When Kimanh Severson saw her husband’s garage for the first time, she was shocked. Boxes filled with antiques and collectibles towered from the floor to the ceiling of the 1,000 square-foot space.
“She probably thought I was crazy when she saw the house,” said her husband, Alan Severson. “It was just rows and rows of stuff.”
Longview native Alan Severson met Kimanh Severson in Vietnam 15 years ago while he was backpacking around Asia. They hit it off and eventually were married.
She did not know the extent of his antiquing hobby until she moved home with him about a decade ago. But now she shares his passion and now opened up an antique store of her own last week: Vintage Alley at 1314 Broadway Street.
“I’m a big antique collector,” he said. “It’s just rubbed off on her.”
This is not her first antique shop. She operated Kimanh’s Antiques and Collectibles next door for a couple years but sold it when the two-story shop became too much work for one person to operate.
After a while though, she realized that she missed running her own shop. The Seversons own the building along the north side of the 1300 block of Broadway, so when a salon moved out a few months ago, the corner spot seemed like the perfect smaller size for her to start selling antiques again.
“Rather than having all this (stuff) upstairs in our apartment, we can come down here and look at it … and then sell it and put different stuff in here,” Alan Severson said. “It’s like having your own personal collection that’s for sale.”
Vintage Alley joins a row of antique shops along Broadway, but the Seversons said the competition is an advantage.
“Basically my whole building downstairs is an antiques and collectibles store,” he said. “It’s like a big mall with different sections.”
The pair have attended antique shows for more than a decade and recently took a 14-state road trip browsing other antique stores. Over the years, they’ve become experts in the trade and that knowledge has helped them curate a sophisticated inventory, they said.
The downsized store means Kimanh Severson doesn’t have to worry about filling display cases and can showcase fewer, more expensive items such as delicate glassware, old toys and Roseville pottery from Ohio.
“She has a good idea of what to buy because she’s been doing it for a few years,” he said. “Once you’re working with customers for a few years, you get an idea of what people are looking for.”
However, in an age when anyone can look up the value of an item with a few taps on their phone, the Seversons said it has become more difficult to find hidden prizes at shops and garage sales. Online bidding stores such as Ebay can also skew prices based on what one person is willing to pay for an item.
In spite of the boom in online antique shopping, the Seversons say plenty of shoppers still want a brick-and-mortar experience.
“It’s more fun for the people to come into shops like this,” he said. “They can pick (the item) up, they can handle it, they can look at it (and) make sure it’s what they want.”
Business has been steady, and the couple would like to see the block become a destination for antique enthusiasts.
“Treasure hunting is always fun,” Alan Severson said. “You never know where you will find something.”