In the little more than a year since Uniquities opened in Old Town, the shop has grown so much in popularity that owner Robyn Wells is expanding.
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That’s despite her limited hours – the store is open only a few days a month and not even the same ones at that – and despite the fact that Wells was certain the store would fail.
“I thought it was going to fail miserably,” she says of her blend of what she calls “unique antiquities.”
Those are a lot of one-of-a-kind pieces and antiques that she finds at flea markets nationally.
“And actually my husband didn’t expect it to make money,” Wells says of Dave Wells, president of Key Construction. “He tells me now: ‘I just thought it would entertain you for a while.’ He did not think it was going to be a money-maker.”
But it’s making enough to be self-sufficient and pay for its own expansion, Robyn Wells says.
The store is in 2,500 square feet at 141 N. Rock Island and will be expanding into 1,000 square feet behind its current space.
Wells also has basement storage space. She says the new space will give her an important ramp out back, both for better handicap access and for moving in large pieces of furniture that currently take “an act of Congress to get … into here.”
She’s moving her office to the back area as well, which will free up more retail space in the front.
The extra room will give what Wells calls “a more manageable, more well-placed store.”
She says she still plans to completely fill it to the point of overfilling it.
“I like this eclectic, almost cluttered look. … I think it works in here,” Wells says. “Some people walk in and go, ‘Holy cow. How do I see it all?’And I say, ‘Do a couple of laps.’ ”
Wells also has found that she needs to counsel people about her erratic hours.
“We get the fussers about it,” she says. “At first, I used to make excuses and apologize. Now I just say, ‘You know what? I’m only open once a month because I’ve got to be out looking for all this stuff. This stuff doesn’t just happen.’ ”
Wells says she schedules her openings around flea markets.
She’s going to be open this week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“We have people waiting on the porch,” Wells says of most days she’s open. “They beat me here in the morning.”
Wells credits her success in part to social media and traditional advertising as well as the business she gets from designers.
“I think they appreciate the service,” she says. “It allows them to not have to hit the pavement for certain things if I can help them out.”
Wells says the store has surpassed anything she – or her husband – could have imagined.
“I’ve been amazed at how well I’ve done. Surprising him and me.”