Bargains are in the basement

Patti Shannon went shopping for antiques in Winslow last fall, and ended up buying the store.

She stopped in at Ethereal, a new store in the the space below Sandy’s barber shop on Winslow Way, and learned that it was about to close. As collecting had always been Shannon’s hobby, she made an appointment with the owners at the end of October and signed a lease Nov. 1.

A quick opening for the business, renamed Down Under, wasn’t a hardship.

“We had to shop, shop, shop,” said Jan Casey, Shannon’s partner, “and so we did.”

Ethereal was a war casualty, in a sense. The co-owners were both Navy wives; their husbands were shipped out in the anti-terrorism campaign, forcing the proprietors to stay home with the kids.

Now, as Down Under, the shop carries antique furniture and accessories, specializing in the art deco and mission styles that the women personally like.

The fact that Shannon and Casey enjoy shopping and antique hunting works to the customers’ benefit, they say.

“The fun part for us is shopping,” Shannon said, “and things are priced well so we can move them fast. You can come in every week and see something new.”

They do their treasure hunting at auctions, estate sales, garage sales and over the Internet, and plan on making buying trips to places like Kansas City and to Canton, Texas, one of the grails of antiquery.

“Any older town like Kansas City is a gold mine,” Casey said. “And in Canton, east of Dallas, there are acres of stuff. Everything ever made in the world is dumped in Canton.”

Their own tastes guide their buying, with Shannon saying, “We’re not going to have anything here we wouldn’t have in our own homes.”

But if the style fits, they’ll take it, and will accepts “fitting” items on consignment.

They’ll also take on shopping assignments, and will hunt for the items they know a customer may want, such as the dachshund-themed planter for a customer who favored that breed.

The art deco style they favor – a description-defying style popular between the two world wars – gives the store a unique niche on the island, the proprietors say.

And they add that in the antique world, the more stores, the merrier.

“The more stores there are in one area, the more it becomes a destination,” Casey said.

Lone Star ladies

The business partnership is the culmination of a long friendship for the women, both of whom are transplants from Dallas.

Shannon tells the familiar “visited friends, fell in love with it” story about coming to Bainbridge with her husband Bob.

“We rented here for a week,” she said, “then when we got back home, we started asking each other why are we living here.”

The hammer was the Fourth of July parade.

“It was so sweet we were practically in tears,” she said.

As a radio producer and writer, Bob’s business was portable, so they moved to the Northwest. And after a stint renting in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood, they found a home at Pleasant Beach.

The next step was to induce Casey and husband Al to cancel their planned move to Miami, and also come to Bainbridge.

“They came up with their Top Ten Reasons to come here,” Casey said. “And we found a home on the internet that we fell in love with.

“We’d looked at the pictures so much that by the time I finally walked in and saw it, I already knew where all the furniture was going to go.”

A further bonus to their Rockaway Beach home is that one room could be fitted out as a radio studio, where Al Casey, a voice talent, could continue working with Bob Shannon, as the two of them had done in Dallas.

“They were e-mailing stuff from Dallas,” Casey said. “They can do that just as well from Bainbridge Island.”

Owning a store is a new experience for both women.

Casey has worked extensively in retail, although never as an owner. Shannon has 20 years of experience in sales and client service in the radio business – she still works full time as a radio consultant, although she wants to give that up for the store.

In the first couple of weeks, they have enjoyed the endeavor.

“This is social for me,” Casey said. “I come down here and talk to people all day long – how hard is that?”

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