My New Store Came With An Unexpected Problem


Because it had been 15 years of nonstop fun at my antiques shop in Florida — a nice weekend retreat and a good excuse to shop for kitsch — I decided to buy another shop, this time near the grandkids in Missouri. That was 18 months ago and, for the past 18 months, I have done nothing but struggle with the place. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I still love going up there and getting a glimpse of the seasons. I still love going to auctions and rooting through estate sales to buy unusual things for my customers. I particularly love arranging and re-arranging the merchandise.

The trouble with the Missouri store is its location. It’s one building in from a busy corner, just like the Florida store, and has a beautiful wooded area behind it. The trouble is, the wooded area is more or less a campground for the homeless. I didn’t know this when I bought the building. To make matters worse, one of the kindly churches just beyond the wooded area hosts free meals for the indigent. Ah, to be a homeless person in that neighborhood.

You wake up in the morning (or, more likely, afternoon) to the smell of fresh coffee being brewed on a campfire in the woods, enjoy a little shot of whatever you’re on (I am totally naive on how this works), grab your backpack and trundle up the hill for your free lunch. You may or may not have doused the campfire, and it may or may not burn down the woods (and my building), but you are blissfully high and unaware. Not your problem.

After lunch, there’s nothing to do, so you head back through the woods and jump the creek, which lands you in my parking lot. You say hi to your friends (the ones who prefer to camp out behind my building so they can power up their cell phones from my exterior outlets and plan the next rendezvous with their supplier), and then you saunter into my shop to see what you can steal. It’s exhausting. For me.

My job is to keep the exterior outlets turned off, pick up all the trash left behind my building (including two tents so far) and head these people off at the pass before they try to enter the store. If I don’t already know them by their faces, I can usually pick them out of the crowd by their clothes with lots and lots of pockets and the lingering smell of woodsmoke.

Sometimes they’re drunk or high and they pick a fight with someone, and I have to call the cops. When the police show up, their pockets are filled with my jewelry, lots of little goodies from the store next door, and maybe a crack pipe or two. The last one had 12 (yes, 12) outstanding warrants, and her boyfriend had been released from jail the day before. What better way to celebrate freedom than a trip to that sparkling clean, well-organized, cute-as-a-button antiques store down the road?

I’d be bitter, but my real customers are wonderful. Anyway, winter’s coming. Come on, snow!