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11/27/2003

6 years old and still Unlimited

By Pam Mellskog
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — Given all the breakables and vintage items Possibilities Unlimited stocks in its Victorian cottage store, kids might seem like bulls to owner Connie Lewis.

But coddling them more than most shop owners do is part of what works at the 530 Kimbark St. shop, this month celebrating its sixth anniversary.

For instance, a docile beagle/dachshund mutt name Liberty — “Libby” for short — wears a red, white and blue-colored hankie around her neck. As the store’s mascot, she sits by the door, ready to receive the affections of tikes in tow.

Lewis also has invited young ones to play just past the pooch in a pile of Beanie Babies, a fad item that has “many times” helped pay the rent, she said.

Yet, figuring out how to stay in business goes beyond kiddie considerations and trendy items. According to this Americana enthusiast in her early 60s, it takes a sixth sense to mix old and new inventory to the point of profit.

The process unfolds during monthly road trips to auctions in states such as Kansas, Wyoming, Nebraska. That’s where Lewis fishes for her specialty vintage items, especially enamelware.

“People must think I have a cush job, going out and buying antiques. But it’s not,” she said. “You have to think in categories and in time frames and what other people will like.”

For instance, until a customer started poking around the shop looking for pill boxes, she said, she would have never thought to put them on her hunting list.

“They encourage me to keep my eyes open,” Lewis said.

Still, staying true to the spirit of Americana antiques is a shoo-in proposition when she drives out to old family farms miles from the nearest town. Buying new things made in America, she continued, is quite another — despite the availability associated with mass produced items.

“Sometimes I feel all the world is made in China,” Lewis explained.

Gift items include everything from Americana-inspired decor items to unusual pantry goods such as pink hot chocolate and peach and pineapple salsas.

Lucky finds at faraway auctions and smart vendor selections have enhanced her collection and boosted sales over the years, she said.

But the deals that have kept the lights on were with five local associates that help Possibilities Unlimited live up to its name.

Jill Cassells, Ginny Kelly, Bernice Cushman, Shelly Wells and Joyce Kovac keep the house full with high-end and primitive furniture, dishes, silverware, dolls, farm and Western items, handcrafted wood and country and folk art.

This collaboration of buyers and craftswomen gives customers options in “shabby sheik” — pieces nicely painted to look aged and distressed — along with a host of angel items, a perennially popular buy.

Lewis has worn other hats — secretary, social worker and teacher. But being self-employed beats them all, both in terms of how much fun she’s had and how much sweat she’s given.

Along the way, she determined that pleasing customers by figuring out what sells and why has been the biggest reward.

“Some like angels with faces, some like them without,” she said. “But most people can find something here, be it a greeting card or an old bag of buttons.”

Pam Mellskog can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 224, or by e-mail at pmellskog@times-call.com.