The saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” has never been truer.
In recent years, second-hand shops, antiquing and vintage or retro-inspired clothing has become something of a fad. Vinyl record sales have soared within a declining market for physical music. Shoppers embraced the nostalgia and rich history associated with antiques and vintage items.
The Fox Cities proved to be an excellent place for collectors and novice antique shoppers to find one-of-a-kind items from years past.
“Antiquing is like treasure hunting— when you find that awesome piece that just speaks to you that feeling is unbeatable,” says Tina Palmer, owner of Vintique in Neenah, which specializes in vintage clothing and accessories. “The appreciation of history and antiques comes to life in the shop through the experience, the antiques, the vintage clothing and all of the new pieces that have personality. It felt very natural to bring all of my loves and hobbies to life in Vintique.”
For Palmer, the time, patience and dedication it takes to find unique items is worth the effort.
“I recently obtained eight gorgeous pieces from the 1940s. Four dresses, two jackets and two coats. The quality, style and detailing was so gorgeous.”
Clothing isn’t the only thing antique hunters can expect to find at shops specializing in items of the past. Stores like Bumblepuppy Consignment of Appleton sell antiques ranging from fine china and glassware to furs, furniture and art. Owned by Janel Bedor, Bumblepuppy also coordinates estate sales in the area.
Bedor began reselling items as a side job during college, when she would list items on eBay for other people. In 2008, when she was asked to list everything in a home on eBay, she suggested organizing an estate sale instead. The rest is history.
“I love the history behind pieces. I’m a trained librarian, so I do a lot of research behind purchases,” says Bedor.
A memorable item for Bedor was a family portrait she obtained, which was admittedly “kind of ugly” but ended up selling for $10,000 at auction. The surprises that reveal themselves in the world of antiques shows each piece really does have a story of its own.
For the full antiquing experience, look no further than the Fox River Antique Mall, located in Appleton. The store is the product of many vendors each offering their curated goods for sale in individual stalls, many with a clear specialty.
Don’t let the sheer amount of antiques overwhelm you. This mall is a gem by all measures. You won’t find these treasures at any other shopping mall. The wall-to-wall displays and the feeling of getting lost in the maze collectibles and knickknacks is sure to entice any avid collector into stopping in for a visit.
“We see collectors of all ages, interests, and from all over the world stop in,” says Ellen Handschke, co-owner and manager.
With 165 dealers and 30,000 square-feet of ware house, buyers of all interests are sure to find an item that speaks to them personally. Although inventory is constantly changing, Handschke says they have vendors who have been renting out a stall since day one, when the mall opened in 1990.
“It started out as a business decision. It was ‘what will we do with this warehouse? Well, let’s fill it with antiques,’” says Handschke.
What began as simply a career move for Handschke has become a mecca for collectors and curious visitors, new and experienced alike.
Handschke’s advice for those just beginning their time travelling via antiques?
“Reference books are important if you’re serious about collecting. Always watch for reproductions, which can be researched online,” she says.
All three collectors could agree on one thing — the thrill of finding a unique, rare or meaningful item makes the time, patience and hunting it took completely worth it.
— By Mia Sato