Every day feels a little like Christmas for Charlene Sansone and her staff at Pacific Antique Mall. They never know what treasures will come in from any of the 38 vendors who rent space in the mall to sell their finds.
Carved wooden doors, an old dough bowl, wagon wheels, bicycles, old-fashioned iron bird cage, old steamer trunks, an antique fan, teddy bears made from old quilts or custom-made from old family clothing, various furniture pieces, a wide variety of glass bottles, old prints and postcards, spoons . . . there are thousands of items in stock each day, and every week the stock is changing.
The one antique that never changes, however, is the building, which is every much an antique as the items inside of it.
The circa 1880s building at 125 N. First St. is one of the oldest post and beam structures in Pacific, said local historian Sue Reed.
“Originally it was the second funeral home in Pacific,” she told The Missourian, noting the business was started in a brick building across from what is now the Bank of America. “It was run by Joseph Otman, who was married to Emma Thiebes.
“But he found the business distasteful so he sold it to his brother-in-law, John Thiebes, who set up the funeral home in what is now the Pacific Antique Mall.”
The portion of the building that has the bow window is where the funeral home was located. On the other side was a furniture business.
“They sold some of the earliest refrigerators in town,” said Reed.
At one time, the August Bruns family lived on the second floor. He drove the ambulance/hearse for Thiebes, said Reed.
She’s happy to see the building, which she described as in “fair condition, considering its age,” occupied with a thriving business.
“It should be used,” said Reed. “We should be using all of our old buildings instead of building new ones on our farmland. We should fix up the old ones and reuse them.”
The old Thiebes buiding is “as important as any other building,” Reed stressed. “All of our old buildings are a treasure chest.”
The historic nature of the building makes the perfect atmosphere for the antique business, said Julie Lawrence, who manages the Pacific Antique Mall.
“It adds to the hominess of the place,” she commented.
The tin ceiling, although not original to the structure, it is almost as old as the building, said Reed. Upstairs, the rooms are still in place as they would have been when a family lived there. They are set up with antiques available for purchase — one has items to make up a child’s room, another is arranged as a dining area and another as a sitting area.
‘Only Clean Items’
Sansone opened Pacific Antique Mall about a year ago, after previous tenants Baby Zone moved out and K-Leigh Bugs Antiques relocated to Villa Ridge.
She changed the interior of the first floor to create “booths” where items could be grouped, either by vendor or like items. There also are shelves, for vendors who don’t have as many items to sell.
The vendors rent space from the mall, but Sansone has tight requirements on their items.
“We only want clean items,” she said. “Our vendors keep away from the yard sale or garage sale items.”
All items are expected to be in “nice” condition, Sansone said, explaining that means no “moldiness.”
“If there’s a moldiness to things, you walk in and it’s not long before your hands start to itch, and there’s an odor.”
Sansone prides herself that many people who come into her mall comment that it doesn’t “smell” like an antique store.
Customers come from far and wide, too — all over the United States, but she’s also had shoppers from New Zealand, Poland, Italy, France, Canada, China . . .
“A lot of them are in the area because of Route 66 or the railroad,” she said.
Events hosted by the Pacific Partnership such as Railroad Day, Cruise Night and the Merchants Flea Market, also are a big draw for the business.
“All of that draws people into the old part of town and promotes the community,” said Sansone.
Waiting List for Vendors
It isn’t always easy to become a vendor at Pacific Antique Mall. Sansone noted she often has a waiting list.
“We get some people who decide they finally want to clean out Grandma’s house or a basement, so they start out (renting) a shelf or a bookcase before they move up to a booth,” Sansone commented.
Vendors are from all over the area — Pacific, Villa Ridge, St. Clair, Lonedell, Kirkwood, Wildwood, De Soto . . .
Nancy Rice, who is the decorator for the mall, also is one of the vendors. She provides a lot of repurposed furniture pieces — antique steamer trunks turned into tables or a wine rack, an old baby-changing table turned into a wine table . . .
“This small steamer trunk here by the door is from between 1850 and ’60,” said Rice. “It was in pieces when I found it.”
She also is selling a Victorian shoe lamp that sits on top of another steamer trunk that has been turned on its side and converted to a wine rack.
Rice said she frequents estate sales to find pieces that are diamonds in the rough and then cleans and refinishes them for sale at the mall.
Sansone, who used to own Iron Gate Antiques on St. Louis Street in Pacific from 1970 to ’85, also is a vendor in the Mall. She still has a good stock of antiques from the Iron Gate days and gradually brings a piece or two into the Pacific Antique Mall.
Both Rice and Sansone agree that it can be hard to let go of some of the antique pieces they’ve found and cleaned up for sale.
Yet, at the same time, it’s exciting to see a customer who is just as thrilled as they were with the piece.
“One lady hugged me,” said Rice, smiling.
Not everything for sale in the mall is an antique —which Sansone said technically means anything over 100 years old, although items that are 50 to 75 years old are often accepted as antique.
The mall also accepts some items that are collectibles or that are handmade, such as a vendor who makes clothes for 18-inch dolls, like the popular American Girl series.
The vendor who custom-makes teddy bears blends old and new in her creations. She often uses old quilts of her own, but she also takes orders from people who have old clothing pieces from someone who was special to them or from their own childhood.
For more information on the Pacific Antique Mall, people can call the shop at 636-257-3114. It is located at the corner of First and Union Streets.