Meet 820 Antiques, the newest addition to Elkhart’s growing antique and vintage market
- January Fri, 2017
For Brad and Sally Billings, antiquing is a way of life. “Sally and I spent most Friday nights and Saturdays when were we dating and first married at auctions. We furnished our house with those auctions,” said Brad. They really love old things. Sally collects pictures with pansies in them and horse-related items. Brad collects Coca-Cola memorabilia and milk bottles. At one point Brad’s milk bottle collection contained more than 1,500 bottles.
Even though they were busy with their business, Billings Funeral Home, and their two sons, Brad and Sally dreamed about opening an antique mall of their own. So, when they were looking for a space to house their dream antique mall they, of course, looked for an old building.
When they found the 820 Building, formerly Foster Manufacturing and Lilly’s Paper Depot, they saw a double win: they could save a historic building from disrepair and also join the emerging north side antique market. They purchased the 820 Building from the Lilly family in 2014 and began an extensive remodel. Restoring the 20,000-square foot 1916 factory space required painting, new lighting, new custom windows, carpet, and central air.
They opened 820 Antiques less than a year later. Today it has 46 booths and 36 dealers selling refinished furniture, vintage jewelry, hats, purses, glassware, books, primitives, mid-century furniture, kitchenware, dolls, and many other collectibles. The response has been great, new customers come in every week and spend hours looking from booth to booth. They also have low prices. “We have had customers tell us we are the most affordable mall around,” said Brad.
As long time collectors, Brad and Sally know how to make their shoppers comfortable. They made the building 100 percent handicap accessible, including the bathroom, which is a remarkable feature for any antique store or mall. The expansive floor space, high ceilings, and vintage factory windows give it a nice, open feeling. There are clear pathways between all the booths and lots of natural light. “We pride ourselves in making our customer feel welcomed,” said Brad. “There is always complimentary coffee, tea and water in the lounge area.” Yes, there is even a lounge area – you can rest your feet and sip your coffee while you admire Brad’s collection of vintage game boards.
These days Sally manages 820 Antiques full time and Brad is there often. “We are having a blast, we’re meeting folks that have a love for antiques and vintage things, and our dealers are so much fun,” said Sally. “We particularly love it when customers come in and find that one special thing they are looking for. And we often hear customers remarking, ‘I remember that from my childhood,’ or ‘my grandma had that.’”
Hence their tag line: Come in and find your childhood again. “We think that’s why antiquing is enjoyable for so many, it brings back such wonderful memories,” said Sally. “We are blessed to be in one of the greatest recyclable businesses. With antiques, you get to enjoy them for a while, but eventually, someone else will get to enjoy them too.”
Since opening 820 Antiques, Brad and Sally Billings have been working to make the Beardsley Ave. neighborhood a top destination for antique lovers. Thanks to their efforts, you can now pick up a handy brochure describing and mapping out each of the five antique and vintage stores in the 2-mile area. “We are proud to be a part of Elkhart’s antique district,” said Brad. “We hope if you come in as strangers you will leave as friends.”