This past autumn-before I fell and broke my arm and had to take a two month hiatus from active antiquing--Husbola and I took a trip out west. This kind of rambling car trip always involves stopping at any antique shop we pass. We use the excuse that it is to stretch our legs, "or visit the washroom" but in reality--we can't help ourselves. We love to poke around and maybe find some neat old stuff.
It is as simple as we always hope to find something in a regional that is a sleeper item-- one that will be reasonably priced and will strike the fancy of our midwestern clients.
There is one little shop--in one little town slightly off the interstate in South Dakota that has become an entertaining stop. After miles and miles of tumbleweeds and Wall Drug Store signs, it is time for a break in a town where the speed limit on Main Street is 20 mph and you pass five churches to get to the store. In previous years--the shop was on the opposite side of the street and now it has expanded to the other side. Other times we have stopped and it has been closed for the day. But this particular day, the shop was open and we ventured in.
We were greeted this time by an elderly lady (roughly defined as anyone 40 years older than me!) sitting in the front window. When we stepped in we were immediately spoken to and we all made bright conversation about the incredible high winds that day and the generally dismal weather. It became quickly clear that this woman was not the shop owner--but a local gal who came in everyday to pass the time. This was her seat and her role was to chat up the customers. The shop owner spoke to us from the register and continued her business. The elderly woman continued talking. And talking.
The shop had expanded and was full of items that one would find in South Dakota-mostly farm primitives and useful household items. You don't antique shop in SD to find decorative items--the practical nature of life there over the years allows for items actually used and pretty standard collectibles. We focus on advertising and primitives and usually find something to take back with us.
We were watched and followed quite closely by the aged woman. In fact, she followed me around the shop and commented on most of the items I picked up. Now--I just really dislike that. I am a shopper that likes to be greeted--but then left alone to browse. This is a practice Husbola and I follow with our clients--greet them and let them wander--don't mug the customers.
After a while, I sort of ignored her--I would throw in a "hmmm" or "uh huh" every once in awhile but I was able to shop around. She did periodically pick something up and ask me if I knew what it was or tell me that her mother had had "one" and explain what it was used for. She actually became quite entertaining. I ended up picking some items called miner's tags. These are very decorative brass tags that had the names and number of a particular miner stamped on them--and she explained that when the man went underground, the tag would be hung on a board--so the company would know who was underground. This was particularly interesting to me as the miner's in Chile were still stuck underground.
We found a few other things and eventually checked out. As we were walking out the door, the older woman asked," You're not from around here are you?" We replied that no we lived in northern Illinois and were just tourists. "Do you live on a farm or in town?' she asked. Startled by that question--we hesitantly said "in town" although that is really not the right answer.--but we know we do not live on a farm. "I thought so" she replied. Out the door we went.
As we headed back to the tumbleweeds and the interstate--I started thinking about this older woman. So many times when Husbola and I stop in shops--NO ONE speaks up as you enter. In one shop we know, a newspaper is more important to the clerk than customer service. Certainly talk about the weather or discussion about certain antiques is never on the menu in many shops. Heck--sometimes a "thank you" after a purchase is not on the menu. This old gal has found a shop owner friend who is willing to let her hang out in her store. Being elderly in small town South Dakota could be mighty isolating and lonely--this lady goes home each night with stories from the shop and a reason to get up the next day.
Sometimes she even gets to educate visiting city folks about farm primitives and miner's tags.
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