled entry to Pearl Street Books reveals its history as the home of Arenz Shoe Company, founded in La Crosse and once housed at 323 – 327 Pearl Street. The La Crosse shoe store once boasted eight stores in Wisconsin and Iowa. Today only one, a fifth generation family-owned Arenz Shoes, remains open in nearby Sparta, Wisconsin. 

 

FIRST I NOTICED the sprawling oak and the organic shoe store message of Quality to the Roots embedded in the entry way tile.

 

 

Then I glanced to the window display and the heart shaped note of appreciation purposely placed among earthy books.

 

 

Both drew me inside Pearl Street Books as if I really need anything to get me inside a bookstore. I don’t.

 

An overview of the bookstore taken from the second floor and looking toward the front.

 

Ladders slide along the built-in towering shelves allowing access to the books.

 

Chairs scattered between shelves invite shoppers to sit and peruse books.

 

But I’ve never been in a book shop like Pearl Street Books in downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin. I walked inside and then just stood there for a minute taking in the scene before me.

 

The wood floor lends a signature vintage look to Pearl Street Books.

 

A Minnesota mom snapped a photo of her daughter and I asked to do likewise. Shortly thereafter the daughter climbed much higher and was kindly asked to come down for safety reasons.

 

This inviting section houses kids’ books, new and used.

 

From the worn wood floor that speaks of age and history to the ladders that slide along side shelves packed with books to the massive quantity of books, this place impresses. The shopkeeper working the day I visited said 55,000 volumes fill this store. Now I don’t know how that compares to your average mass market book retailer. But for an indie bookstore, I’d guess that’s a significant number beyond the norm.

 

Just another overview from upstairs.

 

This beautiful stairway leads to the upper floors, including a lounge space on the second floor for book groups or just a spot to hang out.

 

You could spend hours here…

 

Pearl Street Books, on its Facebook page, bills itself as a specialty used, new, collectible and antique bookstore that “can procure almost anything.”

 

My husband purchased this updated adult version of the Dick and Jane books.

 

 

Pearl Street Books offers some additional merchandise such as these bumper stickers.

 

Based on the extensive inventory, I believe that statement. And, yes, I bought a book and so did my husband.

TELL ME: Have you ever visited Pearl Street Books or a similar bookstore?

FYI: Please check back for more stories as I continue my series from La Crosse, Wisconsin. Click here to read my first story.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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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.

 

antique-shop-26-inside-door-displays-overview

 

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.

 

antique-shop-28-shabby-chic-owl

 

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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.

 

antique-shop-43-duck-architectural-salvage

 

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.

 

antique-shop-78-hamms-beer-bear

 

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:

antique-shop-40-statue

 

antique-shop-58-coffee-cup

 

Mother Hubbard items come from a Mankato flour mill.

Mother Hubbard items come from a Mankato flour mill.

 

antique-shop-27-fruit-tray

 

 

antique-shop-81-giraffe-cut-out

 

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

rustic-hinge-sale-88-sign-on-building

 

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.

 

rustic-hinge-sale-93-rooster

 

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

 

Part II From Albert Lea: An unbelievable shop, Adams Originals October 28, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Adams Originals Shop, 238 S. Broadway Avenue, Albert Lea, Minnesota.

Adams Originals Shop, 238 S. Broadway Avenue, Albert Lea, Minnesota

THE CLUTTERED EXTERIOR tipped me off to what I would find inside Adams Originals Shop. Yet, I was not prepared. Not prepared for the mounds of merchandise heaped into this narrow building in historic downtown Albert Lea.

Dolls, dolls and more dolls. Everywhere.

Dolls, dolls and more dolls. Everywhere.

Adams Originals rates as truly original. I’ve never seen a store like it with thousands of dolls and other items crammed onto shelves, set on the floor and piled into every conceivable space.

Just inside the shop and looking toward the front door.

Just inside the shop and looking toward the front door.

Inside, I simply stood for a minute taking it all in, overwhelmed by the sheer volume of goods displayed along both sides of a single narrow aisle branching into nooks of merchandise.

