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Discover Mid-America —March 2005

The 2005 Best of
— winners and runners-up

Feedback for a business can be a problematic and illusive thing. Sometimes a business fails to cultivate it, almost as if it seems afraid of it. Other times, when it comes, it’s ignored. But feedback, particularly in the retail and service sectors of the antiques and collectible business, is something businesses need from their customers. It’s a tough market out there, and knowing what your customers think can go a long way toward growing a business.

Feedback also means a connection has been made. Even a complaint indicates that some connection has been made. No business has ever thrived because nobody cared.

Feedback can, of course, be a positive thing, and fun. That’s what we hope our 2nd Annual Best Of is for our advertisers and readers. The survey questions, the voting and tabulating are all work, but fun too.

Like always in a special project like Best Of, changes in approach and tinkering with the process are needed from year to year. Our main challenge remains one to expand the involvement in Best Of.

But in the meantime, here are the Winners and Runners-Up in the 2005 Best Of readers’ survey with some extended information on some of the winners.

Best Mall for General Antiques (tie)
When Sandra Slover came to the Greenwood Antique Mall & Country Tea Room in Greenwood, MO 13 years ago, she knew a lot about computers but not much about antiques. Jane Hertzog, the mall’s owner, hired the retired AT&T computer operator with a look toward emerging technology. The business had opened in 1985.

(l to r) Shari Groh, Owner of the Greenwood Country Tea Room, Sandy Slover Greenwood Mall Manager and Joyce McFarland, of Trail of Years booth 24, in Ted and Gail Barnes booth 41.

Since that time, Sandra said, “I grew to love the place and I learned everything about antiques (while) I knew nothing before.

Sandra is still learning, particularly since she was named mall manager a few months back. “I took the place of Pam Hocker,” said Sandra. “She had been here 19 years. Those are big shoes to fill. I’m sure I’ll be compared to her.”

Pam was known for decorating talent, using various themes to convey a special message, said Sandra. “My challenge is to keep things interesting and fresh.”

Sandra calls her management approach a “get it done” philosophy. “I want to be successful and I want it fun,” she said. “I want to inspire people to get going again. There’s been a lull because of the economy and I want to jump start everything.”

Yet, Greenwood continues to be a popular destination for antiquers. Sandra credits word-of-mouth and that fact that when people come to Greenwood, they’re not just going to one shop but going to a “destination.”

“Everybody knows someone who likes antiques,” Sandra continued. “And girls just want to have fun.” Greenwood Antique Mall& Country Tea Room is known for its high-quality items, particularly furniture. But with 65 dealers, there’s lots of expertise available in a lot of areas, said Sandra.

One of those areas is the Country Tea Room inside the mall. Not surprising, the Tea Room’s owner, Shari Groh, won first in Best Café or Tea Room in a Mall or Shop in this year’s voting.

Best Mall or Shop for General Collectibles (tie)
Susie Phillips, mall manager for the Country Meadows Antique Mall in Independence, MO is equally generous in handing out the praise when working to make the 35,000 square foot mall successful.

Susie Phillips (l), mall manger for th Country Meadows Antique Mall in Independece, MO and Dorthy Varner display a wide selection of collectibles from Wizard of Oz ,Hot Wheels and Beenie Babies.

“I’ve got the best dealers in town,” she said. “There’s dealers in here every day working their booths. That’s dedication.”

As for the customers, Susie said, “That’s the surprise. We’ve got daily customers, devoted and dedicated customers that love particular dealers.”

Take the two — dealers and customers — and Susie has her basic approach to continuing to make the mall successful.

“My biggest challenge is a combination of trying to make the dealers have sales and the customers happy. If the dealers aren’t comfortable, they’re not happy and we don’t have anything to sell to customers — I have to keep the dealers happy so they have a wide variety of things to offer the customers.”

Balancing the needs of dealers and customers underscores Susie’s philosophy of: “Treat people the right way, respect them, and, hopefully, you’ll get them back.” Susie adds that having a local mall owner with Larry Lester also helps out.

Besides offering the best in antiques — she’s particularly proud of the mall’s “old U.S. of A-made furniture” and restoration work — adapting and offering a large mix of items are what Susie thinks are vital for success.

“Our variety makes us successful,“ she said. “We have everything from Fenton glass to brand new candles.”

There’s more. Include gifts, home décor and what Susie calls “collect-iques — not that old yet but they will be worth something,” she explained.

But it isn’t just the offering of things for sale. Country Meadows will hold another Estate Auction Sale, April 24-May 1, and plans to bring in more appraisal-related events to the mall.

The work, the challenge, the fun all has Susie saying, “My God, I love it here.”

Best Mall or Shop for Crafts (tie)
Susan Blake’s interest in antiques and crafts came from her family. The Chiles’ family roots in Independence, MO goes back a hundred years. Her grandfather was a Jackson County treasurer, and her father is in the real estate business in the area. But Susan really credits her great aunts for getting her interested in “old” things.

Susan Blake owner of the Shabby Flea in Independence with some handmade vintage Linens.

“I had four great aunts, known as the ‘Chiles Sisters,’ in Independence. I remember going to their house on White Oak street. It was full of antiques and old linens.”

The memories stay close, for Susan now owns an old house not far from Independence Square and two years ago she opened The Shabby Flea, with her mother Lee as partner, on the Square.

The appeal of the store surprised Susan somewhat. “We went from being opened Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and then it blossomed into a full-time business,” she said. “The interest in what we had to offer was great with customers.

“We specialize in vintage linens. My mother makes handmade gift bags and wall items out of vintage linens. Those are the things we are most proud of.”

She says linens are her biggest draw but The Shabby Flea also offers primitives, shabby chic and furniture.

Susan also helps organize and work at a couple area shows a few times a year. That involvement originally got her interested in owning her own shop.

Susan credits being on Independence Square as helping her business. It’s that and the frequent influx of new items from her three dealers.

“Generally, we turn our inventory over at least every month but there are new things every day,” she said.

She anticipates that her business will continue to grow, and she plans on remaining on the Square. “I love being on the Square,” said Susan.

Best Mall or Shop for Classic Cars, Automobilia
“I’m a glorified junk man,” Terry Sanchez said with some exaggeration.

Terry Sanchez owner of Weird Stuff Antiques with some of classic automoblies

A self-professed “A-type personality” and owner of Weird Stuff Antiques in Kansas City, MO, Terry’s love of antiques grew into a concentration of classic cars and automobile memorabilia. And he’s nurtured that love for quite a while.

“I started buying and selling as a business when I was 17,” Terry said. “I have photos of me at the old Heart Drive-In (formerly on Hwy. 40 in eastern Kansas City) in 1971 — hair down to here — sitting on the back of a 1951 Chevy pickup with oak furniture to sell at their swap meet.”

Terry still has the long hair, and a narrow, vertical goatee, but the knowing whereabouts of the ’51 Chevy wasn’t asked.

From swap meets, Terry evolved his business into storefronts with names like Rags Vintage Clothing and Flipped Out Antiques. About nine years ago he began Weird Antiques and three years later moved the business to his current location in what is called the eastern leg of the Crossroads District in KC.

“It’s a great location, but it was hard the first year because no one was going downtown,” remembered Terry.

His retail space is about 3,500 sq. ft., but Weird Stuff has a lot across the street. “We usually keep about 30 cars in inventory,” Terry said. “The cars are the biggest draw in bringing in customers.”

Cars from the 1950s remain extremely popular, said Terry, but “ones from the ‘60s are starting to come around but people are still driving them.”

Terry contends he doesn’t have much competition because his prices are low. “I’m on the low-end; everybody can afford a $1,000 classic.

The priority he says is the automobile memorabilia, particularly vintage gas and oil-related signs with prices from $50 to $500. A rare find, he said, would be a sign from the Gargoyle Oil Co.

Terry also dabbles in real estate. He once bought an old Conoco gas station and sold it to a buyer who converted it into a single residence.

Right now, he’s attracted to the art deco style. He thinks art deco is coming back. “Just the way things cycle around,” he said.

But his love of cars will never leave. “It’s the reason I got into this business,” he said. “It pays the bills plus keeps me excited.”

Best Winery
The Stone Hill Winery & Restaurant in Hermann, MO has a storied history, filled with acclaim, challenges and rewards.

At left: The Held family. Pictured clockwise are Jon Held, general manager; Patty Held-Uthlaut, director of public relations and special events; Jim and Betty Held, owners of Stone Hill; and Thomas Held, director of sales and advertising. (photo courtesy of Stone Hill Winery)

Established in 1847, the winery grew to be the second largest in the United States. In the later 1800s, Stone Hill dazzled the wine world by winning gold medal in eight world’s fairs. By the turn of the century, the winery was shipping over a million gallons of wine per year.

Then came Prohibition in 1920. The law destroyed the wine industry in Missouri and across the country. Stone Hill’s underground cellars became home for growing mushrooms.

When Jim and Betty Held bought the winery in 1965, there was no way to go but up. Today, Stone Hill is recognized nationwide — to date, the winery has won 264 medals for its wine — having produced 200,000 gallons of wine in 2004, in addition to being listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a major tourist attraction in the state.

“I’m most proud of my parents who were pioneers in the Missouri wine industry,” said daughter and director of public relations and special events, Patty Held-Uthlaut.

Like most wineries, Stone Hill is family-owned. Patty said that might be due to the agricultural roots of the industry along with its time-honored traditions for seeking quality in its product.

Yet, said Patty, “Wine is more than a product.” Along with its rich heritage, “It’s also a value-added product. Not only do we produce grapes but we turn those grapes into wine. And we promote tourism — selling an agricultural product but promoting tourism at the same time.”

Of course, the wine should taste good, said Patty. And going to a winery “should be a memorable experience, something beyond the product on the shelf.”

Of the 19 different wines, Patty praises their Vidal Blanc as something not found on the vaulted West Coast. It’s a European and American hybrid, unique to the state’s climate and soil. Patty should know — she is much in demand as an expert wine judge and has a reputation for a sensitive nose and discriminating palate.

Stone Hill continues to work on quality and following Jim Held’s dictum of: “Once you get the customers to your winery and let them taste the wine, you’ve got them.”

Stone Hill also has wineries in New Florence and Branson, MO. The Vintage Restaurant in Hermann specializes in German cuisine.

Discover Mid-America founder and Senior Contributing Editor Ken Weyand files regular reports on notable Midwest destinations. He can be reached at

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