Janesville69.4°

Antiques shop fading into history

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Stacy Vogel
August 18, 2008
— A walk through Campus Antiques Mall is an exercise in nostalgia.

From the fat little Big Boy statues to the imitation-ivory elephant lamp stands, the items in the vast mall bring to mind the kitschy, quirky or just plain weird aspects of pop culture history.


But you better take that walk soon, because in six weeks Campus Antiques will be history itself.


Owner Bob Kitto will close up shop for good at the end of the day Tuesday, Sept. 30, because of drooping sales and increasing expenses, he said.


“A lot of the younger people don’t collect anything,” he said. “They’re too busy playing video games.”


Kitto, 70, started the mall at 609 Campus St.—the old Milton College gymnasium—in 1989 after stumbling into the antiques market. One day, his wife found Depression-era glassware at a rummage sale, and it piqued their interest. The couple started collecting and dealing the glass, and it eventually grew to an antiques business.


Kitto leases space in the mall to vendors. At its peak, the mall boasted nearly 100 antiques dealers; now, it’s down to about 80, he said.


Over 19 years, he has seen various collectors items cycle in and out of fashion. One year a certain china pattern will be all the rage, only to be replaced by a new pattern a few years later.


“No rhyme nor reason to it, but it happens,” he said.


It took Kitto eight years to turn a profit on his mall, but he stuck with it. He made money every year since until four years ago, he said.


If the declining interest in collecting hurt his business, the sour economy pushed it over the edge, he said. People can’t afford high-end items, and tourists are no longer willing to drive as far to hunt for antiques.


“It’s not a good time to do business,” he said.


Yet the antiques business doesn’t seem to be dying entirely. Goodrich Hall Antiques is still in business in another former Milton College building, and a brand new antiques center will open in downtown Evansville this fall.


Kitto, a Beloit resident, isn’t leaving the antiques business entirely. He will continue to operate a business he started selling supplies such as display cases and easels to dealers and collectors. He’s thinking about setting up a storefront for the business and expects it will keep him busy.


Even though he’s “about had it” with antiques dealing, he’s not ready to quit working all together, he said.


“I won’t retire,” he said. “No need to. It keeps you going.”



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