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The accidental antiques dealer

Geneva native brings home passion for vintage, quality

Published: Thursday, April 25, 2013 11:21 a.m. CDT

GENEVA – Geneva native Dagmar McGowan had no interest in antiques until she purchased her former home in nearby Bartlett.

The home once had been a school house in the 1890s, and McGowan wanted to find furniture to match the building's historic features. Hooked on the hunt, she and husband Harold started selling antiques out of their home twice a week, and then became dealers at an antique warehouse in Naperville.

In the 25 years that would follow, the McGowans would make that interest their business, and a daily quest to find old, unique furnishings and historic items for themselves, and a steady stream of clients.

They brought their quarter-century of experience back to McGowan's hometown of Geneva in 2012 when they opened their own facility, America's Treasures Antiques, Furniture and Gifts, at 34 N. Bennett St.

Now, they are readying a celebration to mark the first year of business in the city McGowan always has considered her home.

Born in Germany, McGowan moved to Geneva in 1965. She attended school in Geneva and met Harold. Her children were born in Geneva, as well, she said.

The America's Treasures store in Geneva has 5,000 square feet of space, and visitors can find such items as a wooden carved bench from England that harkens back to 1760, and a 200-year old French Morbeir grandfather clock which came out of a monastery.

"You just wish sometimes the pieces could talk to you about where they've been before you got them," she said.

McGowan rents her space among 15 local dealers, and each offers something unique and different to the store's clients. One dealer, for example, specializes in glassware and pottery. Another offers fine art. Classic toys, chandeliers and other lighting also are available.

"When a piece sells, we fill [the space] almost immediately," she said.

But McGowan is not an antique "purist," and not everything she collects, or sells, is decades old. If a nice piece of furniture comes in to the store, but it's not necessarily an antique, McGowan said she often sees the treasure it could be. With her own artistic flair, she will create "shabby chic" furniture from such pieces, with scuffed paint and worn details to make them look older than their years, she said.

McGowan also has a partnership with a local painter who can customize pieces for buyers, should they choose.

"It doesn't matter if it's old or not, as long as the quality is there," she said.

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