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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Confessions Of An Antiques Store Worker: Florence, Italy or Florence, Colorado?

I've worked a few places in my life. And they all have had their moments. But truly the most interesting jobs I've ever had is working at several antiques shops.

Confessions of an antiques store worker? No, you won't find anything too spicy here. Just mildly amusing or heartwarming. But then, just about anything amuses me or makes my heart melt.

Here's today's--Who Says Antiques Can't Be Fun?

My confessions come from working in Florence, the antiques capital of Colorado. No, I've never worked with either of the Keno brothers (pictured above), of Antiques Roadshow fame, but I did get to see them years ago in Denver at an Antiques Roadshow taping. And they are just as hyper and charming, jumping all around the furniture, in person as on TV.

Today I was working at ye olde antiques store and a father and daughter came in. He purchased a few old bottles and some Life magazines. He bought his daughter a nice, but inexpensive turquoise ring. She thanked him profusely.

I was warmed by it. Just observing a father and daughter out for a fun day was nice.

As I handed him his bag, he said," Today my wife is arriving in Florence, Italy. So when I talked to her I said, 'Well we are ALSO going to be in Florence today!'"

I chuckled. "Where are you all from?"

He said Colorado Springs, but he just had to come to Florence today--so he could feel a connection and make a little family joke and memory about them all being in Florence today, even though his wife was visiting their other daughter who was studying in Florence, Italy.

I said,"And that begs the question, which Florence is the better place to be today?"

He laughed, but I could tell he thought it was a tie, because each parent was sharing a special moment with their daughters in Florence, at almost the same moment.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Sandy Dale & The Gnarlies Holiday Open House In Florence, Colorado

'Tis the season for a magical time. And what better time to journey into the magical world of Florence artist, Sandy Dale and The Gnarlies, as they invite one and all to a holiday open house at their studio, Friday, Dec. 4 from 5 to 8.m.

Sandy Dale's (and The Gnarlies') studio is located at 220-A W. Main St. in Florence. Yes, Florence, the antiques capital of Colorado.

Everyone is invited. There will be punch, cookies and perhaps a new addition or two of The Gnarlies.

This is a picture we took last spring at Sandy Dale's studio, right before Florence's first steampunk festival. But there will be new creations at the studio for the holiday open house.

Besides being able to visit with Sandy Dale and The Gnarlies, there will be a sneak peak at Dale's latest artistic adventure--Rat-A-Tat Bindery And Book Repair.

More information about artist Sandy Dale and The Gnarlies is available at their Facebook page:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Pour House Coffee Shop: Artist & Community Gathering In Florence, Colorado

I've been telling people for years that they are missing out if they don't live in Florence, Colorado--or at least visit it and enjoy. Why? Because for a town of just about 4,000 there is more going on than in most larger burgs. But it all boils down to world class. Around most every corner, there are world-class artists, antique dealers, a coffee roaster extraordinaire and some culinary delights that are wonderful.

But most importantly, there is a sense of community here. No, not a sense. There is community here.

This blog post, we'll focus on Kenny Paul, that coffee roaster extraordinaire and owner of The Pour House at 202 W. Main St. in Florence.

                                         KENNY PAUL at THE POUR HOUSE COFFEE SHOP

I've only been in Florence a few years, but even I know that the experience, ambience, food and coffee at The Pour House is worthy of a standing ovation.

What some don't know is that The Pour House has a gallery of artwork decorating most every corner of the vintage building. A visit to The Pour House isn't only a treat for the taste buds, it's a treat for the soul.

So imagine my delight when just a few hours ago I discovered that Kenny is hosting their first ever--Artist & Community Gathering at The Pour House, Nov. 12 from 6 to 8 p.m.

I ripped the last flyer, advertising the event, out of his hand. I often do that to people who are passing out flyers in the antiques district--and then I  post the information on this blog. Why? Because I have a great passion for all things local. Shop locally. Thrive locally. Enjoy locally!

                              THE POUR HOUSE COFFEE SHOP at 202 W. Main St., Florence, CO

No worries if this first-ever artist and community gathering comes with too short notice to attend. Kenny noted that this event will happen the second Thursday of every month from 6 to 8 p.m. It's a chance to talk to local artists that display their work at The Pour House, as well as get together as a community.

As if that wasn't enough--The Pour House will be offering complimentary wine from the Vino Salida Wine Cellars.

And really there is even more! Most of us know that besides the world-class coffee at The Pour House, there is also a tasty light menu and baked goods available. Even more! That Truck will be parked outside during the Artist & Community Gathering. will a full menu available. Additionally, That Truck will be at The Pour House every Tuesday from about 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to give Florencians and anyone else fortunate enough to be traveling through our quaint town a chance to enjoy another local culinary experience.

 I haven't had a chance to check out That Truck yet. But I'm pretty sure that if it is a collaboration with The Pour House--it will be fantastic. You can be sure, I will be checking it out and going into my Fremont Foodie review mode in the near future. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, you can be assured readers will be getting an honest (but less than world-class review) from me, because I only came in third place when interviewing for a restaurant review job several years ago at a large Colorado newspaper and also annoyed the heck out of celebrity chef, Lidia Bastianich many years ago in Manhattan.

