By DAN RICHMAN
The busy intersection of Northeast Midway Boulevard and East Whidbey Avenue in Oak Harbor has been good to Oldish Stuff, a five-month-old antique store overflowing with merchandise and, during a recent afternoon visit, heavily trafficked by customers.
“This corner is amazing,” said Chara Blaszkowski, who owns and runs the shop with her husband, Jason, and with occasional help from their children: daughter Zaygen, 16; son Curhan, 12; and “extra daughter” Victoria Kast, 17.
“The traffic flow goes right through here. It’s helped us do well.”
The family moved to Oak Harbor from Gillette, Wyo., about 14 months ago. They came mainly for Chara’s health, seeking a more humid climate.
The couple are trained in other fields: Chara holds a business degree in tourism and travel, and Jason graduated from a school of mining and technology. But “we’ve always had antiquing in our blood,” Chara said. “On one of our first dates, we went antiquing. And my heart has always been in re-using and re-purposing.”
Initially stocking the 4,000-square-foot, multi-room store meant using inventory the couple had in a rented antique-mall space back in Wyoming, plus using some of the items in the overstuffed house they still own back there. Topping up inventory has meant buying from pickers — professionals who buy for a living and resell to retailers — as well as attending garage and estate sales.
A full 30 percent of the inventory comes from consignments. “We have the most amazing consigners,” Chara said.
“They bring me unique stuff nearly every day.”
The inflow of new items is constant, she said.
“We haven’t had one day when we haven’t taken in new items. That’s why you have to check us out all the time and why we get a lot of repeat customers.”
Walking around the store reveals a variety of unusual items. Two 300-year-old oosiks — two-foot-long fossilized walrus penises — are going for $150 or $200 each.
A 1954 Krakall nut cracker, made entirely of heavy metal and shaped like an automatic pistol, is selling for $500, which the couple said is a good deal.
Hand-carved wine bottle stoppers from the famed ANRI Co., an Italian wood-carving company, sell for anywhere between the high $20s and the high $30s. Nine copper-coated German bread molds are selling as a group for $500.
The Blaszkowskis have even thoughtfully provided a “man cave” area, with antiques more likely to appeal to males. These include tools, lanterns and old radios.
Seniors and the military get a 10 percent discount. Profits from any donated items go to the Boys & Girls Club of Oak Harbor.
Revenues have been strong from the start, Jason Blaszkowski said, and the store has been profitable every month since its opening.
But, noted Chara, it hasn’t been operating for a full year yet and so hasn’t seen a full annual cycle.
Competitors include Oak Tree Antiques & Collectibles downtown and The Purple Bench, between Oak Harbor and Coupeville. But “we’re happy to work with the other stores, calling around if someone wants something we don’t have,” Chara said. The store also maintains a wish list, calling customers if an item they want comes into the store or appears at one of the sales the couple frequents.
Katrina Richard, 35, of Oak Harbor, made her first stop at the store last week “to see if anything spoke to me.”
A lot did.
“The dressers and desks appealed to me, but they’ve also got a lot of bric-a-brac that’s dated — I like retro — and there’s good nautical stuff. “
“I definitely have to come back. This is the kind of store you have to explore.”