Elysia Jarvis, the co-owner of Second Chance Antiques, can't help but admire the new showroom that is unfolding in front of her — a long sweep of glossy hardwood floors and exposed brick walls. But even as the store's fifth incarnation emerges from cardboard boxes and packing crates, there's a hint of sadness in her gaze.
Jarvis' mother, Susan Hoffman Brink, who founded Second Chance Antiques in 1971, chose the shop's new location —- the corner of 14th and Harney Streets. But unlike her treasures, Brink never made the move.
On April 27, 10 days after signing the lease, Brink died after a long battle with cancer. The move to 1403 Harney from the shop's former location, 11th and Jackson Streets, didn't get underway until July.
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“She never got to see it fulfilled,” said Jarvis, who along with other family members, inherited the business from her mother. Jarvis, who runs the day-to-day operations, rejoined the business three years ago, but her retail experience dates to when she was a 10-year-old pocketing $2 an hour for polishing the antique silver plate. “She made me earn it,” Jarvis said.
“Inheriting this has been incredibly scary, but my mom gave me an incredible work ethic.”
Most of the store's merchandise is procured from garage and estate sales and walk-ins with items to sell. Prices range from a nickel to $1,000 with “lots of $1 items.”
Jarvis plans to follow in her mother's footsteps — maintaining a fun, unique, affordable inventory. Jarvis, however, has one change in mind. While her mother would swoop in and “buy everything, including the broken stuff,” Jarvis said she intends to be pickier because of the store's limited space.
“Susan — my mom — was trying to save the world — to the point of putting a single bingo chip in a plastic bag and putting a price tag on it,” Jarvis said. In fact, the original Second Chance, which offered mostly vintage clothing and was across the street from M's Pub, had a second name — “The Ecology Shop.”
The new two-story store, the former Corey McKenzie printing company, is neat, organized and home to just one cat — Chloe. Only one of the store's three cats made the trip to the new location. Brothers Bradley and Hubey found separate homes, said Meg Welch, who has worked at the store for more than 10 years.
Collectibles, from Cracker Jack charms to luminescent Depression-era glassware, are displayed in glass cases or labeled wooden drawers on the store's main floor. Jeanette Anderson, another longtime employee, spent a recent afternoon unpacking and arranging a display of porcelain figurines.
“It's so much better here, you can really see stuff, ” said Anderson, who's worked for Second Chance since 1993.
Racks of men's and women's vintage clothing, from muslin shirtwaists to polyester duds, a selection that spans a century — from 1879 to 1979, occupy the basement. Sheet music from the 1920s, a toy section filled with dolls, tea sets, carriages and games, and Omaha-themed souvenirs round out the store's eclectic offerings, which have drawn an assortment of visitors over the years — including Liberace, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Goldie Hawn and set designers seeking authentic period pieces for a stage or movie production.
The move was triggered by a change in ownership at the former location, Jarvis said.
When the building that housed the store's former retail space — more like a warehouse than a showroom — was sold, Jarvis and her mother went in search last spring for a new storefront.
“We looked at five or six different buildings, but she kept coming back to this space,” Jarvis said. Perhaps it was because it resembled Brink's second location at 1212 Howard St., home to Second Chance for about 10 years beginning in the late 1970s, Jarvis said.
“It was very large, very elongated with nice creaky wood floors, as I remember it.”
Since its founding, Second Chance has had multiple locations in the Old Market. The store's new home, however, straddles the border between the Old Market and downtown. The four-story building at 14th and Harney is itself an antique, built in 1886. But renovations that will convert the second floor into office space and the third and fourth floors into about a dozen apartments are underway, said Eric Wieseler, the building's co-owner. The mix of retail, office space and residential is “ideal,” Wieseler said. “It's a true mixed-use property.”
The move, which took about three weeks, required Jarvis and the store's six employees to mercilessly cull the store's inventory — if it hadn't sold in 40 years it went into the trash or the donation bin — and spawned a “huge” $1 sale of “good intentions that took up a lot of space.” Welch said.
As part of the move, Jarvis estimates that the store got rid of about a third of its merchandise.
Even so, additional merchandise went into storage because there wasn't room for it all at the new location, said Larry Codger, who has worked for Second Chance for 11 years. Those items that were tucked into storage will be used to replenish the store's inventory when space becomes available.
The doors are open, but staff is scurrying to find a place for everything that made the move, including that bingo chip, Jarvis said.
“It's here in a bag if anybody wants it — five cents for the bingo chip.”