But don't take my word for it (even though you should). If you've been to The Pour House, you know this is one of Florence's treasures. And if you haven't--you will be delighted. Check out the reviews on Google and other sites for The Pour House. Nearly flawless! As with many things in Florence and Fremont County--it is worth the drive to experience what we are all fortunate enough to experience any time we desire.

More information about That Truck is available at:

And more information about the world-class coffee at The Pour House is available at:

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Who Says Dogs Can't Be funny? Cute Halloween Dogs

I admit it. Sometimes we like to dress our pooches up for Halloween. They like it almost as much as we do.

Yes--it's a devil dog. He's finally expressing how he feels when a few months ago, I made him do his imitation of Donald Trump complete with a combover.

No comment, except: I thought you loved me!

My eyes tell the story: It's 1932 and I just spent a long day in the soup lines. Brother, can you spare a dime--or a Milkbone?

You dare dress me up as a hippie? What do you think this is--Woodstock. Dogs don't give the Bronx cheer--but this is my version of it. I stick my tongue out at you.

Arggh! I am not sure what this costume even is! I show my hot distaste for it by yelling.

I do believe this tiny, little sombrero makes my nose look bigger.

Maybe if I look at the floor and imagine a huge, hot meaty burrito--all of this Halloween nightmare will go away.

I feel like I am caught in a time warp. The Rocky Horror Show. Perhaps if I do a jump to the left, I can escape these humans.

Darn it. This is getting ridiculous. See that collie in the background. I'm going to telepathically send a message to the humans that he should be next. But the collie is really a big ninny when it comes to getting into costume. I sit here patiently and put up with it, while killing them softly with my eyes.

Heh! Heh! You should have ran when you had the chance silly Collie. And yes, that witch hat does make your nose look bigger too.

Humans. Sigh.

There was only one way to distract the humans from dressing us up. I donned my specs, sat in the easy chair and read them a story about how dogs love everything about being with humans (from eating their delicious food, sleeping in bed and going for car rides) EXCEPT putting on clothes.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

If You Enjoy Southern Colorado--You'll Enjoy This Blog

 I love all of Colorado, but my heart is really in southern Colorado. And if you left your heart in southern Colorado also, then you'll enjoy this blog at:

Chas Clifton, writer of the southern Rockies nature blog, left a few comments on my blog. I could tell from his comments that he knew way more about history, ghost towns and southern Colorado than I or most people do. And that intrigued me, since I am always in awe and appreciate when people come along that I can learn a thing or two about my favorite subjects.

It took me a little time to check out Mr. Clifton's blog, and it turns out that I was correct. This gentleman has a lot of knowledge and unique perspective about southern Colorado.

Mr. Clifton describes his blog as: Where Nature Meets Culture--Plus Wildfire, Dogs, Environmental News, And Writing With A Southern Colorado Perspective.

We need more of that--writing with a southern Colorado perspective. Check out Mr. Clifton's blog. And if you have any links or information to blogs and other writings that explore southern Colorado--let me know and I'll happily give a mention on this blog.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Florence, Colorado: The Historic Rialto Theater

Florence, Colorado has treasures almost everywhere--but one of its finest treasures is The Rialto Theater at 209 W. Main St. The grand old building was constructed in 1923 as an opera house with nearly 900 seats. By 1927, the grand old dame was used for screening movies and by 1969 it was closed and ever since has mostly been undergoing painstaking restoration.

The Rialto, named after a section of Venice, Italy--stands as a historical testament to not only the Italian culture so vital in Fremont County, but to the grand era of opera houses.

After years of ups and downs, the theater has seen some majestic restorations, but is still in need of more funds and community volunteers to complete the decade- long project.

I've only been in Florence a relatively short time, but have been following the progress of this massive undertaking. We were fortunate enough to have a private tour of The Rialto, given by Suzanne Phipps, who was instrumental in raising funds and completing projects--shortly before her death in Dec. of 2014.

More recently, city leaders and other civic leaders have taken over the restoration project.

The Rialto has a new (and under partial construction) website at:

Some have estimated that it will take about $1 million more to complete the project and open the doors to opera, theater, community gatherings and more.

I think of Florence (pop. apprx. 3,800) as the little town that could--and will. I think they can do it.

I got a bit curious about the history of opera houses in Colorado. So I went to:

I know the Rialto is a historical and architectural treasure, but just how rare is it in the state of Colorado?

There were about 150 opera houses built from about 1860 to 1920 in Colorado, according to the historical opera house website. That was the apparent heyday not only in Colorado, but across the USA. Of course, tastes changed. In the 1920s, the silent movies, automobiles and other factors changed people's habits in entertainment.

So, by that standard--Florence's opera house was built in 1923, just as the heyday of opera houses was winding down.

I scanned the website to see if the Rialto was listed. I was surprised that it was not. According to the website, Florence had a previous opera house built in 1903, that is now apparently a bank parking lot.

According to the website, only about 46 (or approximately one-third) of Colorado's original opera houses have been identified and many of those 46 have been so substantially remodeled or renovated that they can barely be classified as historical opera houses. Sad. About 17 remain in mostly intact condition. Buildings, that is, that were significantly associated with opera in the past, still are, or ones that will be fairly soon.

Seventeen. Sad.

But, Florence's Rialto Theater is not on the list. It's not even mentioned.

Do we have number 18 here?

Regardless, most people in Fremont County agreed The Rialto is a treasure that needs to be restored, not only for the historical record, but for the community treasure it was, still is and will be even more so in the future.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Touch Evil: Who Says Collectibles Can't Be Funny?

What the heck is this doing in an antiques store? Being the Sherlock Holmes (ette) of antiques in Florence, Colorado--I like to think deep thoughts about antiques, collectibles and other inanimate objects. I like to wonder who brought them into a store and where the items journeyed before they came to Florence--the antiques capital of Colorado.

Tee hee!

Can you even guess what this is? I didn't know until I read the tag. My first guess was a cousin of Gumby with a grass skirt. Perhaps a distant relative of the animated character,  lived in the Pacific Islands or went on a vacation and got a sunburn.

I was wrong. But that happens a lot, so I am used to it.

Once a fellow co-worker and friend told me, "You know, you are a touch evil. And you ENJOY it!"

I try to take everything said to me with a thick skin and a twinkle in my slightly evil eye and glommed on to the fact that she said a TOUCH evil. Not totally evil. And yeah, I like it. A little.

So, that's my hint about this object. It's just a touch evil.

Any more guesses?

OK, I'm not totally evil and won't keep you in suspense. It's a voodoo doll.

I didn't see that this item came with any pins. But if it did, I would have stuck a pin or two in it (in some not too painful place, since I am only a touch evil) and "zapped" the person who brought this into an antiques shop.

Hmmm. Seems like there is yet another category of antiques. Oh yeah, I could bore myself and talk about RECOGNIZED categories of antiques and collectibles. But what fun would that be.

The new category is Purgatory Antiques and Collectibles. I heard a nasty rumor that Kovel's is coming out with a price guide in this category on the twelfth of never.

Why Purgatory Antiques and Collectibles? That refers to items that are not crummy enough to be thrown out, donated to a charity or re-gifted. But are way too crappy for an antiques store, but someone tries to slip them in anyway and hope no one notices.

Perhaps we can start a National Purge Purgatory Day and have bonfires to rid the world of these items.

Is It An Antique Mall or An Antiques Mall?

Is it an antique mall or an antiques mall? Antique store or antiques store?

You say tomato and I say tomato. OK, say it however you wish, as long as you don't write: I want to eat a tomatoe. Eeek!

I am not a grammar cop, but it recently came up in conversation when I noted that Florence was sometimes touted as the antique capital of Colorado and at other times--the antiques capital of Colorado.

I asked a few people which they thought was correct. Some believed it was antique capital and a few more believed, antiques capital.

I explained that it is quite simple. If one refers to a town as an antique capital, it suggests the town itself is an antique. Perhaps the first capital in the state? If one refers to a mall or shop as an antique shop, then it suggests the shop or mall is an antique. I went on to say, that if I refer to a woman as an antique, I am saying she is old. If I refer to her as an antiques woman--I am suggesting she is an antiques dealer or into antiques.

 But here is where I rest my case. It's Antiques Roadshow, not Antique Roadshow.

So, that is why I refer to Florence as, the antiques capital of Colorado.

And today,or tomorrow, thank your English teacher if you know the difference when to use antiques or antique. Or the difference between your and you're--as in you're not paying attention to your English teacher.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

We Found YOU In Florence, Colorado: Kate Hamel of San Rafael, CA

Yes, we Found You In Florence, Colorado: Kate Hamel of San Rafael, California!

We have a feature on this blog called: Will We Find YOU In Florence? Florence is the antiques capital of Colorado. And as such, the town gets out-of-town, as well as local visitors. I thought it would be interesting to randomly ask people what they found in Florence, as I likewise, find them in Florence.

Recently we met Kate, who is a truck driver.

She walked into The Iron Gate Antique Mall recently and was thrilled by all the awesome shops in Florence. She is pictured with what she found in one shop, some bars of handmade soap.

In the course of her work, Kate has been from Vermont to California. She's made many deliveries to the Denver area and has been to Pueblo, but has never taken the cut-off from Pueblo and visited Florence until this visit

Recently she had a delivery to make at Fremont Motorsports, located at 600 E. Main St.(  and used the time she had waiting to make delivery to explore the town.

Kate, besides enjoying a successful career as a trucker, is also a furniture designer. She is working on launching her own furniture company. She promised to send pictures, to be posted on this blog, of her reclaimed furniture designs, as well as the link to her upcoming website.

The fact that Kate is creative and artistic, added to her delight in discovering the unique vibe of Florence.

"I've met friendly people, seen wonderful antiques stores and met guineas, chickens, rooster, mules..." Kate said.

Yes, Florence had lots of great antiques shops (more per capita than anywhere in Colorado), and many friends people and animals. But we've found that the people who visit Florence are also extremely friendly and have interesting creative pursuits.

Kate also enjoyed the history of the town and the scenic beauty. Yes, we found Kate in Florence. And she says she was so thrilled with what she found in Florence, that she'll be back. So, it's likely we'll find first-time visitor, Kate Hamel, in Florence again.

But will we find YOU in Florence? If we do, we'll give you a card with the address to this blog and take your picture and ask you what you found in Florence.

And even if I don't find YOU in Florence--you are welcome to send your own pictures of what you found in Florence, for possible inclusion on this blog.

Who Says Collectibles Can't Be Funny? What Would Martha Stewart Do?

I sit up nights wondering what Martha Stewart would do if she was in Florence, the antiques capital of Colorado browsing and noticed the amount of scary clowns running amok.

Would she run screaming to the offices of Architectural Digest for a cleansing? Or would she do what the Queen of Questionable Taste does and look those scary clowns in the eyes and immortalize them for the whole world to see?

I think she is a brave and talented woman with impeccable taste who would figure out a creative way for people to use scary clowns in decorating.

If she were as scared of the clown collectibles as I was, I think she'd have too much class to show it.

Since I have little class, I'll just keep on showing the tour of Florence's scary clowns and giving myself the willies.

 Oh my goodness! I can't decide if that's a price tag around the clown's neck or he's finally had enough of this cold, cruel world and decided to do himself in. Please, don't do it clown!

 OK, I give this clown permission to do himself in.

 Stop the madness. This isn't Ringling Brothers. This is Florence for goodness sake!

This clown is saying,"Ssshhh! I have a secret. The Queen of Questionable Taste must die soon. She has done more to discredit our kind than all the previous generations of clown collectibles mockers before her."

Who Says Collectibles Can't Be Funny? Scary Clown Parade

Just when you thought the scary clown invasion in Florence, Colorado was over--I captured one of the biggest parades of the pesky collectibles yet.

Notice the sign, left by the seller of this clown: Nods Off To Sleep. I tell ya what, I won't be nodding off to sleep if he's in my bedroom.

OK, I'm not the biggest antiques and collectibles expert in the universe. But I have a decent knowledge. And this glass clown bumfoozled me. Not only does he look like a deranged pirate clown--but he has a special skill. He's a slightly naughty clown. It took the King of Impeccable Taste to point out to the INNOCENT Queen of Questionable Taste that this nasty clown is an ashtray and if one puts a cigarette in the middle there, well, um, ah--it looks like his winkie. I assume winkie is the correct term for a clown's private parts.

Some things are better left unspoken. I have no words for this clown--except to get the hell out of the city limits of Florence by midnight or I'll sic the clown with the winkie on him.

Oh, God! The humanity. Apparently the clown convention was meeting in Florence.

Apparently even Jim Beam has went over to the dark side with this clown liquor bottle. I think I'll need a snort or two before I upload the next clown picture.

I think this clown would make a great anniversary gift. Just make sure you don't value your significant other--because I smell divorce papers coming down the pike after someone unwraps this gift.

Who Says Arts & Crafts Can't Be Funny? The Worst Atrocity I've Ever Seen

You want ugly? You want something so horrific it will burn your retinas? Then don't look at this picture. It's the worst of crafts and collectibles. It's the worst mankind can create with a pair of pantyhose, some poly fluff and some demonic artist inspiration.

When The King of Impeccable Taste saw these, he dubbed them Adam and Eve and suggested they go hide their shame. I was too fixated on the fact that these creations from hell were showcased in a frigging Cup O' Noodles box. I kid you not. True story! Everything on this blog is  true--but this is really true. And what transpired after I took the pictures is also true.

I don't have a good enough camera to pick up the fact that these pantyhose beauties were VERY pilled. Like somebody had rubbed them way too much.

I screamed and took another picture and the owner of these geriatric soft poly fluff porn dolls actually told me I could take them home for FREE!

I gasped and looked at him and said, "I thought our vague friendship meant more to you than that!"

Apparently it did not.

Hell no! These atrocities and the frigging Cup O' Noodles box stayed in this store. If I took these home, I'd be demoted from The Queen of Questionable Taste to The Queen of Satan's Interior Decorating Staff.

The Queen of Questionable Taste is a part-time antiques and collectibles dealer and a mocker of  tacky, ugly, FUNky  and horrid collectibles and other questionable items, but takes special glee in mocking scary clowns. The Queen appreciates a good antique and some collectibles, but insists that another man's trash is always trash--unless of course someone is willing to pay the big bucks for it. The Queen used to be a newspaper reporter and also wrote for a major national magazine. The Queen enjoys decorating her home in the tacky pseudo-Victorian gypsy funk style, gardening, reading and acting offended when her husband, The King of Impeccable Taste, makes folk art out of junk he scrounges for free from alleys and other people's yards and out of the Arkansas River. The Queen and her husband have lived in colorful Colorado for over 20 years and LOVE it.

What I Found In Florence, The Antiques Capital of Colorado: Random Acts Of Kindess

As you know, I have a feature around here--where I overhear people saying what they found in Florence. Then I bring out my camera and notepad and ask for their story. So far, no one has refused.

But more often than not, I find something in Florence. This week it was, random acts of kindness. Nice moments that I wouldn't interrupt and necessarily ask for the person's name, story and picture.

First two ladies came into the antiques shop. One collects chickens. She found two that she didn't think she had. These were adorable miniature glass chicken dishes with lids. I could tell she wanted both, but she just got one. I could tell her friend could also tell she wanted both.

They came back a short time later and her friend asked me to get the other chicken out of the showcase. "It's her birthday soon. So I am buying her birthday gift early."

"At least you know she'll absolutely love it," I said. It reminds me of what my husband and I do sometimes. One of us will find something neat that we just feel great about treating ourselves to--and the other will buy it for a far-off birthday or holiday or occasion. My husband started this tradition and claimed that by the time the occasion rolled around, I would forget he bought the item right in front of me. The first time he did that, I scoffed. Surely, I would remember, even if the occasion was several months off.

Not so! And so a tradition was born. And apparently these two cute ladies had the same thing going on. A random act of kindness.

A few hours later another customer came in.

He brought a Marx tin wind-up toy truck to the counter and asked me what the price was. The price was very clearly marked on the label. Apparently he thought the price was too good to be true and wanted me to confirm it. I told him it was a cheap price for a Marx (under $20) but it was because the wind-up mechanism didn't work.

"That's OK," he smiled," I volunteer over at the veteran's nursing home and there is a gentleman who lives there who loves to fix things like this."

Yes, another random act of kindness. A volunteer, spending his own money to bring even more purpose to a veteran's hands and a smile to his face.

Thanks to that veteran for his service and thanks to that volunteer for his service.

And that's just a little of what I found in Florence this week.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Florence Brewing Company: Serious Craft Beer In Fremont County

Everytime I think it can't get much better than living in Florence, Colorado--another reason pops up (or should I say, hops up) that makes living in this picturesque town gets even better. This spring, Florence Brewing Company will be opening at 200 S. Pikes Peak Ave. in a lovely historical building.

The Florence Brewing Company will be bringing its own craft beers to the establishment, and attempting to use locally sourced hops and other ingredients, as much as possible.

The FBC will be opening where the Florence Citizen newspaper has been located for decades. The newspaper will continue operating in a smaller portion of the building.

You can read all about it at:

I think we have a winner here!

Who Says Antiques Can't Be Funny? Slightly Naughty Girls

Jenny is my favorite strumpet of the day.

Oh, Jenny you naughty girl. I know I always wear stilettos, seamed nylons, a garter belt and a ruffly pair of skimpy bloomers to do some steam cleaning.  Don't you? I even dress up like a French maid when I am cleaning toilets. Actually I don't, but my husband might enjoy that.

Have you no shame, you turn-of-the century hottie? At least Jenny has some style and some, well clothing. I learn something new on every antiques and collectibles junket and today I learned that it looks like they might have had bikini waxes about a hundred years ago. I did not know that.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Who Says Collectibles Can't Be Funny? Satan Pig, A Sign Of The Apocalypse

The King of Impeccable Taste is a cool character. Not much rattles him. He can look a scary clown in the eye and not flinch. He can see a ratty voodoo doll and only chuckle. He can whip up steampunk junk and fry up bacon in a pan and never, never let me forget he's a man and almost always has impeccable taste.

But one thing on our junket through Florence today rattled him. You know it has to be good to rattle him.

Of course, I screamed, "Come over here. This falls in the category: What The Hell Is This Doing In An Antiques Store." That's what I screamed. But this a family-friendly blog, so I usually refer to things as, what the heck is this doing in an antiques store.

But this thing definitely reminded us both of hell.

I am not lying. The King actually said," What the hell is a Satan Pig doing in here? Pigs don't have horns. I believe this thing is one of the seven signs of the Apocalypse."

"You mean, the sign of Calypso?" I asked. "The tag says it's a Mexican folk art pig. Maybe Calypso made it's way into Mexico more than I suspected?"

"I said Apocalypse," the King said tersely.

Still stunned, I looked for reason and logic in the world of folk art and collectibles.

After all, I have Frida Kahlo collectibles and books. I am a huge fan. I know that Frida, even at her grittiest, would not inflict a Satan Pig into the world of folk art--nor would any folk artist of her fine nation.

 Yes, the King kept hissing,"It's a Satan Pig. You cannot explain it away,"  as he did the sign of the cross.

OK, there are certain things in the world of collectibles and art you just can't explain away. So in order to cleanse and absolve myself, I went on another junket in Florence, the antiques capital of Colorado-- to find more scary clowns. It turns out there are indeed scarier things than clowns.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Who Says Antiques Can't Be Funny? Umm--And Crazy!

Yes, I find some antiques funny. OK, I find most of life pretty darn funny. Yes, I live in Florence--the antiques capital of Colorado and it was here I discovered just how funny antiques can really be.

A few weeks ago, many antiques shops decorated windows for Pioneer Days. I took some pictures of the windows at Legends and Lace, and the Iron Gate Antiques Mall, both on Florence's Main St.

For some odd reason, I was allowed to get a little crazy with the window at the Iron Gate. I showed some pictures of the display and some corny signs I printed up in previous blog posts. Naturally, I was a bit curious as to the reaction browsers and customers would have. I totally get that some people would think it was a bit over the top. In fact, one of the employees commented on how corny it was. When I casually mentioned that I might have had something to do with that travesty--the review changed to: cute.

Some feedback came in from customers. Sophisticated. I was surprised by that one. But the proof was in how much attention a window gets and how many of the items showcased actually sell from the window. OK, on both counts.

But sometimes things can backfire!

To refresh your memories. This was one of the corny things we did in the window.

That's an antique surgery or dental table. And the leg is a vintage prosthesis.

I thought it was corny. But hey, you try and decorate a window based on the items vendors have in their booths and somehow get a theme going.

So, here's where it almost backfired. I was sitting in Iron Gate Antique Mall by the door on an antique church pew. OK, I know it's sacrilegious to think of someone of my ilk to be in a church pew. But it's located by the door and occasionally I sit there and greet customers.

The pew has a great view of the entire window. I noticed two gentleman walking by, then they put on the brakes and stopped by the "leg" display. Even though I couldn't hear them, I could see them quivering with laughter.

I was thinking" Thank God! Someone besides me think this is a little amusing.

But these guys were laughing so hard, I was wondering why. They then came in the store.

As I greeted them (without mentioning I noticed them guffawing outside) I noticed the gentleman laughing the hardest had a leg prosthesis. I inwardly cringed, thinking: Oh my God! In my wildest window-decorating fantasies, I NEVER even thought of how people who were missing a limb would take this. What have I done!?

The men greeted me and strode by, still chuckling. They never once mentioned it was offensive.

And that's when I realized, if someone with a partially missing leg thought it was hysterically funny--then I too could come out of the closet and be as corny as I want.

Yes, even though it almost backfired: Who Says Antiques Can't Be Funny?

Florence can't be the only place in the country with some funny antiques. Feel free to send us your funny antiques' pictures and maybe we'll put the on the blog.

We Found YOU In Florence, The Antiques Capital Of Colorado: Alison Helsley & Rose-Marie Gerschefske

A priest, a rabbi and a parrot walk into a bar…No, wait! Two nice young women walk into a store in Florence, the antiques capital of Colorado and buy a tractor crankshaft… OK, now I have the story correct.

As most regular blog readers know, I semi-recently  started a new feature here. It’s simple. Not long ago, a marketing campaign started in Florence—Find It In Florence. I have nothing to do with that campaign. But since I am a perennially curious former newspaper reporter who has always been fascinated with the true stories evident in seemingly ordinary life—I decided to see what would happen when I pop out of nowhere with a camera and a notepad and ask people what they are going to do with that antiques’ find, they discovered in Florence. So, now we have: Will We Find YOU In Florence, The Antiques Capital of Colorado?

This time around we found two creative, fun-loving women who hauled a big rusty vintage tractor crankshaft ($42) t to the counter of the Iron Gate Antique Mall in Florence.

Naturally I could not help asking what they were going to do with that lovely, heavy rusty beast. I knew there had to be a better way to do weight training.

Alison Helsley of Canon City (recently relocated from Dallas, Texas) was delighted to find this work of art in Florence. She is planning to make a table base. She described the look she is going for as: “industrial, modern rustic.”
            Rose-Marie (left) and Alison show off their latest Florence find--a tractor crankshaft

Music to my ears! I knew exactly what she meant—and that scared me. But that’s what working around lovely eccentric, rusty and yummy vintage things does to a person.

“It’s going to make an awesome coffee table,” Alison said.

I have no doubt about that. Alison said she is going to use a metal cog as the base and some pallet wood as the top.

As usual, I asked Alison to send True Story Club a photo of the finished product.

Alison was accompanied by her friend, Rose-Marie Gerschefske, who is visiting from Dallas. Rose-Marie got a mini-workout by helping her friend with the crankshaft and lifting it up for a picture.

OK, as usual we had a blast with: Will We Find YOU in Florence, the Antiques Capital of Colorado. But the question is: Will you be the next people we find in Florence?

You might be shopping in Florence and someone might come up and ask you if you want to be found in Florence—and be on this blog. So far, not one person has refused! Everyone has been gracious and shared what they were buying and WHY.

Even if I don’t find YOU in Florence—you are welcome to submit a photo of yourself and/or your friends and family and share what YOU found in Florence. It can be an item, a meal or an experience. I am really not that fussy—as long as we are all having fun, sharing a memory or sharing a creative idea.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

What I FOUND In Florence: Steampunk & Punktique

I found this steampunk contraption today in Florence. It was sitting outside Spirit Riders on Main St. Most of know Florence is the official antiques capital of Colorado. But the quaint town is also becoming the unofficial steampunk capital of Colorado.

This is the way to trip out one's three-wheel bicycle. There is even a water faucet on the back of the bike. I assume that's to provide water for the steam power!

Today is the eve of the 88th annual Pioneer Days which features a huge slate of activities including the open air market, Junktique. New this year is Punktique, an open air steampunk market. It all starts Friday, September 18. Most events, including a steampunk ball, parade and much more--happen on Friday and Saturday. But there are a few events on Sunday.

The antiques stores in Florence mostly have always been packed with steampunk, neo-Victorian and industrial finds.

So even if one misses Pioneer Days, Junktique and Punktique--there are finds seven days a week.

And Florence is also getting ready for its 2nd annual Steampunk Festival in April. So there are opportunities galore to get your steampunk on!

