When I first moved to Jefferson City in 2017 with my wife, Alex, it wasn’t necessarily an overwhelming change like some people may experience with a move, especially a transition that has you going from one city to another. Heck, I think I’ve been more stressed out with a move that involved carrying large boxes from the top of the stairs to the basement.
Our relationship with Jefferson City starts in early 2015, a time when Alex and I found teaching jobs at Simonsen Ninth Grade Center. Having recently graduated from Mizzou, we were still within the confines of a rental agreement and wading the waters of consciousness about what permanent (or at least long term) plans we had moving forward. If we were going to be teaching in Jeff, wouldn’t it make sense to just live in Jeff? But, it was all about the right fit. Do we like the direction our school is going? Do we like the people we work with? What about the community? Can we even look into purchasing a house? What is there even to do in Jeff? The little things, right?
In 2017, we made the leap, but something made that leap seem simple. Something resonated in our minds that this move to Jeff City wasn’t going to be so bad. In fact, it seemed as though it was going to be refreshing. When you travel back and forth, 70 miles a day, 180 days a year, to a city that you do not live in, you start feeling less like a tourist and more like a resident. I started to know my way around Jeff like I had lived here my entire life, and frankly, I was digging this small river town vibe. There was something cool about Jeff that Columbia didn’t have. And while everyone has their favorite spots in any city, there is one place at the top of my list: the Missouri Boulevard Antique Mall.
With a tucked away facade between a local wares storefront and the Fraternal Order of Eagles, it’s easy to speed past the Antique Mall on the bustling Boulevard. And unless you are familiar with the establishment, or in the market for an eclectic shopping experience, there are probably a number of people that reside in Jeff City that have never stepped foot inside the 20,000 square foot building. So, if anything, let this blog post be a sign; I have a weekend idea for you.
Having proven to be successful for over 25 years, the Missouri Boulevard Antique Mall seemed to be doing well. With a strong customer base and prosperous business model, it caught a lot of people off guard when the Mall announced earlier this year that the store would be closing.
I remember aimlessly scrolling on Facebook when I came across the news. I set my phone down, recoiled like a hermit does into a shell, positioning myself in between two puffy couch cushions. “Alex!” I desperately hollered across the house. Before she could turn the corner, I said, “The Antique Mall is closing.” I didn’t cry, even though every part of my Pisces being was telling me to.
And while I waited for the stars to align, a few weeks passed. Faithful customers kept hope that a saving grace would keep the Mall afloat and social media comments flooded my news feed in hopes that new owners would present themselves. Soon enough, the call was answered. Enter Cheri and Scott Willett.
Cheri and Scott decided to purchase the Antique Mall upon exploring retail opportunities for awhile, and they found that the Mall fit into their goals and would take them them into retirement and beyond. When I asked why they decided the Antique Mall was that particular “retail opportunity,” Cheri said, “It seemed a shame to let such a community staple fade away, so we snatched it up as quickly as we could and couldn’t be happier!”
The Mall itself is not the Willett’s first dance with retail. In fact, prior to purchasing the Antique Mall, they owned The Marketplace Gift Store in Jefferson City for almost five years, and with 15 years already under their belts, they continue to operate the gourmet food and gift basket company, Missouri Made.
Upon hearing that the Antique Mall was staying open, Alex and I had a conversation about opening our own booth. Our home is filled with nostalgic pieces that have purposeful display, and we love to pick stuff at garage and estate sales. We hopped on the opportunity and contacted Cheri. The process was simple and after filling out the essential paperwork, like receiving keys to a new home, we were proprietors of our 5 x 7 space!
Since reopening, the Antique Mall has undergone a plethora of changes, and all vendor booths are now occupied. Ask anyone who has been to the store and they would likely be floored by the organization of not only the Mall, but each and every booth. While a number of vendors would likely categorize their operation of their booth as a “hobby,” there is money to be made, and customers like shopping in spaces that appear clean and orderly. Cheri commented on the type of business she wanted to provide for vendors and she commented, “Our goal was to create a space for entrepreneurs to have a retail space to offer their goods. Overhead to own your own business is so overwhelming. We want everyone to have a chance to experience the real thrill of owning a business with minimal expense. Many of our vendors have full time jobs or other obligations. This business model allows our entrepreneurs to be in business without being tied down to a full-time operation.”
Antique Malls are unique, and honestly, Jefferson City has one of the best around. Cheri said it best when she talked about the experience you will have if you’ve never been in the Antique Mall, and she provided me with a very zenful remark: “Be prepared to be wowed by the size of the store and the enormous amount of merchandise to see. Our store looks small from the front but when you come inside you can see that it goes on and on for what seems like forever. Each corner you turn packs a new surprise. Our friendly staff will help to make your experience the best it can be. Many of our customers say they come to the store for ‘therapy’ so we want to make it the best ‘therapy’ you can get!”
Tony and Alex Miriani are the proprietors of the “Hipster Jeff” branded booth located inside the Missouri Boulevard Antique Mall. The Antique Mall is located at 1415 Missouri Boulevard in Jefferson City and open seven days a week. For more information, check out the Missouri Boulevard Antique Mall Facebook page, and for more information on Hipster Jeff, check out their social media platforms on Facebook and Instagram (@hipsterjeff)!
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