Kay Snyder was working in the nascent computer industry back in the 1970s when she decided that her calling wasn’t with punch cards and giant main frames. Her future was in the past.
On the side, Snyder was “picking” — buying and selling to antique dealers — and about midway through that decade, she figured, “What the hell, I can do this.”
As it happened, there was a storefront for rent in the then-bustling Arcade Building in downtown Riverside, and on Jan. 17, 1976 Arcade Antiques opened its doors. This weekend, the business, now known as Arcade Jewelers, will celebrate its 40th anniversary as a Riverside business.
The store is planning on holding an anniversary open house on Saturday, Jan. 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with refreshments, giveaways and special discounts.
While she had been interested in antiques prior to opening her first location in 1976, Snyder’s decision was something of a household surprise.
“When I told my husband, he almost collapsed,” said Snyder of her decision to make a career in the antiques trade. “I love working; I love the business. I’ve made a lot of friendships over the years.”
These days, Snyder runs the business with her daughter, Robin Mooney, out of the storefront at 51 E. Burlington St., which the business has called home since 2008. And while, she’s still actively involved in the business, Snyder spends winters at her home in Naples, Florida.
“I’m overjoyed that Robin is now with me and is helping me,” said Snyder, 77. “She’s doing a yeoman’s job. I thought I was going to have to fold it, but she’s very, very good and knowledgeable.”
Mooney herself came to the antiques/jewelry business after spending 20 years working for credit unions.
“I really didn’t have an interest in the business, though I always loved and cherished my mom’s thing,” Mooney said.
Mooney does remember being surrounded by Victorian lamps, rugs, and porcelain and her mom set up a room in the back of the store for her to watch cartoons after school, she said.
“I kind of knew we were a little different, a little weird,” said Mooney, “and that we walked to a different beat.”
Snyder said from the start she was interested in higher-end antiques, probably inspired by her own mother’s taste.
“I wanted nice things,” Snyder said. “My mother furnished our house with French furniture and Dresden china. I just decided I wanted to do that.”
And for most of the business’ life, that’s exactly the kind of merchandise she sold, though jewelry was always part of the inventory.
After spending a couple of years in the Arcade Building, Snyder in 1978 moved the business (along with the name) to the Victorian home at 28 Forest Ave., which now houses a dental practice.
There Snyder got to know Dick Kuhlman, the pharmacist who owned the drugstore in the corner space of the Tower Building at 25 East Ave. She told him if he ever wanted to leave to let her know.
In 1982, her chance to move came. She moved her store into the old drug store, keeping the custom-built walnut cabinetry, which was installed in 1928 for the original Jindrich’s Drug Store.
The space was perfect for Snyder’s array of Victorian decorative art, glass lamps, sculpture and paintings.
“It was stunning,” said Mooney, who has a picture of the business from that time hanging above her desk. “It was Riverside’s living room or formal parlor.”
Arcade Antiques drew other shops to East Avenue, which became a kind of antiques row. Around the same time, Snyder began appearing on a weekly, half-hour “Antiques Roadshow”-type program on RBTV.
“They liked it so much they sent it to Channel 11 [WTTW, Chicago’s public television station],” said Snyder. The TV station took a pass.
“I wasn’t sophisticated enough,” Snyder said.
Snyder had an impact locally, however. She won a term as a trustee on the Riverside Village Board, became involved in the Chamber of Commerce and was named Riverside Township Person of the Year in 1990 — the first woman honored with that award.
The shop stayed in the corner space at 25 East Ave. until 2006, in the midst of a particularly rough year for Snyder. Her husband, Donald, died in July of that year. But since July of 2005, Snyder had been battling with her landlord over conditions in the building that forced the shop to be shuttered for months.
Snyder left the location and into temporary digs on East Burlington Street until landing at 51 E. Burlington St.
At the same time, Mooney closed her own antiques shop on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago and joined her mom in Riverside. But the loss of the large corner space forced a choice — the large antique items were liquidated in large measure, and the business began to specialize in antique jewelry.
Mooney, who also serves as vice president of the Riverside Chamber of Commerce, helped establish the company’s online business, which she says account for about half its sales.
While Mooney has embraced the virtual aspect of the business, Snyder prefers the face-to-face contact with customers. The result is that each has also cultivated her own clientele, broadening the base.
“People still like to walk in and see the merchandise,” said Snyder. “If they’re going to buy a piece of jewelry worth $5,000, do you want to buy it off the Internet?”
While they have different styles, the mother and daughter complement one another.
“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to mom,” Mooney said. “She has impeccable taste and she’s really good at building relationships.”