A Lone Ranger poster for sale.

A Lone Ranger poster for sale.

Much more than dolls pack this shop.

Much more than dolls pack this shop.

A piece of merchandise showcased outside the store.

A piece of merchandise showcased outside the store.

You can’t meet another customer in here without sidling sideways. Even on a blustery Monday morning, shoppers stopped by to peruse the goods offered by Eloise and Jack Adams.

Eloise Adams

Eloise Adams

That’s Eloise, pronounced Eloyce, as in rhyming with Joyce. Eloise doesn’t correct mispronunciations of her name; it happens all too often. It doesn’t seem to bother her. She’s just honored that her dad named her and with the uncommon pronunciation he chose.

An example of the art Eloise creates with labels.

An example of the art Eloise creates with labels.

She is as unique as her store, exuding a peaceful calm in her soft-spoken voice and gentle manner. I don’t think you’ll meet a kinder soul. In just a few minutes of conversation, I already felt comfortably at home with this 78-year-old. She speaks with the blessedness of a saint, living her faith. She speaks with the cadence of a poet, her words thoughtful and rhythmic. She speaks with the passion of an artist, for she is an artist. She speaks with the love of a mother and a grandmother and a great grandmother. She is all of those.

Eloise pulled this portrait off the hook so she could read the note about the date it was gifted to someone. I don't recall details. But I do remember how Eloise lovingly noted the girl's beautiful blue eyes accented by her blue dress.

Eloise pulled this portrait off the hook so she could read the note about the date it was gifted to someone. I don’t recall details. But I do remember how Eloise lovingly noted the girl’s beautiful blue eyes accented by her blue dress.

In short, Eloise is passionate about life and people and celebrating each day. She didn’t tell me that. She didn’t need to. It shows.

 

Adams Originals, 5 doll close-up

 

Adams Originals, 8 doll close-ups

 

Adams Originals, 26 doll close-up 2

 

When I asked Eloise about her favorite doll, she politely refused to name one. That would be, she said, like asking her to choose which of her six children is her favorite. It can’t be done.

There's a whole section of Barbie dolls and Barbie stuff.

There’s a whole section of Barbie dolls and Barbie stuff.

Even Elvis is among the dolls.

Elvis has not left the building.

Lots and lots and lots of Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls...

Lots and lots and lots of Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls…

But she’ll share, when asked, how this whole doll collecting thing started. A friend collected dolls and, she said, you can’t hang around too long with a doll collector without getting hooked yourself. The dolls belonging to that friend, who died of cancer, are now housed in the Freeborn County Historical Society Museum after being showcased downtown for many years.

An example of Adams pottery, center, sits among other merchandise.

An example of Adams pottery, center, sits among other merchandise.

Although dolls dominate Adams Originals, this shop isn’t solely about dolls. Eloyce and her husband are also artists who produce stoneware pottery, much of it for churches. Chalices. That sort of functional pottery. But there’s decorative pottery, too, like sculpted lions or a dragon, made years ago for a dragon-loving son. Eloise noted that Jack’s shoulders are wearing out, curbing pottery throwing.

An example of Eloise's Eddie Cochran art.

An example of Eloise’s Eddie Cochran art.

Pressing Eloise, I learn that she is a Minnesota State University Mankato art major. Prints of her pen and ink art are scattered throughout her shop. She designs art for local celebrations like Big Island Rendezvous and Eddie Cochran Days and will custom create pieces for individual customers.

Second floor windows hint at what's inside the shop.

Second floor windows hint at what’s inside the shop.

Her work is exquisitely detailed. And, Eloise noted, she drew the building that now houses Adams Originals when it was still a bookstore. On the bookstore’s last day, she and Jack stopped by to thank the booksellers for being part of the Albert Lea business community. They learned then that a purchase agreement fell through. The couple needed more space for their business which had outgrown their home. So they bought the booksellers’ building.

Today, at nearly eighty years old, Eloise has no plans to retire. Why? She loves what she does. And that’s a good enough reason to stay in business.

