During the entirety of our “Fabric of America” road trip, we’ve seen a lot of one thing. We’ve mainly stuck to small towns, which means a certain, possibly trendy economic booster has been a regular sight in most of these places. That is, the antique store. And more often than not, it’s an antique mall or an entire block – or blocks – of separate stores.
If you travel on the road at all, and manage to stay off the interstates that only give you glimpses of gas stations and fast food chains, you’re probably quite aware of this yourself.
Normally, we wouldn’t stop at these places. Why? If you follow along with us on our travels at all, you already know that we have one carry-on each. We own virtually nothing else outside of what travels with us. Therefore, we can’t just start buying antiques and vintage collectables. It’d be quite a feat to haul all of those things around with us, only to decorate and un-decorate our apartment every time we move to a new country. Not to mention the checked-luggage charges, which would add up at an unbelievable pace.
However, on this journey, we were looking for a very specific gift for a friend. One that cannot be found pretty much anywhere else but antique shops. So, as we racked up miles and stopped in countless around-the-way towns, we made it our mission to track down this gift. And so we found ourselves in an endless array of stores, from Iowa to California, Louisiana to Georgia.
The vast majority of the time, antique-store owners aren’t all that chatty. I have a feeling it’s because we traveled during high season, when most of these shops were invaded by hunters and collectors from across the country – and the world – looking for knickknacks and other treasures with which to fill their homes. This pressing influx of humankind made most shop owners weary, frantic, or both.
Not that we weren’t smiled upon. And certainly not that we didn’t spend our fair share of time having great conversations here and there with proprietors who were feeling extra-chipper or having a slow day. We most certainly did, which eventually and unwittingly put us on track to come out with this “Fabric of America” story in hand.
After getting settled at the Red Lion Hotel on the north end of town, we ventured into downtown Coos Bay to check out some of the historic buildings and have a walk around.
Popping in and out of shops along the main drag, we wound up in Leaf’s Treehouse.
This particular collection of things from the past for sale is more of the antique ‘mall’ variety, with a selection of shops that may or may not be manned by its owner. When you walk into a place like this, you’ll normally find most of the owners gone as they can only spend a limited amount of time here. What with their full-time jobs or whatever else they do with their days.
Usually, you’ll find the owner or manager of the entire place, along with some help. These people have keys to the owners’ stalls or jewelry cabinets or anything else you need keys for. Trunks or locked cabinets, etc.
Walking around the mall, we weren’t finding our target gift, so we asked the mistress of the domain to help us out. We didn’t find what we were looking for, but we fell into a conversation with her about the business and how it works. Meet Brenda and her partner, John.
Brenda recently bought this place. She was actually a stall runner, with her own little shop in the mall where she sold things she found at estate sales and all those other nooks and crannies of America where the goodness hides. It was a for-fun gig for Brenda, most of her time being consumed by her profession in real estate.
The owners of the business decided they wanted out. It may have been in order to retire, or move to another galaxy, or whatever your imagination can conjure. I honestly don’t remember. They offered to sell the business to Brenda, and she took them up on the offer.
Why would she do that? A transplant from California with plenty of experience in the real estate game in both states, why would she want to spend her days managing a space for a bunch of other people and dealing with ridiculous questions from folks like us?
Because she wants to help others succeed.
While Brenda can’t control what her occupants do with their business, she can support them and do her best to help them succeed as sellers. Her vision is to give people an outlet with which to grow their businesses enough to support themselves, and eventually get their own space.
As a small-businesswoman herself, Brenda knows all about how difficult it can be to get started with your own thing and struggle through the initial steps of business development. Even though she was previously a pro in a different market, she has the experience to advise and support others with their own ventures.
And so, she bought Leaf’s Treehouse and now spends her days keeping things in order and trying to give unsolicited advice to the wide variety of personalities and tastes who occupy her building, each with their own reason for doing so.
For some, it’s about cleaning out a family estate. For others, it’s a side project or a hobby. For some, it’s a necessity to put food on the table. And for others, it’s a small start with a grander vision.
John, her partner in life and in the business, seems to be of the same outlook. Throughout my emails with him, I noticed an “M.D.” in his signature, but he never actually answered me as to whether or not he’s a doctor. We’ll say he is. At the very least, he’s a doctor of happiness.
This guy’s attitude is one that lights up the room, through jokes and self-deprecation, a smile that never ends, and booming laughter that makes you want to constantly be around him.
Together, the two of them provide the sort of welcoming atmosphere that both renters and clientele have no choice but to appreciate. Not only do they want stall owners to be successful, but they seem to look at the business as part of a Coos Bay community that needs to be tight-knit and help each other grow.
Everyone seems to know everyone, even though this small town isn’t really all that small.
After spending hours hanging out and talking with them, it dawned on us that not only would they make for an interesting story as an intricate part of the “Fabric of America,” but that they, too, are helping foster growth of that same fabric by giving others ample opportunity to strike out on their own and improve upon their own happiness.
What Brenda and John do is, in fact, essential. They are small-business owners who are successful and constantly working at improving upon what they do while also working as ambassadors to others. Being in business for yourself is a great thing. And along with that comes the responsibility of supporting and looking out for others who want to achieve something similar.
Despite the greed and self-absorption that encompasses this country nowadays – often due to nothing more than the vicious cycle of dog-eat-dog – the fact remains that we all rely on each other and our successes to keep doing what we do.
In order to advance our knowledge, our happiness, and our rate of success, we must strive toward the same for those around us. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a different business sector as your neighbor, or if you hold different beliefs.
We are all one and (most) all of us are trying to move forward, and that’s unfortunately something that’s lost much too often by a vast swath of people out there who don’t ‘get’ it. And we think Brenda and John get it. And that makes them a very, very valuable piece of the “Fabric of America” puzzle.
Leaf’s Treehouse is located here:
311 S. Broadway
Coos Bay, OR 97420
Tel: +1 (541) 266-7348
You can also visit Leaf’s Treehouse on their Facebook page and on their website at coosbaynicknacks.com.
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Any thoughts about Leaf’s Treehouse or anything we discussed? Have you ever been there, or any experience with similar places near you? Any other thoughts? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!