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Longtime Elkhorn antique dealers see market change

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Carla McCann
January 10, 2008
— When Howard and Lois Powell enter their West Geneva Street business, they step into a building of historic treasures.

As the owners and operators of Powell’s Antique Shop, the couple have spent 30 years at the location buying and selling glimpses of the past.


Store shelves are lined with delicate glass kerosene lamps, pieces of pattern glass and other antique dishes. Ornate chandeliers hang from the ceiling. Tables and chairs tell unspoken stories of past generations.


Howard, 85, has become a history teacher. He can rattle off dates for most pieces in the store, tell about the eras when they were popular and marvel over the changes within his market.


Lois, 75, knows the names of each piece of pattern glass and dish. Her memories of the past are vivid.


The couple enjoy visiting with customers.


For the Powells, who have been married 57 years, owning an antique store is a family tradition.


Howard’s father, Elbert A. Powell, opened this store in July 1945. It was Elbert who started collecting kerosene lamps.


Howard bought out his brother’s share of the shop in 1978 and continued his father’s love for lamps.


Howard and Lois built an addition after they bought the shop.


Much has changed in the antique market, however, since Howard and Lois first sat behind the counter, operating their antique cash register.


And it hasn’t all been good, Lois said.


The shaky economy is having an effect on the market, Lois said. Prices have dropped, and items that once were popular have now lost favor.


“Furniture isn’t selling for what it used to,” Howard said. “Stamp collecting used to be the biggest hobby in the world. Now, you don’t hear so much about it.”


It’s the same story with coin collecting, Howard said.


The shop still offers antique coins, but not as many.


It’s becoming more difficult for antique dealers to buy items, Howard said.


Antique shops are suffering from Internet competition, Lois said, with more people buying online.


But Howard believes many others still like to touch and hold a treasure before buying it.


Although the antique market may not be as strong as it was a decade ago, the Powells have no immediate plans of closing the shop.


“We kind of look forward to being here,” Howard said. “Someday, we may ask ourselves why are we here.”


Until then, the Powells will continue their history lessons and friendly conversations with all who enter their shop door.


TO LEARN MORE

Powell’s Antique Shop at 14 W. Geneva St., Elkhorn, is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. except on Mondays and Tuesdays.


For more information, call the shop at (262) 723-2952.



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