What I FOUND In Florence, The Antiques Capital of Colorado

What have I found in Florence, Colorado? As many know, we recently started a blog feature—Will We Find YOU in Florence?

Florence is the antiques capital of Colorado. Recently some very brilliant people came up with a marketing plan for Florence. FIND IT IN FLORENCE. I have nothing to do with that campaign, but I do recognize brilliance when I see it.

I would like to say that I have a lightning-fast intellect and that when I heard about, FIND IT IN FLORENCE, I immediately thought of a feature: Will We Find YOU In Florence? I cannot say that. Actually it did occur to me within moments of hearing about the new marketing plan—but it was an idea brewing for over a year.

I started working in a few of Florence’s antiques shops about two years ago. And people tell stories. Stories about themselves. Stories about what the items they are buying. Stories about the feelings and memories the items they were buying or looking for invoked.

And sometimes they don’t tell the stories—but I can see there is a story there.

I didn’t have a blog when I started working in the shops and hearing these stories. I had a vague idea that if I was so fascinated by some of these stories and observations, that others might find it a bit interesting.

My only regret is that I didn’t get my camera and notepad out quite some time ago!

Here’s what I found in Florence. Interesting people. Interesting ideas. Interesting items.  Creativity, humor and so much more.

Here’s a story I missed a few months ago. Antiques shops often have a box of two of old photos, labeled: Instant Relatives.

Let me backtrack. I am not new to the antiques world. I sold online for over a decade. But I am new to the in-person antiques trade. I’ve had dealers and former shop owners (and current shop owners) tell me the market has changed radically. I can see that. Prices have dropped due to economic conditions and the online marketplaces.

But several dealers have told me the antiques trade has changed from a collectors market to a decorating market. I’ve also been told that antiques and collectibles are not that popular with most younger people—and that in a few generations all the real collectors will have passed on to the great Antiques Store In The Sky, that hardly anyone will be left to appreciate antiques.


Yes, now that I am in the stores, in person, and also based on years of online selling—I do see changes. Oak furniture—down in price and popularity. Fancy dishes and clear glass—hard to sell.  Most people want sturdy dishes or admit to using paper plates. Gasp!

I know dealers who lament the fact, that things they used to take to the scrap iron yard are now in hot demand. You know, rusty wheels, rakes, pitchforks, baskets, widgets, beat-up wash basins and enamelware. Straight  Victorian?  Used to be hot, now not so much. Steampunk and industrial with neo-Victorian undertones? Hot!

Linens? Doilies? Too fussy. People buy them—but for about $1 to $3 each.

I heard all this and expected to never see anyone in an antiques store under the age of 50.

And I just wish I would have captured on my camera and this blog—all the really young people who are into antiques and collectibles. They are just into them in  different ways and using them in ways that are new and fresh.

Remember the photos marked: Instant Relatives? A 20-something couple came in, rifled through the box and picked out a photo of a man with a wild beard. I mean, this beard had more character and patina than most antiques and could have housed a family of chipmunks.

I slightly snickered as I bagged the photo purchase. Then I really looked at the customer! He had a WILD beard that could have housed a modern family of chipmunks. Then I looked at his wife. She was wearing a T-shirt that read: I’M WITH BEARDO!

Ah, the story those two (and his beard) could have told. If I would have thought to ask them about it.
But my favorite story I missed putting on this blog were two little kids. They TOTALLY debunked the idea that when a few generations die off—there will be no one left to appreciate antiques.

These kids came into a Florence antiques shop with their mother. She bought a few small items. The children looked to be about age 10 and 12. The ten-year-old had flaming red hair. His brother, I assume, was dark-haired and serious. Serious about antiques!

He brought two vintage welding torches to the counter. One was mine, so I gave him a better price on it, without him asking. The other one had no price, so I asked him to show me where he found the torch. Occasionally a tag falls off an item, or a vendor forgets to price an item. But if we can find the booth, we can usually figure it out. The boy led me to the dark recesses of the back of the shop—the place where loading dollies, boxes, tools and other things vital to running a store are stored. He had to go up a loading dock and then climb down a few dark stairs to get to the area. He found the torch there.

I gently told him that was a storage area (not open to customers) and the item was not for sale, but applauded his persistence in attempting to find a torch.

I pointed out some other torches in the store that were for sale. “I have that one. And that one,” he said.

I eventually found him another one he didn’t have. It turns out the kid just bought a bunch of welding torches on Ebay and had the beginning of a huge collection and looked for them in every corner of every antiques and junk store he could get his mother to stop at.

I can’t imagine the day the kid gets his driver’s license!

So, his brother led me to the coin section of store and I helped him with his purchase of some wheat pennies. I asked the red-haired kid if he was a coin collector. He looked at me with a smile and said he just purchased a bag of 3,000 coins in search of some valuable ones—especially those wheat pennies he loved.

The kids finally came to the counter to make their purchases. The red-haired kid told his brother,” Sheesh! You and your torch collection!”

I whispered to” Red”, “I heard a rumor that there is a customer in the store who just purchased 3,000 coins, so I’d say that person was also quite the collector also.”

