Willie’s Antiques & Collectables in Florence Amazing

By Jon DeStefano

   Although Willie Miller started in the antique business over 30 years ago she was fond of them a lot longer. “I always have liked old things,” she said, “I love history and sometimes I think I was born in the wrong century even though it was a lot harder living back then as compared to now. For me the past was always intriguing.”    Willie started with the furniture. She just would buy things then she would find another piece and if it was a better piece than she had, she upgraded. When her children were in college she helped them furnish their places and eventually found out she could sell things. She spent the next fifteen years doing antique shows all over the United States with her late husband and they were very successful with their antique business.


   After her husband’s death, Willie kept accumulating antiques and remarried. Willie’s new husband John Miller teased her, asking what are you going to do with all this? One day a friend called and told her about an opportunity to open up a shop for a short term in Colorado Springs. She did. That short term turned into three years and it became time to renew the lease.


 willie3  “John and I talked about what we should do with the lease and we decided to try to open our own shop. We thought there are a lot of antique stores in Florence and decided to look there. One night we had dinner with our children in Canon City and we decided to actually go look in Florence for a store and sure enough we did the next day. There really wasn’t anything available in downtown Florence but on the way out of town we saw a for sale sign on this building and to make a long story short a week later we owned the building.”


   That was nine years ago and Willie and John have been changing and upgrading the building ever since. “God willing we will be here a long time,” said Willie. The shop is exquisite. The quality and variety of their collection of antiques is outstanding and the selection is as broad and quality as fine as any in this part of our country. Take their Seth Thomas #32 clock, a unique piece, Willie had restored by a master clockmaker from Woodland Park. “My clockmaker saw the value in this clock. He researched it and it took him a while to get it running and completely restored to its original pristine shape,” said Willie.


willie4   The furniture selections in the shop are numerous and outstanding. Willie’s favorite is Victorian but she also loves French Country with the whimsical designs, which are also very ornate with a lot of carvings. “I love true, old furniture,” she continues, “You take a 100 year old American piece and it is simple and beautiful.” There is a Brazilian matching table, buffet and chairs. It is so unique, and the base of the table is a carving the likes of which is extremely rare.


   Willie’s also has a large selection of very unique and wonderful oak furniture. In 1900 you could buy these great oak pieces from the Sears catalogue.


   The quality and condition of all the furniture is outstanding. “I like original finishes,” Willie says, “I am not a person who likes refinishes.”


willie5   The chandelier collection (There are perhaps 25 great chandeliers or more.) is all John Miller’s doing. He finds them muses Willie and fixes and restores them to perfection. She points to one which is out of Telluride. It was donated to a college there. They had no use for it so they put it on consignment in a shop in Colorado Springs. John bought it from them. It took 3 weeks full time to restore it and replace the missing parts. The crystals are Quartz Crystals. There was only one missing on the inside row and John looked everywhere and finally found the replacement. Everything is original except for the bubble shades. John had to replace them.    Willie points out a beautiful chandelier up front. When she first saw it she asked John, “What is that?” He said, “I can make it something special.” It was just a rod iron skeleton. John saw it, took it apart, rewired it, painted it gold, drilled holes for the crystals and made something from basically nothing into a remarkable chandelier.


   Their favorite is a very large chandelier they purchased from an estate in Canon City and every individual crystal in it is a marked Waterford. It is very unique and exquisite.


   Willie’s glass collections are some of the best selections in Colorado. They include many types of glass and crystal, depression glass of all kinds, regular, elegant depression glass, even glass like Westmoreland, every pattern, a lot etched and pressed, Vaseline glass, Crystal Irish Waterford, Brilliant cut Crystal, cut to clear Crystal, Bohemian and much more. She also has an assortment of Victorian Brides’ baskets. The bases are usually silver plated. There is also a lot of Moreno glass, venetian glass, elegant glass, art glass bases and milk glass, as well as silver crested signed art pieces.


willie2   Willie also has a large assortment of whimsical collectibles, porcelain, Kaiser, Bavarian, art, original paintings, European art, the kind people love. She has just good original art, old inkwells (of which you will never find two alike) and great Italian Anri music boxes.


   In the great open room at Willie’s you’ll even find stuffed animals, liquor neon signs, great silverware, an Austrian figurine 200 years old, a Matador Austrian piece and even a beautiful canoe.


   At Willie’s Antiques you will find a lot more than just a great antique business, you will find the shop that Willie and John Miller built. It is whimsical, beautiful, friendly and exquisite. You will also spend your time with two charming people who make the experience almost magical. Visit them in Florence, “the Antique Capital of Colorado.” They are located at 111 Church Ave. Or, give them a call at 719-784-2336.

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