Finders Keepers: A Day at Antique World Mall

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - Sue Allgeyer walks past a stunning white Pendleton coat and stops in her tracks. Eyeing it closely, she carefully takes it from the hanger and slips it over her narrow shoulders. Judging by the joy on her face, you know she's thinking, 'Perfect fit.'

This happens a lot to Allgeyer, the owner and manager of Boise's Antique World Mall. She's been running the place since 2001, and knows first-hand that, in the antiques trade, you never pass up an opportunity, no matter what kind of dent it makes in your budget.

"I've learned during the years, "she says earnestly, "if you don't get it and miss out on it, you'll never see it again. Gotta grab it when you see it."

So Allgeyer is in a sweet spot, probably the sweetest for anyone who likes old things, vintage things. She happens to own quite a few Victorian shoes, but she knows from experience that her mall is a great place to start a collection of virtually anything your heart might desire.

Still, drop in on a first visit and be prepared to be overwhelmed. The Antique World Mall is Idaho's largest, and it's no exaggeration to suggest you might need a map to navigate your way along its many aisles.

To aid newcomers, Allgeyer has hung signs that give each aisle a street name, like "Paris Lane." She also provides clipboards that shoppers can use to jot down the number of any one of hundreds of booths. Just don't ask for a personal shopper.

"You gotta poke," she says. "It isn't like you can just walk in here and say, 'Show me all the something.' We can't hardly do it because people, dealers come in every day with new items."

Ah, the items.

How do you begin describing the variety? In all seriousness, it's impossible, largely because of that old saw about one man's junk being another man's treasure.

Two people can walk by a vintage Frister & Rossman sewing machine and feel two ways about it. Still, it's a beautiful piece, one boasting a glossy gold-and-black finish, with artfully-applied filigree touches befitting a machine made at a time when a sewing machine was just as much a decorative item as a utilitarian one.

Walk a few feet and you might find yourself face-to-face with vintage tobacco tins or hand-crafted western boots or a 60's-era pedal car or maybe a dye cabinet--that's to die for.

Not everything on display is a high-end antique, but that's exactly the way Allgeyer wants it. She's proud of the fact that many of the things for sale can be had for less than five bucks.

"A true antique is 100 years old," she says, pointing to a locked case of fine jewelry. "But there are so many in-between things that people collect and it makes things pretty exciting."

"It's a sickness," admits Susan Fowler. She's one of the original dealers and points out that the antiques business requires a lot more work than the public realizes.

"You have to get out and hustle." That means taking in every auction and estate sale Fowler can squeeze into the time she has away from her booth.

Fowler happens to be a fan of cookie jars and Victoriana, but her displays include a vintage doll-size figure of General Douglas MacArthur. After so many years, she knows her customer base and what sells in Boise.

"It has everything you could possibly want," according to veteran shopper, and doting grandmother, Carol Funderburg.

She's a mall regular, although she admits she still gets lost.

"I have spotted stuff and then forgotten which lane it's on, so I have to go through the store again," she says with a sheepish grin.

And just like grocery managers who put the milk in the back so you'll have to walk past higher-priced items, the dealers here don't fret that, on your long march to the register, you might pick up an extra must-have.

Maybe it's an Asian mask carved from ivory or a vintage wooden table radio or even an authentic Red Ryder air rifle, like the one Ralphie coveted in the classic "A Christmas Story."

At $300, it was a little dear for this reporter, but that's life in the antiques game.

When it comes to this high-stakes brand of finders-keepers, there's only one rule that applies: good things don't always come to those who wait.
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