Check back tomorrow to read the third installment in this series from Albert Lea. Click here to read my introductory post.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Exploring Woody’s in West Concord, a specialty auto lit shop September 10, 2015

Woody's Auto Literature and More in West Concord, Minnesota.

Woody’s Auto Literature and More in West Concord, Minnesota.

FOR ANYONE WHO APPRECIATES anything vintage auto-related, Woody’s Auto Literature and More in West Concord is a must stop-and-see.

Dave "Woody" Woodward

Dave “Woody” Woodward

You can’t miss this unique shop in the heart of downtown at 150 Main Street. The front of a vintage orange pick-up truck, a nesting home for birds, protrudes from the storefront under the name Woodys. And if Dave “Woody” Woodward happens to be in the shop, his van will likely be parked out front and he’ll have music blasting from exterior building speakers.

Lots of merchandise is packed into this small store.

Lots of merchandise is packed into this small store which features lovely original wood floors and a partially original tin ceiling.

Inside, a treasure trove awaits those who are gearheads or collectors or who are restoring vintage vehicles or simply have an interest in auto-related stuff.

Vintage art.

Vintage art.

Graphics suspended from the ceiling caught my eye.

Graphics suspended from the ceiling caught my eye.

I love this sweet mini calendar from a service station.

I love this sweet mini calendar for the art aspect.

For others, like me, the interest may be more visual arts-oriented.

Well-worn manuals...

Well-worn manuals…

I see art in these colorful manuals.

I see art in these colorful manuals.

There are shelves and shelves and shelves of manuals.

There are shelves and shelves and shelves of manuals.

Woody specializes in shop manuals, which cram shelves along narrow aisles. He’s been selling shop manuals, mostly to customers restoring cars, since 1998. His interest in the factory original guidebooks stretches back to the 1980s and his days in the Navy when he managed shop manuals. His vocational education is in auto parts, accessories and merchandising and his previous work experience as an auto mechanic. The guy knows autos.

A Blazer emblem.

A Blazer emblem.

Look at this vintage catalog page.

Look at this vintage catalog page.

Woody has a box full of key chains from a now closed dealer.

Woody has a box full of key chains from a now closed dealer.

The kid in you can purchase a toy model kit.

The kid in you can purchase a toy model kit.

From sales brochures to owner’s manuals (which Woody terms “glovebox books”), wiring diagrams, signage, toy model cars, key chains, emblems and way way more, a wide variety of merchandise packs this store. And the subject isn’t limited to cars—items related to tractors, outboard motors, small engines and more are among his offerings.

A sign posted in Woody's shop.

A sign posted in Woody’s shop.

Woody also takes his goods on the road, traveling to shows in places like Iowa, Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania. It’s the reason you may not find him in the shop, even during advertised hours. Best call ahead before driving any distance to check out this truly fascinating business that interested even me, a non-gearhead. The husband, an automotive machinist, felt right at home perusing the merchandise and talking shop with Woody.

Woody's isn't necessarily open during the hours advertised on his business door.

Woody’s isn’t necessarily open during the hours advertised on the front door.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Miscellaneous merchandise.

Miscellaneous merchandise.

My husband thumbs through auto literature.

My husband thumbs through Sun Company specification cards.

The Lone Ranger themed ad on the right is vintage original.

The Lone Ranger themed ad on the right is vintage original.

He even has some parts for sale, like these

He even has some parts for sale, like these manifolds.  Woody carries vintage ignition parts and carb kits.

Woody pulled these autographed photos from his bulletin board. That's former President and Mrs. Bush and, to the left, Mr. Ed. Both were found tucked inside manuals he purchased.

Woody pulled these autographed photos from his bulletin board. That’s former President and Mrs. Bush and, to the left, Mr. Ed. Both pictures were found tucked inside manuals he purchased. He didn’t show me some of the photos he’s found which could not be published on this blog.

If you're a Standard Oil collector or need lights...

If you want a Standard Oil shelf or spotlights…

More miscellaneous goods.

