Sights with Sami

Currents Editor West resumes her mission to explore all the Chippewa Valley has to offer

More stories from Sami West

Sights with Sami

I know what you’re probably all thinking: “I thought this column was over.”

Truth be told, I thought so too. I thought I’d exhausted this column and there were no more worthwhile explorations to write about in Eau Claire. In fact, I thought it would be much better to focus on other kinds of stories, and to spend my time doing other things.

Oh, how wrong I was.

From the moment I began preparing for this semester, I missed my mini escapes from campus life, from homework, from activities, from work, from my friends (sometimes) – from everything bogging me down. In short: I missed everything about the column.

I missed the fear I wouldn’t find something intriguing to write about. I missed having an excuse to spend time with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. I missed friends and family members asking me, “What are you doing for Sights with Sami this week?” (As much as it used to annoy me when I actually had no clue and I had about 24 hours to figure out a place and how to set aside some time for it and was already practically exploding with anxiety).

I thought about it, and decided maybe I had explored much of what Eau Claire had to offer, but what about the entire Chippewa Valley? There’s always more to discover in Eau Claire and surrounding communities.

So, here I am, more excited than ever before to share my journey with you this semester.

It begins with a shed – literally.

At 1519 Mayer Rd., Altoona, one can find The Shed, a sort of hybrid between an antique store, a flea market and a garage sale. And yes, it is literally in one of the biggest sheds I’ve ever seen in my life.

This shed was crammed with items some would call garbage, while others would call gold.

I belong to the latter category.

The granddaughter of two avid antique collectors and dealers, I’ve always been the type of girl whose favorite days of the summer were spent scouring garage sale after garage sale for something interesting for, of course, a good price. I love sifting through all of the junk in search of something cool I can tell a story about later.

One of my favorite childhood memories is the anticipation of walking up to the garage sale with my grandma, watching and waiting for her blunt reaction. We’d either stay for what felt like hours (though it was probably only 30 minutes at the most), or I’d simply silently follow my grandma out, who turned around practically seconds after stepping foot into the sale.

After walking away, my grandma always mutters something about how “it was just a bunch of junk.”

As I walked into The Shed, a store I’d definitely prefer to explore with my grandma and my mom, it felt like I could hear her voice as clear as day. And I missed them so much I almost burst into tears right there.

Still, I pushed through, exploring the cluttered store/shed’s various antiques, used books, crafts, and “others” I really can’t put into any of those categories.

I spent an hour wandering the store, not just reveling in the oddities cluttering the floors and tables everywhere, but also reveling in how lucky I am to call a family of antique collectors mine. I couldn’t help but wonder what they would think about the shop as I perused the junk and otherwise.

Although painful at first, The Shed ultimately bettered the homesickness I’d been battling for the last few days.

What fascinated me most was a section filled with old LIFE magazines. One in particular that I found was the first of a three part series from 1971 entitled “The ‘Woman Problem’ – Then and Now,” which illustrated how society’s disempowerment of women began way back with witchery and the story of Adam and Eve.

All in all, check out The Shed if you ever have the chance, whether you’re someone like me who comes from a family of antique collectors and you’re feeling a bit homesick, or maybe you’re just longing for summer days of thrift sales. I promise, The Shed will give you that, only warmer during these last few months of winter.