I left Sauk Centre at about 7:30am planning to arrive in Hastings about 10:00am when the shops opened. It was a beautiful sunny day, traffic was light and I pulled into Hastings just after 10 o’clock. The three shops on my schedule are all on 2nd Street within a half-block of each other in Historic Downtown Hastings.
My first stop was actually two shops in one. You enter the front door into 2nd Street Market and The Little Shop of Treasures is located towards the back and in an adjacent room. Joyce, the owner of The Little Shop of Treasures was covering both shops the day I was there. She told me that 2nd Street Market has about 24 dealers and The Little Shop has 9. She also noted that The Little Shop specializes in mid-century Vintage and new Vintage, while 2nd Street has coined the term Eclectibles to describe its inventory.
My second stop was three doors east and soon I was inside the beautifully appointed and spacious front room of The Emporium. Rich, one of the dealers, was manning the front desk and Kathy, an employee was busy on the upper level partially into a complete rearrangement of the show spaces. The shop has 50 dealers and consigners on two levels. It is one of the most beautifully renovated buildings I have seen on my travels. The owner, Karen, wasn’t in the morning I was there, but she is always fun to chat with and works very hard at keeping her shop looking spotless. They have a varied mix of fine antiques and unique old items nicely displayed and easy to browse.
Next I headed across 2nd Street to Second Street Antiques and Collectibles where I finally caught the owner, Paul, at the desk. I’ve been in the shop many times over the years but have never managed to cross paths with Paul so this was a banner stop!
While we were chatting a couple who had been shopping came up to check out and they introduced themselves as Hall and Pam, former antiques dealers from central Illinois. They have family in Red Wing and whenever they come to visit they take a few days to go antiquing in the area. They told Paul they always find that eastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin have better quality antiques than they are able to find in their usual haunts in Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky. They also told us about a phenomenon they have noticed in parts of those same states – entire shops that have cases of merchandise marked “Not For Sale” because all of the contents is listed on eBay. What used to be nice shops have become ‘storage bays’ for Ebay. Paul noted that Second Street is has none of that – “if something’s in the store it’s for sale!”
Leaving Hastings I crossed the Mississippi River at Prescott, WI as I headed northeast to River Falls, WI and soon was chatting with Pat and Dan, the owners of River Falls Art and Antiques in downtown River Falls. The shop is located in a large multi-business mall building and the main shop is on the lower level, well laid out and full of very good quality antiques and vintage items. But, as an experiment, Pat and Dan have taken over a large space on the upper level just as you come in the front door. They are creating a space that features a living room, kitchen, and dining room fully accessorized with antique and/or vintage items tailored to the season. The current theme they are working on is “Home for the Holidays” and features Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s décor. The plan is that after the New Year it will change to a Spring theme, which will give way to a Summer theme, and then an Autumn theme. They are excited about being able to showcase many of the great pieces they keep finding in a ‘real-life’ setting. I look forward to going back to see the results!
My next stop took me east and then south to a shop out in the country northeast of Ellsworth, WI. It was about a twenty-five minute drive to Hidden Oak International Antiques and Collectibles. Unfortunately I did not realize that Hidden Oak would be closed this day, but I left a bundle of papers a note for Sheryel and Scott. From past trips I know what this shop holds inside – and it’s worth the drive. They have a great mix of fine antique, to vintage, to collectible items all nicely displayed and well worth browsing. Their inventory includes some really unique and one-of-a-kind items – such as a working coin-operated puppet show from London (if you don’t have a nickel, Sheryel can probably come up with one to demonstrate it for you), and a life-sized pony made entirely of pieces of driftwood.
Hopping back into the car I headed south, destination: Bay City, WI where I would find Echo’s Of The Past Antiques just a bit north of town. Again, my luck was not with me as neither Patti nor Kevin was around when I arrived. And again, I took some photos and left a bundle of papers. But, also from past visits, I know that they have a bright, neat, well-laid-out shop with a great variety of primitive and vintage antiques as well as some really unique items. The shop is tucked into Patti’s flower gardens and accessed by way of stone paths. She also has a good variety of garden art displayed in the flower gardens around the shop.
Once again I had to cross the Mississippi – this time back into Minnesota – and soon I was parked outside Al’s Antique Mall in Red Wing. My luck had changed as I found Al at his computer behind the front desk researching some postcards from an album that he had just acquired. Al’s shop is one of those where you can spend hours hunting – you have to dig a little bit – but if you do you are bound to find something unique, interesting, and/or lots of fun. The variety is truly amazing and it changes almost daily!
I hopped into the car and headed across town to Old West Main Street where I stopped first at Larry’s Jugs Antiques. Larry wasn’t in, but his son, Larry, Jr. was taking care of the shop. He reiterated what I already knew – that Larry’s Jugs is the premiere Red Wing shop – period! Larry, Sr. is one of the foremost authorities on all things Red Wing. He’s co-authored at least three books on Red Wing Pottery in addition to having one of the largest (if not THE largest) inventories of high quality Red Wing Pottery. The shop itself is unique in that it's two floors are located in an old, beautifully restored ice house. This is definitely a destination shop worth spending time in!
Continuing west on Old West Main I soon arrived at the old Red Wing Pottery, an historic building now known as Pottery Place Center, and which has been converted into many fine little shops – with two great antique shops among them. My first stop was 3rd Floor Antiques – you guessed it – up on the third floor of the building. Lyle, the owner wasn’t in, but I met three of the 3rd Floor dealers, Bob, Marion, and Melissa at the front desk and had a good chat with them. They told me the forte of this shop is the always changing merchandise. All of the dealers work at keeping their booths fresh and clean. The shop is large enough to warrant an hour or two of browsing as the quality is excellent and there is a great variety.
And finally I headed down a floor to Pottery Place Antiques where I found the owner, Bernie, and one of the dealers, Dave, at the front desk. Bernie was busy getting a couple of old brass blow torches ready for sale and Dave was assisting him. We talked about the business and Bernie told me they had a lot of new merchandise and that they were still striving to find high quality, unique items because, “…that’s what people are looking for.” Bernie also took some time to show me how he handles the Ebay side of his business. He noted that it’s labor-intensive, but stuff seems to sell there – faster than it might just sitting on a shelf. Pottery Place is another of those shops where you can spend several hours just browsing all the little nooks, crannies and hideaways that are chock full of interesting items.
As I left Red Wing I headed north and soon passed by the city of Hastings – where I had started this trip seven or eight hours ago. I managed to visit 10 shops in that time and definitely wasn’t able to spend as much time as I would have liked at any of them. But since I have the best job in the world I’ll get a chance to go back later this year and do it again. Maybe in a different order, probably meeting different dealers, and surely seeing new items in each of the shops.