More miscellaneous goods.

FYI: You can also shop at Woody’s online. Click here.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Poking around Jim’s shop in Lonsdale August 12, 2015

Jim's Antiques and Collectibles located at 108 Main Street North in Lonsdale, Minnesota.

Jim’s Antiques and Collectibles located at 108 Main Street North in Lonsdale, Minnesota.

JIM McKINNON’s BUSINESS CARD notes that he is the proprietor of Jim’s Antiques and Collectibles. I like that word proprietor. It sounds old-fashioned and cordial. Perfect in a small town like Lonsdale.

Love this sign in Jim's shop.

Love this sign in Jim’s shop.

A sign suspended from a length of twine in Jim’s shop advertises “Thrift within a vintage store.” I like that, too.

A snippet view of Jim's place.

Jim’s business is housed in a small space.

With over a dozen vendors’ goods crammed into an aged building, Jim’s shop requires poking around.

Lots of interesting goods stuffed into this space.

Lots of interesting goods stuffed into this space.

Merchandise layers merchandise. It’s that kind of store, where you have to look, and look again, or you may miss something.

An interesting print...

A print in Jim’s shop.

Jim’s shop is worth a visit as are similar shops in Lonsdale just west of Interstate 35 in southern Minnesota. While I enjoy antique malls in larger communities, I especially delight in small town businesses like those run by proprietors.

BONUS PHOTOS of merchandise in Jim’s shop:

 

Jim's Antiques, Mickey Mouse

 

Jim's Antiques, diaper pail

 

Jim's Antiques, bobbleheads

 

Jim's Antiques, duck decoy

 

Jim's Antiques, Tweety Bird and more

 

Jim's Antiques, rocking horse

 

Jim's Antiques, Mother of Pearl merchandise

 

Jim's Antiques, thermos jug

 

FYI: Click here to read another post about a Lonsdale antique shop.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Shopping at the picker’s market, Part II July 19, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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The barn is filled with goods, from lower level to hayloft.

The barn is filled with goods, from lower level to hayloft.

LOREN MARTIN’S BARN SALE features an eclectic mix of merchandise. Milkers, milk cans, pedal tractors, wooden chairs, crocks, lamps…

One of the many treasures packed into the hayloft.

One of the many treasures packed into the hayloft.

Way too many items to list.

A vendor.

A vendor.

He’s a picker. You have to appreciate a guy like Loren who invites folks onto his rural Medford acreage once a year to pick through his picks and those of selected vendors.

Loren has several old pick-ups for sale.

Loren has several old pick-ups for sale.

I perused his farm yard Saturday afternoon, taking it all in. The kicked back feel. The wind whipping my hair. Gravel drive and pick-up trucks. Rust and metal and memories.

Not sure if this 4-H sign is for sale.

Not sure if this 4-H sign is for sale.

I love this place, the rural junque displayed thereon.

There's plenty to see.

There’s plenty to see.

You have today (Sunday, July 19) to shop, until early evening or until the last shoppers leave. The sale opens at 8 a.m.

A vintage clothespin bag offered by a vendor.

A vintage clothespin bag offered by a vendor.

BONUS PHOTOS:

A vendor set up under the shade trees by the house.

A vendor set up under the shade trees by the house.

Spotted by the hosta.

Spotted by the hosta.

A vendor takes a lunch break.

A vendor takes a lunch break.

Lots of furniture possibilities.

Lots of furniture and decorating possibilities.

An old game for sale.

An old game for sale.

Another view of the merchandise.

Another view of the merchandise.

Stacked inside the barn door.

Stacked just inside the barn door.

Several pedal tractors were for sale, including this one reflected in a mirror.

Several pedal tractors are for sale, including this one reflected in a mirror leaning against a shed.

Vendor's merchandise on the left.

Vendor’s merchandise on the left.

FYI: Click here to read my first post about the Barn Sale. The sale is located at 5415 Frontage Road East, rural Medford, just off Interstate 35 across from the Medford Outlet Center in southern Minnesota.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling