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Antique business grew out of a labor of love

Staff writer

The inspiration for Marion’s fourth antique business was utility, not opportunity, but its two owners have both grown to love the business.

Jennifer Sawyer, 41, went to her mother, Nyla Sawyer, this past year to ask the antique collector of almost 50 years to open an antique store.

The business would provide activities for both mother and daughter. Jennifer said Nyla is the hardest worker she has ever known — even at 68, Nyla was performing much of the physical labor necessary to repair the eventual location of Red Fox Cottage west of their home on Main Street. Nyla was not taking her retirement as a librarian with ease.

Jennifer suffers from multiple sclerosis. With daily bouts of agonizing pain, Jennifer battles with flare-ups, where she loses feeling on one side of her body. Because she is incapacitated, Jennifer cannot hold a full-time job.

However, the main reason Jennifer suggested beginning a business was a garage full of antiques.

Jennifer pleaded with her mother to relinquish some of her treasured collectables. As her condition worsens, Jennifer did not want to be left with the responsibility of the collection.

“She always had big Victorian homes,” Jennifer said. “I just can’t deal with all of it. We just don’t need it.”

Instead of being hurt by her daughter’s proclamation that she did not want to continue the collection, Nyla threw herself headlong into the idea of an antique store — to become the Red Fox Cottage. She began inquiring about available properties.

“I had more antiques than I had room for,” Nyla said.

“This way people who do like it can enjoy it,” Jennifer said. “Antique people are like hunters; they want to go to as many (shops) as they can to find the item that they want. It’s just like treasure hunting.”

Jennifer said they have always done activities together. While not a fan when she was little, Jennifer would follow her mother while Nyla was antiquing, which Nyla said is way at the top of the list of her favorite activities.

Jennifer and Nyla moved from Oxford to Marion together this past September, to help with Nile when Jennifer suffers a flare-up.

Jennifer said they also have a spiritual connection. When Nyla suffered a heart attack years ago, Jennifer was living in Missouri. Without hearing news of the event, Jennifer was pacing her home with the subconscious knowledge that something was wrong.

Jennifer said Nyla can feel some of the pain when Jennifer is suffering a MS flare-up.

Before the mother and daughter team could share a business, they needed to share the work to get the antique store started.

Now, the building is bright yellow with flowers flanking the entrance to the antique shop. There is nary a reminder that the former doctor’s office and craft shop sat dormant for years.

When the Sawyers began their overhaul in March, the plumbing, electricity, roofing, and carpentry had to be repaired. Todd Winter and Chris Sprowls were carpenters.

“They were wonderful,” Nyla said. “Anything we suggested they just did.”

Tony Schafers did the plumbing. Harvey Sanders provided the electrical work.

However, the Sawyers worked seven days a week to prepare for their business opening. They opened June 1, ready for Chingawassa Days.

“For people driving down the hill — we want to set the tone of what Marion is,” Jennifer said. “It’s a nice, neat community and we want to keep it that way.”

Since then, they have received a bevy of positive feedback from the community. Residents were happy that the building was being used again. The Sawyers restored the inside to its original knotty pine paneling and brown and cream checkerboard-tile flooring, reminding customers of Dr. Magee’s office.

“It’s got a lot of history and a lot of happy memories,” Jennifer said.

The Sawyers have also received positive comments from the antique community. Unlike competitive businesses, antique stores feed off each other. With her experience as a collector, Nyla knows antique collectors seek towns with multiple stores.

“It’s nice to have a variety for people coming to visit Marion,” Central Park Antiques owner Nadine Iseli said. “We have different merchandise. We’ve been sending people down there.”

For Jennifer, the shop has provided a therapeutic stress reliever. She said she has often gone up to the store at night to mess with the configuration of items in the store.

“It’s kind of like my own little playhouse,” she said.

The appearance of the shop is a thought out strategy for the Sawyers.

“I don’t like antique stores where you’re scared to move,” Jennifer said.

For Nyla the store has provided an opportunity to share her love of antiques with other people.

Working in the store has bolstered Jennifer’s appreciation for antiques. She prices all the items in the store and can see that Nyla took care to collect pieces like French Limoges China and Depression glass.

“People who buy antiques buy them because they love them,” Jennifer said.

Even though they are in the slow season for antiques — July and August — the Sawyers hope that events in Marion will continue to help their business. September, with Art in the Park and Old Settlers Day, should provide a boon.

With Nyla’s brother, Dennis Anderson, of Topeka scouting for antiques, the Sawyers hope to keep their store going as long as possible.

Last modified July 20, 2011

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