- Associated Press - Sunday, August 30, 2015

WASHINGTON, Ill. (AP) - Homestead Antiques is the business that Joann Smiley always wanted.

The antique mall that opened last November at 2407 Washington Road, in the Sunnyland area, houses 15 dealers, but there’s room for 15 more, she said.

“I knew I would do this since I was in my 30s,” said Smiley, 58, referring to having her own antique store. “I’ve loved antiques ever since I went into a store in St. Joseph (in Champaign County) in the 1980s and was instantly smitten,” she said.

While the Homestead store is relatively new, Smiley and her husband, Glen, 63, are experienced antique dealers. “We’ve participated in shows across the state as well as Indiana and Iowa for 15 years,” she said.

“We still do shows, but now that we’re running the store, we’ve cut it back to just a few a year. There’s the Northern Illinois Antiques Dealers Association in Rockford in February, a show in Bishop Hill that we came back from last week and two shows in Arthur - one in March and one in November,” said Smiley.



“We’re also vendors at the Bloomington sale on the third Sunday of the month. A lot of customers know us from the shows we’ve done,” she said.

Now that she’s got her own space, Smiley said she seeks to offer customers variety in a more navigable space.

“There are some huge (antique) malls out there. I think what we’re offering people is something a little more cozy. You can get lost in some of those big malls,” she said.

Smiley has a definite idea of what her store should provide. “We don’t allow reproductions or collectibles but there are some things I’d like to have. We need toy dealers, for example,” she said.

“When it comes to dealers, I don’t take a commission on items sold. They pay a month’s rent and get a check back on what’s been sold,” said Smiley.

As for flexibility on prices, that depends on the individual dealer, she said. “I keep a book on dealer preferences. It varies from dealer to dealer on whether they want to be contacted to allow a discount beyond 10 percent,” said Smiley.

Regardless of the merchandise and discounts involved, the Smileys share a love for antiques. “I knew we were meant for each other when I saw his Roper stove,” she said, referring to the vintage oven from the 1940s.

As for the division of labor at the store, Glen Smiley, raised in Sunnyland, laughingly refers to himself as “loader” and chauffeur. But Joann Smiley said he’s far more involved. “He fixes things and helps me select items,” she said.

While women are the most numerous customers, “men shop here a lot,” said Smiley.

Attracting customers requires marketing vigilance, she said. “I joined the Washington Chamber of Commerce since the store’s mailing address is in Washington. I’ve talked with them about producing a printed list of specialty stores,” said Smiley.

“We have a website and I’m active on Facebook. Sometimes customers will come in with their phone with a picture of an item that we’ve posted and ask if it’s still here,” she said.

Facebook and other social media have also brought young people into contact with objects of the past, said Smiley.

“I’ve got young people following me on Facebook. We try to get out the message how well-made antiques can be, especially the furniture,” she said.

While antique malls are still common across the country, Smiley said there may be fewer of them than a few years ago. “You’ve had people retiring that used to run the malls,” she said.

But Smiley’s not retiring. “When I told friends of plans to open up my shop last year, some laughed and questioned that. But I want to do this,” she said.

“Sometimes you wish these pieces could talk to you. Every piece has a story,” said Smiley.

As for competition, the antique community works together, she said. “I refer people to places nearby, like Needle and a Haystack and the Pleasant Hill Antique Mall, as well as shops around the square in Washington,” said Smiley.

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Source: (Peoria) Journal Star, https://bit.ly/1MNDrFr

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Information from: Journal Star, https://pjstar.com

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