When Waterfront Gifts and Antiques first opened, it was more about the gifts than the antiques.
But the pull of the past was strong, and so were sales, so the owners decided to take their shop in a new direction with old merchandise.
For Chris and Larry Morgan, antiques are like a gift that keeps on giving. They can be as cozy as a comforter, beckoning memories of bygone eras, or they can leave people perplexed on how an outrageous looking item could ever have been considered stylish.
Eclectic is what Chris calls it – and it all started on a whim.
She and Larry were intrigued by a small gift shop they chanced upon during a drive in 2005 and she suggested it might be nice to own a business. Larry agreed – what’s more, it turns out Chris’ parents were thinking the same thing, and there began their adventure.
A short time later, they opened at their first location. Today, they’re in their third location, at 212 W. First St. Chris and Larry own the building while Chris and her mother, Virginia Weitzel, own the business.
“It was really kind of interesting that we had all been going down that same path,” Chris said. “I guess it was just meant to be.”
Chris said she finds antiques a fascinating opportunity to learn about items and their history.
“We have always just loved the old – anything that sparks a memory. I sometimes feel like a misplaced soul because I love the old so much,” she said. “The craftsmanship is so charming and the stories they tell. Items were created to be functional and yet they each have their own style. It’s nice to learn things and pass it on.”
Chris finds her customers entertaining and enjoys the reminiscing that frequently accompanies their visits. Their ages range from older teens looking to furnish apartments to great-grandmothers.
“I do like listening to older customers,” she said. “I hear them visiting about remembered items from their grandmothers’ home. I hear so many great childhood memories.”
While Chris does much of the antique hunting at estate sales, auctions, and private sales, the store also is home to several dealers who sell furniture, glassware, textiles, pottery and much more. Merchandise is constantly being rotated.
Antique soda fountain stools welcome customers entering the store, and they’re just the beginning of a nostalgic tour as visitors are encouraged to wander through the business’ two levels. Items can be a century old or a few decades young, with everything from primitives, to mid-century modern classics, to the new.
Chris strives to give the store more of a warm and welcoming atmosphere, and less of a flea market feeling.
She attributes that friendly feel to her mother.
“She just has a quiet touch that makes everything feel inviting,” she said. “I couldn’t do it without her. It takes her to bring it all together. She just has that special touch that adds warmth wherever she goes. One of her favorite sayings as she is decorating is, ‘We’re creating.’”
The store features more than just antiques. Two dealers offer handcrafted items.
Will Aberle of Rock Falls created his own line of candles: Smelly Kids Candles, scented, soy-based candles that feature lead-free wicks.
“When I asked him about the name, he said it was ‘because candles smell and I act like a kid,’” Chris said with a laugh.
Another designer, Jan Orgen of Dixon, has created fanciful scarf-type necklaces in vibrant fabrics, textures and colors. The magnetic clasps make it simple to put on and take off the necklaces.
The Morgans will search for special request items at sales and auctions for customers and they’re always pleased when they can find that special item someone is looking for. Gift certificates are also available.
It’s so much more than a business for Chris. She is quick to praise her husband and mother for the time they are able to spend together doing something for which they have a shared passion.
“My husband is such a go-getter and so supportive. I couldn’t do it without him.” she said, adding that the time with her mom is special. “I won’t ever give it up.”