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Monday, Jan. 26, 2015

Old shop filled with more than curiosities

Friday, August 29, 2003

(Photo)
Evan Wade photo

This monkey, one of the store's many antique and collectible toys, sits on the top shelf, surveying its surroundings.

By EVAN WADE

evnwade@yahoo.com

Curio shoppers, take note! Many people like you have found a haven in a store right here in Brazil.

Stuff N Things, located right out of town on U.S. 40 East, has a little bit of something for everyone, and they just keep getting bigger.

Scott Bell, owner of the store, his wife, Glenda, and mother, Betty, have made it what it is today by doing one thing: Collecting, collecting, collecting.

"We've been around for about 28 years, going on 30," Scott said. "The store opened in '76, we think."

"Betty's been collecting this stuff for a lot longer than the store's been open, though," Glenda was quick to add.

Betty, the original proprietor of the store, still loves it fondly even though she sold it to her son 17 years ago.

"I can waltz in and out of here whenever I want now," she says. "And you really get to miss it. You do antiques your whole life, and you miss it.

"Scott worked for me when he was younger, and he wasn't really interested in it back then," she continued. "Of course, he grew to love it, just like I did."

The business, which is run by "family and family slaves," according to Glenda, has its ups and downs, but they all love it nontheless.

"The best part is getting to meet people," Scott said. "You meet all types of interesting people that collect everything you can imagine. We keep an eye out for things we know certain customers would want. That and you don't have a boss."

"Researching items we get can be fun, too," Glenda added. "It's something new every day and it can be really fun to figure out exactly where and when something came from."

There are disadvantages too, though they all come with the territory.

"You pretty much have to work all the time, and some people get testy when you take a vacation. You really can't call in sick," Scott said. "Sometimes you get nasty notes on the door."

These are small deterrents in what the Bells have turned into a blossoming business, though. Besides the usual Brazil customers, they get visitors from all over the country -- and sometimes, the world.

Betty recounted a customer that makes a yearly trip from Japan to visit shops just like hers. He spoke very little English at first, though now he is "fairly fluent" and they all look forward to his visits.

"We get people from California, New York," said Betty. "Some of them say that this is the best place to go for 'old stuff.'"

A lot of their business, they said, comes during the fall festival season, when a lot of out-of-towners make their way to Brazil for a couple of days.

Besides antiques, the store also specializes in collector's items, such as comic books, records, and toys. Many of their items, like a talking Freddy Krueger doll and a plethora of assorted Star Wars memorabilia, are fairly rare and desirable for collectors of their type.

They also have countless records, some of which fetch a pretty penny in their market. Aside from albums from the likes of the Beatles, they prominently display the works of bands like The Kinks and others.

"People come in looking for very specific things," Scott said. "They have thousands of a particular item and are always looking to collect more."

Glenda said that people have come in looking for everything from lunchboxes to salt and pepper shakers to nail clippers, and the Bells always try to accommodate their needs.

"The strangest thing I've had a person come looking for is dryer lint," Betty said. "I asked her what she wanted it for and she said that she made little animals out of it. I just throw my dryer lint away."

"One guy," Scott said, "had literally thousands of fingernail clippers. I tracked a few really old ones down for him and he already had them.

"Like I said, they want very specific things sometimes."

Though they generally get their product from buying and barter, the business started in a rather impromptu fashion.

"My husband, Herman, used to buy and sell real estate," Betty said. "And I saw a bunch of men loading these really beautiful old antiques up in a tarp and throwing them in a fire. I didn't like that a bit so I started storing them in a warehouse."

Betty continued, saying that pretty soon her collection had expanded from the warehouse to a property her husband owned outside of town. He couldn't get anyone to purchase the house, so he built an expansion onto it to accommodate its mass. Eventually, plans were made to open an antique store, and the calls started rolling in.

"As soon as we said we were opening it up, we got so many calls," she said.

"You get a lot of people here," said Glenda, "and not all of them are nice. But it makes you really appreciate the nice ones, and there are many more of them."

"Sometimes we get some junky stuff, and it seems like nobody would want it," Betty added. "But there's always someone that will. There's really a place for everything."



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