Four of us spent the better part of a day upstate in Woodstock at Colonial Antique Mall, 890 Lake Ave. They can be reached at 815-334-8960.
Owner Lee Muto was more than cordial and gave us a class "A" tour. The owners of the Black Dog Smoke & Ale House, along with their architect, were there to see what could be done with refinished old wood.
I have written about Muto's place more than once as it is my favorite mall in Illinois. She farms out her stripping. It is picked up and brought back in a week, and then she puts the finishing touch on the item.
Colonial Antique Mall features more than 75 dealers right in downtown Woodstock just a block off Illinois 47 with more than 115,000 square feet, about half of which is working space for her restoration and made-to-order creations from old wood.
Muto is exuberant about her business: She bounces around like a kid with a new toy and is an excellent hostess. She has bought complete buildings and salvaged the wood, refinished it and brought it back in another form such as back bars, custom-made cabinets and fireplaces for new homes and businesses. Colonial Antique Mall is open every day.
But Muto is not the only operator who works with old wood, mostly oak: I have done two columns on Kathy and Mike Maul at 1157 E 600 N, Cissna Park (phone 815-457-2075), plus The News-Gazette did a two-page spread on their outstanding operation in 2001.
And recently I bragged about Carlie and Bill Cooper at 2637 S. State Highway N., Republic, Mo. They can be reached at 417-732-6155.
The Mauls and Coopers do all of their own stripping and refinishing, and their buildings are full of mostly furniture. Accessories abound at the Mauls' operation, and quilts are abundant at the Coopers' business.
The Coopers and the Mauls are more subdued and confident. They know their restored furniture is the best you could possible find in any marketplace. The Mauls are only open Saturdays, and you should probably call first.
The Coopers also live in front of their business and are just a mile off of Interstate 44 at exit 67. They are open every day if they are there, but they are retired and travel a lot, so call ahead and let them know you are coming.
It is my wish that you could visit all three places as each is different, but all three are just the best. It is time well spent.
Bob Swisher has been a collector since he was a child. Questions or comments can be sent to Swisher by writing to The News-Gazette, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-677 or emailing email@example.com.