Judy and Jim Kutzler of Salem can’t resist bringing their work home with them. Call it one of the (enjoyable) pitfalls of selling antiques for some 20 years, though Judy admits it may be her fault. It began, she says, with a hobby.
“I started garage sale-ing,” the 57-year-old mother explains. “My girls were little. I started buying stuff I liked. I never thought of selling, but my girlfriend did. I started bringing home furniture and he (Jim) started refinishing.”
The hobby grew from her selling hundreds of Raggedy Ann dolls to getting into other things she liked. “I then was into Wattware (the ceramics with apples and cherries), then 1940s baking items,” she says.
Before she knew it, collections began popping up all over the house. Not surprisingly, Jim began collecting what he liked, too, though jokes Judy, “Jim wasn’t into collecting anything unless it had four wheels.”
Jim still has the original 1957 Chevy he owned before he and Judy got married and soon began taking interest in other things that meant something to him personally. “It’s buying back my childhood memories,” he says.
One of his recently acquired favorites (probably his mother’s worst nightmare back then) is a cannon truck that shoots plastic missiles — and it still works.
“I’d sit at the bottom of the stairs and call my brother,” 58-year-old Jim recalls. “He’d come to the top of the stairs and I shot him with it. I remember that from when I was 6, 7 years old. I can remember when I was a kid, my dad would buy toys from the Salvation Army.”
He also likes much older toys such as the 1930 Weeden No. 1, a steam train made for only three years. Another mother’s nightmare: When kerosene was added, the burners underneath actually lit. That still works, too.
His other favorites are the old banks the savings and loans used to give away to promote saving in the 1960s.
Judy’s other collection stems to her childhood also. “I just started out when I was 8 years old with miniature horses,” she says. “I always wanted a horse.”
She began collecting the small metal horses you used to win as carnival prizes and now has a curio cabinet full in all sizes and colors. The horses also changed shape, with the tail positions giving a clue as to when they were made, she says.
Of course these days those once fairly inexpensive toys and other items cost much more, or like those metal horses, are now plastic or gone altogether. And finding stuff they like sometimes requires a bit more hunting these days or just plain luck, the couple admit.
“Back when we started, we went to Goodwill,” says Judy. “Now we go to private estates.”
Known for their years of experience in the antiques business, the Kutzlers are also owners of the Always Remember That Antique Mall on Highway 50, located a half-mile west of Paddock Lake. (www.rememberthatantiques.com.)
Their cozy ranch home is a testament to their one rule: Buy what you like. They also believe in using and displaying their collections instead of packing them away.
Judy combines assorted kitchen items like old cookbooks and accessories on a ceiling-level shelf around most of the kitchen. This allows her to display an ever-changing collection of yesterday’s cooking and baking items. Her favorite cherry and apple decorated mixing bowls sit on a shelf over the kitchen window.
A charming grouping of vintage flour sifters and egg beaters hang on another shelf. “I used to have 30, 40 of them,” Judy admits. “I’m trying to limit myself now.”
Displaying only a few of the same items makes it attractive, but not too cluttered. “You get to collecting so much you have to scale it down to appreciate it more, and then it’s nice to focus on one (item),” she says.
Over the years, Jim has refinished a number of furnishings or re-purposed others, giving them new life. In one re-purposing, an old wood sewing cabinet base and some legs from another piece become the perfect side table.
Other things just find a place in the couple’s home since they’re attention-getters in themselves. They especially are drawn to things of local interest. “I’m especially open to anything from the area here,” said Jim. “That’s our special interest, anything from the area that is old.”
That includes an old grain bin from Kenosha, the beautiful wood cabinet restored and now holding papers and what-not. But one of the more unique items has to be the old metal store receipt register once used in Wilmot’s general store. Jim guesses the register was made around 1907 or so; it has a patent date of 1899-1907.
“This was back when things were done by word of mouth and handshakes,” he explains. “The grocer would make out a bill and keep it on file, then you’d come in and pay once in a while.”
The most interesting things are the receipts and bills it came with that provide a glimpse into the past. It was still being used in the 1930s.
One bill for Clyde Jackson dated 1938 shows his purchases of 1 butter, 43 cents; oatmeal, 29 cents; coffee, 30 cents. An E. Clausen in 1935 bought meat for 30 cents and gasoline for $1.05. Another bill from 1937 lists milk for 27 cents and nutmeats for 10 cents.
Looking at their collection and seeing how things come and go, they give others some simple advice: “Collect what you like,” says Jim. “We used to collect thinking it’d be our retirement. Things do change.”