Red grinned. Just because he thought torches were a strange thing to collect, he got what I was teasing him about.

Yes, this is just a bit of what I’ve found in Florence. Kids crazy for collecting. Young people using antiques for humor. Creative people using antiques for projects that spark the imagination.

And now I hope to capture the stories and people behind some of these antiques’ purchases.

And I need your help. WILL WE FIND YOU IN FLORENCE? Florence is the antiques capital of Colorado and draws people from all over the state and neighboring states—but I can’t be everywhere at once, darnit!

If you found yourself in Florence and found something interesting (it can be art, junk, antiques, a good meal or whatever) take a picture of yourself. Or have a family member or friend take a picture of you. Just make sure there is something recognizable to Florence somewhere in the picture. Take a picture of yourself and/or your posse enjoying food, wearing jewelry you purchased here… And let us know at what shop or restaurant you found yourself in Florence. You can mention the price you paid—if you wish. And even more importantly we want you to mention what feeling it invoked. Did your purchase bring back a good memory? Are you a collector? Did your grandma lose some item she had as a young person—and you found one just like it? Are you buying the item as a gift? Did you accidentally break your significant others prized do-dad and just found a replacement?

Do you work at the country’s largest flea market, yet found yourself in Florence purchasing collectibles, like Genieva Grigsby of Canton, Texas? We recently featured Genieva on--Will We Find YOU in Florence and she's pictured below.

Do you have plans to turn one of the objects you found into a world-class art project? Did you find a big rusty wheel (as did a fellow I recently talked to) and plan on building your own pottery wheel with it? Did you find the perfect antique cupboard (as a woman in Florence did recently) because your family keeps messing up your mudroom with all their shoes and jackets? Did you find a hard-to-find milk bottle from the dairy your parents owned when you were just a baby? Did you find oil can from a refinery you lived by on the East Coast that is now out of business? Yes, there are all stories from real customers that found themselves in Florence, before I had the foresight to capture their stories and histories.

We want to know about you and the story behind the purchase!

Send us your pictures and a brief story. Don’t worry—I’ll write it up for you, if you don’t want to write it yourself. There is no charge on either end for being in: Will We Find YOU In Florence? This is all for fun and to share the people behind the purchases and why and how they ended up in Florence.

Have a shop or restaurant or other business in Florence?  It’s simple, ask they people if they want to be on a blog that shares stories about people in Florence and people finding themselves in Florence. Snap a picture. Ask them a few questions—their name, the town they are from and what was so fun or special about their experience or purchase. Send it to this blog—and within a few days, or weeks—depending on my schedule, it will likely appear.

We Found YOU In Florence: Genieva Grigsby of Canton, Texas

You will find the most interesting people shopping in Florence—the antiques capital of Colorado. 

This time we found Genieva Grigsby of Canton, Texas. We overheard her talking with friends about shopping for antiques and collectibles all the way in Florence.

Of course my ears perked up. Why was it so unusual for someone from out of town to be finding treasures in Florence?

“Have you ever heard of Canton, Texas?” Genieva asked me.

I admitted I had not.

I was in for a delightful education. It turns out Canton has a population of less than 5,000 people—yet on First Monday Trade Days—anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 visitors flood the small town for what it purported to the country’s largest and oldest continuously operating flea market.

And Genieva works at the First Monday Trade Days, renting vendor spaces. “You can’t shop when you are working,” she laughed . Genieva has been working in the office at the flea market for about a decade.

The event hosts up to 6,000 vendors with a variety of merchandise ranging from antiques, collectibles, electronics and good old-fashioned junk.

So how did Genieva FIND Florence? She also has a home in Creede, Colorado. But friends from Pueblo accidentally discovered Florence years ago and could not wait to share Florence.

We found Genieva in Florence. And what did she find? Lots of things, besides a fun day with family and friends, and the thrill of the hunt. But she was particularly happy with this find.

She liked this vintage food chopper (found at Iron Gate Antique Mall for under $15) replete with a tomato graphic that matches her kitchen cabinets.

Most of us locally know that Florence has the largest amount of antiques stores in Colorado per capita—making it a paradise from shoppers all around the country, but it’s always fascinating to find out about other parts of the country.

Canton’s First Monday Trade Days started in the 1850s when the first Monday of the month was the time circuit judges made their rounds. Naturally the townspeople gathered for that and to catch up on town news and sell and trade farm and other items.

 The event eventually grew into the USA’s largest and oldest flea market that still retains its historical name, but now operates on Thursday through Sunday before the first Monday of every month. You can find out more by going to: or:
Will we find YOU in Florence, the antiques capital of Colorado? That's part of a new (an hopefully fun) feature on this blog. It's simple. There is so much to find in Florence, but we want to find YOU in Florence and see what YOU found in Florence. Even if we don't find you first, feel free to send us a selfie or picture of you and your Florence find. Simply include your name and where you are from, the item and what you plan to do with it. Try and get a Florence landmark or background in the picture, so we know you found it in Florence. And feel free to tell us how much you paid for it (if you want) and what store you purchased it from. Shop owners in Florence are also welcome to submit pictures (and a brief story) about who they found in Florence and have it appear on this blog. There is no charge on either end for this--it's all about fun and sharing.