John Kubal/Register: Patty Kratochvil (left) and Emily Braun show off some of the more than 1 million items in the inventory of Threads of Memories Antique Mall in downtown Brookings. After 33 years in the antiques trade, Kratochvil has sold the business to Braun.

A changing of the guard is underway for a downtown Brookings business.

After 33 years in the antiques trade, owner-operator Patty Kratochvil is selling Threads of Memories Antiques Mall to Emily (Dotson) Braun, a Brookings native whose mother, Carolyn Dotson, once worked with Kratochvil at Threads – for 7 1/2 years.

Kratochvil has been 23 years in the present Threads, an L-shaped layout that fronts on both 411 Fourth St. and 408 Main Ave. Prior to setting up shop there, she worked five years each in two rented buildings.

“I’m 69 years old,” Kratochvil said as she discussed her decision to retire. “I wanted to have this store stay an antique store. And Emily was the only one I could find to take it over.” 

Both women laughed as they noted Braun’s sort-of family connection, buying the business where her mother once worked.

“We did alterations and antiques to start with, because I was doing alterations out of my home and I wanted to get it out of my home,” Kratochvil explained. They opened a store near the law office of her husband, attorney Mark Kratochvil. The next move took her and Dotson to another rented building, “and the antiques took over. We quit doing the alterations.”

Kratochvil explained that she and Dotson decided they “could start small, do an antiques business and sell some things,” at a time when, according to Kratochvil, “so many things were being bought up and trucked out to Texas or California. None of the antiques were staying here.”

She added that they obtained most of their antiques at auctions within 50 miles of Brookings. In a way, they were purchasing items for people who would have liked to have been at some of these auctions but could not.

“Sort of like personal shopping,” Braun said. “If people were looking for pieces, my mom and Patty were out there searching and hunting and buying those up. So when they came back to the shop, they could say, ‘I’ve got this set now for you.’”

 ‘Garage antiques’ in ‘man caves’

So what’s hot in the world of antique collectors right now? 

“The best things that sell right now are ‘garage antiques,’” Kratochvil answered. “People have their house filled up with dishes from Grandma June and Aunt Matilda; the only space they have left to decorate is their garage.”

“It’s like outdated man cave stuff,” Braun said.

“They’re looking for signage, gasoline signs, wooden antiques, tools,” Kratochvil explained.

Take an inventory of the numbers of items and pieces that occupy space at Threads and it would be well over seven figures: “Oh, yeah,” Kratochvil casually admitted.

“Every nook and cranny is filled,” Braun added.

While dealing with the chockablock million-plus inventory might be daunting for some people, for Kratochvil that – and the people that antiques pull in – are what make her life’s vocation rewarding.

“It’s been an absolutely fantastic profession,” she said. “Because of the people you get to meet and the things that go through your hands. You feel like you own them for a time, until somebody buys them.”

“It’s better than having a house, where you ask, ‘What am I going to do with this now,’” she added, again laughing.

As to where Threads customers come from, both Kratochvil and Braun agree: “worldwide, really all over.”

Memories has turned a profit for Kratochvil, a not filthy-rich profit; and not last year, she admitted. The coronavirus made for a tough year in 2020. Threads was closed from March through July.

A go-to town for antiques

“It’s gone from an antique business to a recycling business,” Kratochvil said of Threads’ evolution over the decades. “It’s not something where we are in competition with the other people in town. We complement the other people in town who sell antiques; because they may have something different from what we have. I shop in their shops.” 

So while she sends some shoppers to the other antique shops in Brookings, they send shoppers to Threads.

“A lot of those little shops are using antiques and changing them in a way that they’re saleable,” she added. 

Both Kratochvil and Braun noted that Brookings has become a go-to place for antiques. A lot of Threads patrons come from the surrounding Midwestern states. 

“She’s created quite a reputation in the past 30 years,” Braun said, in reference to Kratochvil.

Antique shoppers are a savvy lot. They know what the market is for what they may be seeking. Kratochvil also noted that the price for antiques can go down as well as up. “In fact, they’ve gone down quite a bit, because people can tell what the market is.”

“I’d say in one way we’re really selling a lifestyle,” Braun explained. “You want to charm up your house. We’re selling décor. It’s something that you really enjoy, not what you’re collecting.

“I’m more interested in folk art, vintage clothing, advertising, signage, woodwork, books and truly unusual and unique pieces. I’m less interested in glassware, tableware sets, linens, frames, mismatched items. We’ve got plenty of glassware and framed artwork.”

‘Taking-over mode’

Both women are South Dakota State University alumnae. Kratochvil graduated in 1973 with a degree in what was then home economics. She and Mark Kratochvil, retired Brookings County deputy state’s attorney, have been married for 49 years. They have two grown daughters and two granddaughters. She and Mark would like to travel when it again becomes popular. She serves on the Brookings County Museum board and would like to work on genealogy a bit.

Braun, 35, is a Brookings native, Brookings High School class of 2004.

A 2014 SDSU graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, she went on to intern at Brookings Convention and Visitors Bureau and stayed until 2020. Now she has reevaluated “what was important in life.”

She’s known Patty “since I was a baby. I’ve always been in the shop. I loved the shop. I grew up around antiques.

“I know Patty wanted to retire. I got this wild idea in the summer that just sort of grew into a real mission, a real opportunity. Like Patty, I don’t want to see the shop go away,” Braun said.

“It was one of those hard life-decisions. But I think it’s one of those that I’ve been grateful for ever since.”

For now, Braun is in a sort-of “taking-over” mode; she wants to “learn as much as I can from Patty and just understand how she ran her successful business for so long and just understand what my role is.

“I want to understand the merchandise, the customers, the dealers, the business side of things.”

Kratochvil appreciates that Braun is more adept at social media than she is. Braun admits that she will use social media more, seeing that as her “comfort zone.”

Additionally, Kratochvil praised Braun for “knowing how to decorate beautifully.”

Threads of Memories is currently open Thursdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Braun can be reached there at 697-7377 for additional information on what the shop offers. She also invites anyone who is interested to follow Threads on Facebook and Instagram @threadsofmemoriesbrookings.

 Contact John Kubal at jkubal@brookingsregister.com.

COURTESY OF: The Brookings Register

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