By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Karen St. Germain, who grew up in the small northwestern Minnesota town of Roseau and then spent some early married years in the Metro area, put down roots in Long Prairie in 1986.
St. Germain and her husband, Glen, moved to Long Prairie when they bought a building they spotted while driving through town. That became Southside Auto.
“With children who were 3 and 6, we were glad to get out of the city,” she said. “There is sense of security in a small town.”
But for St. Germain, who calls herself a “born collector,” there was a seed of an entirely different type germinating inside.
“Ever since I was a teenager I stopped for garage sales and estate sales,” she said. It was in 1995, that she opened her first antique shop, renting space in a mall in Long Prairie.
Her shop moved to Osakis and then to Little Falls, as each location closed and she had to find new space.
She decided to “test the waters” by opening a shop in a vacant building she and her husband owned at 314 First Avenue N. (Highway 27E) in Long Prairie. “We had nothing to lose,” she said.
Pastime Antiques opened for business in 2001, and any qualms St. Germain had about experiencing the business from an owner’s standpoint have long since vanished.
“I meet so many great people — it’s just been wonderful,” she said. “Most antique shoppers are kindred spirits; we have the same love of antiques, a passion for them.”
Once a piece of history called an antique reaches her shop, St. Germain is ready to part with it. “A person can reach the point of satiation. I’m a crazy collector, but I’m not a hoarder,” she said.
Pastime Antiques holds a variety of furniture of different vintages, pottery, glassware, linens and toys. Silk florals complement the displays. There are yard and garden items.
Local artisans contribute unique items for home and gifts. The porch and back yard open up in summer, where frozen treats and beverages are served.
St. Germain does much of the cleaning and painting when preparing pieces to display and sell. The refinishing and repairing are done by a retired couple in Sauk Centre, Marv and Marlene Noe.
“I joke with them that if they ever quit doing repair work I’d have to go out of business,” said St. Germain. “But I will never be able to go out of business; this is so much a part of my life — I would miss it.”
The most unique piece St. Germain has ever found was a Swedish hand-grained corner cupboard. “I saw it at another antique store and immediately fell in love with it,” she said. “It was love at first sight, and I thought, even if I can’t use it in my house, I can enjoy it right here at the shop.”
She is still discovering new details about the cupboard. It was a built-in piece that had to be sawed in half to be removed from its original location. The shadows on the side of one end offer intriguing suggestions of the type of molding that had been built next to it, or whether it had been in a room with a sloped ceiling.
St. Germain enjoys working with other antique shops in the area. Word of mouth between them is good advertising, too.
“It’s not like we’re in competition with each other,” she said. “There is a vast, vast number of antique items. Each store has its own personality, unique things that make it comfortable, inviting and relaxing.”
St. Germain hears many customers’ stories about significant memories brought to mind after someone spots a certain special item in the shop.
“Just this last week, a woman found a Giggles doll from the 1960s, just like one she had that her mom had given away to a cousin,” said St. Germain. “She’d never gotten it back, and she was just ecstatic to have found it.”
Many customers have told St. Germain that walking through her store is just like being at grandma’s house.
“There is so much you can do with antiques. They are unique, not cookie-cutter items,” she said. “Floral pieces placed throughout the store pull things together. With the candles and soaps and music playing in the background, all of the senses are used.”
Pastime Antiques is open Thursday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through the weekend prior to Christmas. The shop is closed from then through March.
For more information call (320) 732-4800.