past. Even in the city, you may hear a deer bounding through the frozen woods, and, at Christmas, fragrant pine rope entwines old-fashioned streetlights that
line the downtown streets.
You’ll find shops here, too, many in buildings dating to the city's early days, all decorated with holiday ribbons
In some, you'll even find shopkeepers serving plump
cookies and hot chocolate and cider. That's the scene in Sarah's Uniques and Jim's "Man"tiques, 1113 Whitewater Ave. Owners Sarah and Jim Kieffer's shop is located in the heart of the historic St. Charles downtown shopping district.
Like many antique shops this time of year, it's filled with hundreds of gift ideas — ornaments, hand-carved Santas, shiny stars danging from fir branches, or even a Flexible
Flyer sled with shiny red runners. There's good conversation, too.
The shop is reminiscent of an old-fashioned country mercantile store with rare antique finds. Sarah Kieffer shows off some items — furniture, collectibles,
old-fashioned kitchen utensils and gadgets, aprons, linens, quilts, glassware, old hats, furs and more. Jim's "Man"tiques has cast-iron items that have been
cleaned, treated and seasoned, ready for use in great condition one again. Beer memorabilia, fishing items, tools, toys and more fill the store.
The Kieffers wanted just this kind of shop.
"We opened in August 2010," Sarah Kieffer said. "My husband and I had a long love for antiquing and
collecting, and I had always wanted to own my own business. Our families have been such a blessing and are so much a part of it, too.”
Like it is for many antique shop owners, the business is personal, starting with a love for collecting.
"The personal experience has been collecting items
ourselves," Sarah Kieffer said. "My mother was my biggest inspiration. I used to go with her to many antique shops when I was young. She taught me the value
of items and much more — the meaning behind keeping traditions and how important it was to take care of what was passed down from generation to generation and the memories so many items have.
"Of course, I have always loved to decorate and use old antique items mixed in with today’s trends," she said. "Jim started collecting cookie jars when he was in his early 20s. He educated himself on each and every kind, and at one time owned over 1,000 of them. He has always loved buying and selling different items as
Within this cozy, 1,000-square-foot shop, you will find that they utilize all the space they can.
“I have one desk that serves as my 'check-out' area — and even have many items for sale in the bathroom — but
still have a well organized shop!" Sarah Kieffer said. "We don't have any vendors, and we love it when people come into the shop and have items for sale
or invite us to their home for a 'pick,' which is our favorite way of acquiring items — from people themselves. We get to find out the stories behind the items and can pass this along to our customers.”
Shopping in a small community such as St. Charles can take you back to the days of roving carolers, roasting
chestnuts and citizens dressed in Dickens-era clothing.
“St. Charles always decorates the town so pretty with the streetlights and such," Sarah Kieffer said. "And with a bit of snow, sometimes traveling out of the big city
to a small town to shop can be such fun and a relaxing getaway.
“I love to decorate the shop inside and outside with the collectible Christmas items I have collected all year long," she said, "so I love it when people can drive by
and notice the old holiday decorations outside the shop with the twinkling lights. That makes people cheerful and motivated to decorate for themselves, and in a small town like this, they seem to get closer during this time of the year, and come in to share their items or tell a story of the past and memories that have been rekindled from seeing my items. This, too, can make for a very