By Steve Gravelle, correspondent
Three decades in the business, any business, and you get to know your clientele.
“Sixty to 70 percent of the people that come in the door are probably repeat customers,” Steve Koenig said.
“Seventy to 80 percent are not local. I’ve always said we’re Marion’s main tourist attraction.”
Koenig, 73, was in the real estate business for about 25 years before retiring early around 1990.
“I was only in mid- , late 40s and I used to play golf every day,” he recalled. “Shortly after I retired from the real estate business, I hurt my back and could no longer play golf.
“My wife dragged me out to antique shops and kind of got me hooked on them.”
Koenig bought Antiques of Marion, without inventory, from its original owners who’d opened it about three years earlier.
He moved it to its present location about a decade later.
The transition from amateur enthusiast-collector to store owner wasn’t that difficult.
“It was natural,” Koenig said. “We were serious collectors, so instead of doing it just for fun … . It still is, just fun. That’s why we’re doing it.”
Co-owner Randy Braumann, 65, was one of those regular customers before buying his share of the store about four years ago.
“He was one of the guys that was in three, four times a week,” Koenig said.
Estate sales and auctions help keep the inventory fresh, but being in the business a few decades has its advantages, too.
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“We’ve been around long enough that people will call us,” Koenig said. “We buy from estates, we do whatever it takes.
“We do a lot of auctions, but most of it for us just walks in the door. People are downsizing or leaving town or retiring and they’ll let us know.”
Experience also helps dispose of inventory.
“Every time we buy something, in the back of my mind I know who’d be interested in it,” he said.
“A lot of those shops, we’ll call the people. We just put it out and give everybody a fair shot at it. We have lots of customers who come in five or six times a week.”
It’s not uncommon for pieces to pass through Koenig’s hands more than once.
“We average three or four calls a day from people selling things,” he said. “People who in most cases probably bought it from us years ago and they sell it back to us.”
Even what was new merchandise when Koenig opened the store sometimes turns up there.
“We call those collectibles, not antiques,” he said.
Koenig’s personal specialty is furniture, especially oak.
“We’ve always dealt a lot in furniture,” he said. “Furniture, five or six years ago, really slowed down, but it’s back on track. It’s not fancy, Victorian.”
What is especially popular, he said, “is mid-century, oak, Mission. We see a lot of younger couples furnishing their first house.”
Pieces in need of restoration see a refinishing service before making their way to the store.
“If you look around, pretty much everything here is ready to go in the house,” Koenig said. “We don’t have rough furniture. Most people don’t want to take it home and go to work on it.”
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Furniture may be the store’s mainstay, but Koenig and Braumann like to maintain a variety of items on hand reflecting different eras and interests.
“Not everybody that’s coming in wants to spend $500 or $1,000,” he said. “But most people coming in want to buy something.”
The shop was closed for about 10 weeks due to pandemic orders from the governor.
“Prior to that, our business had been just great, and as soon as we opened the doors, I think people were anxious to get out.”
The store was shut down again, this time for a week, after the Aug. 10 derecho, but escaped relatively unscathed.
After the derecho, “sales have been fine, but not like before the storm,” Koenig said. “People are busy cleaning up. In general, sales have been good.”
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At a glance
• Owners: Steve Koenig, Randy Braumann
• Business: Antiques of Marion
• Address: 1150 Seventh Ave., Marion
• Phone: 319-377-7997
• Facebook: Antiques-of-Marion