MORRIS – After 20 years, the Morris Antique Emporium, 112 W. Washington St., will be closing its doors as Robert and Elaine Schubert, the owners for the past seven years, retire to Florida.
Just as they took a leap of faith in purchasing the business, driven by their love of things from yesteryear, they took a leap of faith by buying a home – sight unseen – driven by their love of a Florida community.
“We were thinking about it when we visited Florida two Christmases ago,” Elaine said. “We started looking, and something came along in August. We went to the closing without even seeing the home.”
Their move to Florida means leaving behind things they love including family, friends and a gumball machine.
“Old gumball machines are so unique,” he said. “They have a personality of their own.”
His favorite machine is sitting with a “50 percent off” sign taped to the front of it. Standing over 5 feet high, it lights up and talks to you as the gumball makes it’s way down a rollercoaster of a ride to the bottom where, for just 25 cents, you can have the magical ball of color to chew until your jaw hurts.
Robert enjoys visiting with customers and explaining the existence of this gumball machine, one that he can’t pinpoint a year it was made or a maker. But he still marvels at the electronic circuit required to make all the lights shine and sounds chime.
“We think it was made in the 1950s, and I’ve only been able to find one other working one,” he said. “You can’t tell who made it, there is different names on different parts, but it draws in adults who put more quarters in it than kids.”
He said he’d love to take it with him, but there just isn’t room.
There isn’t room for the countless other items in the store that spread from the basement to the third floor of the shop that has as much history as the items that fill it.
The Schuberts hear the history as people stop in to visit such as past workers who talk about their offices, like the secret room behind the elevator, or the women who explain they weren’t allowed to work in previous stores that filled the building due to an uninvited guest – the ghost.
“It has it’s own history,” Robert said. “The best story is that at certain times they wouldn’t allow ladies to work alone here because of a ghost.”
The ghost, according to the Schuberts still can be heard at times walking on the third floor.
“You can hear footsteps up on the third floor,” Elaine said. “I’d tell him to go check and make sure no one was there, and there never was.”
Customers Rick and Leslie Roberts said they enjoy coming in to browse.
“I like to poke around and see what they’ve got,” Leslie said. “It brings back memories, and I see a lot of things I should have saved.”
Rick enjoys looking for Lionel train items and Department 56 collectibles, which they have an entire room of.
Robert said Rick and Leslie are like many customers, people who come in and look around until something catches their eye.
“There is no typical customer,” he said. “We have kids about 10 or 12 come in and older people as well. It’s amazing.”
Almost everything in the store is marked down 20 to 90 percent off, including items owned by some of the vendors. Other vendors are boxing up belongings and taking them.
At 10 a.m. March 30, the doors will open for the last time, as Richard A. Olson and Associates come in to auction off what’s left of the inventory.
“We’ll close the doors on March 24,” Robert said. “It will take the week to get ready for the auction, and we’ll have two to three auctioneers in here on March 30.”