As soon as you turn onto Main Street in downtown Crosby you see one thing — antiques. Everywhere. There are several different antique stores on Main Street alone. I like antiques, but have never really been much of an “antique-er.” However, living in northern Minnesota, you eventually succumb to peer pressure or morbid curiosity.
I spent some time abroad when I was younger and my travels have made me into a sucker for certain modern antiquities — old cameras, suitcases, globes, and books. I love old books. I love the idea of the story behind them and the life they have lived. I can’t pass them up.
I’ve driven through Crosby on numerous occasions, but have never taken the opportunity to stop and check out the stores until recently.
I did my research and quickly realized that a trip to Crosby Main Street could be an all-day event. It is, according to former Minnesota governor, Arne Carlson, “the Antique Capital of Minnesota.”
I stopped in at Hallett Antique Emporium, mostly because I liked the word Emporium in the name. It reminded me of my Grandma’s favorite department store.
I know, great logic.
Todd Craven and his wife Barbara have owned Hallett since 1994 when they relocated to the Crosby area from the Twin Cities. They also own the Abbey House directly across the street from Hallett. Both stores are powered by dealers who occupy booths throughout the building. There are 36 of them in all.
Todd said he has a lifetime of memories of spending childhood summers in Crosby. “We always said to ourselves that we would move up here someday,” he said.
Todd kind of gave me the rundown of typical antique sales. About 65 percent of their customers come in an browse looking for a hidden treasure and the other 35 percent, like me, know exactly what they are looking for.
Todd said he gets a lot of requests for Civil War memorabilia, something he said is almost impossible to find anymore, because items are mostly in museums or private collections now. At one time, the did have an old Civil War gun case with a general’s crest on top. You could probably guess it didn’t take long to sell that.
Some of the more common things that are easy to find are pieces to a set of china, silverware, and collection pieces. I saw a nice collection of Cabbage Patch Kids. It kind of made me wonder whatever happened to mine. I’m pretty certain they weren’t in “mint condition.”
Todd collects Red Wing stoneware and Barbara collects, among other things, old matchboxes.
The Cravens assured me that my obsession with books and cameras was a safe one — they’re pretty easy to find.
Just up the block from Hallett is Crow Wing Antiques. It’s a smaller shop owned by antique collector Loa Nelson (no, we are not related). Loa said her store comes from a lifelong interest in “nice things.” She is one those that collects dishes and silverware and linens. “These things take on a life of their own,” Loa said.
Loa got her start in Milwaukee where she said old money contributes to an interesting and unique selection of antique items.
Loa said her customers inquire about old advertising posters, mostly specific to the area. She also sells a lot of books. Loa and I share a common principle on old books: If they aren’t meaningful titles they aren’t worth buying. Well, I’ll admit sometimes I buy books because they have cool bindings, but it’s pretty rare.
Loa said she collects long hat pins, Christmas hankies, dishes. “I have a lot of things I collect,” she said.
Loa and the Cravens agreed one thing about the antique business in Crosby— they are better together. “The more the merrier,” Loa said.
Todd said that each store has its own distinct personality. “It’s a real lifeblood to this town,” he said.
I’m still on the hunt for the perfect old trunk, but I did find a few treasures to add to my collection. I picked up an old pre-Soviet collapses globe, a copy of Lorna Doone and a couple of Dickens classics while in Crosby.
Next on my list: Vintage typewriter.
SARAH NELSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5879.