Tips and Treasurers from Floors Etc's resident antique hunter
You wouldn't expect to find an 1800s horse-drawn carriage sitting smack-dab in the middle of your average flooring shop - or for that matter to encounter tropical fish, a bird that announces the time the store is about to close, a big guinea pig or a blind cat populating the store.
Floors Etc. in Storm Lake is not your average shop.
When the floor store had the opportunity to expand into the historic Masonic Building on Lake Avenue, next door to the original shop, it opened up the space for Celia Knoffloch to endulge one of the passions of her life - antiques.
A new logo on the front glass proclaims it as Storm Lake's newest antiques store, and the eclectic fare inside doesn't disappoint.
There are steamer trunks that must have accompanied immigrants to America well over a century ago, big globe-style lamp-posts that once stood guard outside the Sutherland post office, stained glass window panes, many unusual clocks, an early automated coffeemaker with its own grinder, a spinning wheel, a child-size sleigh, and much more - along with some impressive pieces of large, ornate cabinets and other furniture. You'd have to look around two or three times before you catch all of the treasures squirreled away in various nooks and crannies - a rocking horse in the upper reaches of the store, a small handmade dollhouse on the floor, a lobster trap hanging overhead, a potbelly stove in a corner, old rider toy tractors mounted above the carpet sample room.
According to Celia's husband Orren and her partner Robin Martin, Celia recognizes an antique for the store based on love at first sight.
"She'll say that it speaks to her," Orren laugs.
"That's just my excuse to get what I want," Celia fires back.
But she admits to utilizing the "woo-hoo" factor in her choices.
Her advice to antique shoppers is the same - don't buy for the money it's worth, buy what you love.
"Everybody has their own thing. Look for something that's you; that's going to add warmth and personality to your place," Celia says. "Personally, I have a big thing for old clocks, and I find that almost everybody collects something."
Still, there are a few tips for successful antique investing, she says:
* "Look for something that's a little bit different. The more unusual it is, the better."
* And documentation always helps. Look for information on the piece itself, or quiz the seller about where and when it was made, how it was used, and who first owned it.
* Don't be a snob. "Even things that are crap may have some redeeming qualities to someone."
* Don't mind dings and worn paint. "An old butcher block full of wear shows so much more character than one that would be like new. I'm big on the beat-up, distressed look."
Most of her store's treasures come with a quirky story, and many with an assist from a talented pal or two who are always on the lookout for Celia: one has refinished a unique pantry to a high-honey glow, another has stitched a piece of old leather into a plump teddy bear.
It doesn't necessarily take a lot of money to get started antiquing, either.
Celia finds a lot of her stuff at out-of-the way old little-town shops, old stores going out of business, farm sales, auctions and garage sales.
"Sometimes it's for next to nothing. People need space and they just want to get rid of stuff." Her stores own counter and showcases came to her from long-vacated old stores.
On the garage sale circuit, competition can be fierce, and she has three rules of thumb:
Get. There. First.
"The butt-crack of dawn works," she smiles.
When she isn't selling antiques, or restlessly rearranging her store, she's on the trail of new pieces, with her daughter usually at her side.
"A drive that takes most people three hours can take us eight," she says. "Great stuff is out there everywhere if you think to look for it. We just geek along and have a great old time."