Skeleton Key Art and Antiques
Skeleton Key is an art and antique store run by Brandy VandeWalle. This awesome shop is located on the Illinois side of the QC, in Rock Island. If you haven’t been graced with the opportunity to visit this place, please do yourself a favor and take a visit!
Meet Brandy, the owner and operator of
Skeleton Key Art and Antiques!
“Originally from Mystic, Iowa, I moved to the Quad Cities to attend Augustana College, where I graduated with a studio art degree. I am married to John VandeWalle, a fellow Augie art major, and we have two fantastic children, Addison and Alex. John and I opened Skeleton Key Art and Antiques in Rock Island, IL in 2013. My time is spent being a wife, mother, small-business owner, audiobook addict, and a cheerleader for Rock Island.”
When did you first become interested in antiques?
Some of my fondest childhood memories involve helping my grandma get ready for holiday gatherings, which were always held at her house. We were very close, and spending the day helping her dust and wash the good dishes while listening to her stories about where her treasures came from was probably the foundation of my love of antiques.
When did you know you wanted to create a business out of this?
My husband and I had known for years that we wanted to do this. We spent Sunday afternoons driving around, looking at buildings where we could live upstairs and run a business on the first floor. The funny part is that our current building is the one to which all others were compared, but it was several years before it went on the market, and even more time before we were at a place in our lives where it made sense to strike out on our own. At the time our building went up for sale, our children were three and a baby and I couldn’t begin to imagine trying to open a business with our children so young. We like to say the building waited for us. We bought it the year our baby started kindergarten.
What makes your small business unique?
Skeleton Key Art and Antiques is a vendor mall, which in and of itself isn’t a unique concept, but I think where we are unique is the blend of goods that we do sell. We sell art, antiques, and locally handcrafted goods. To me, those are all things that work well together – and are my favorite things to shop for, so bonus for me! Early on in our business I had a man tell me that you can’t sell antiques and crafts in the same store. I laughed and told him, “Just watch me.”
…and here we are. WAY TO GO!
What is your favorite piece you have ever come across?
This is such an impossible question. I’m half in love with a good portion of the items in the store on any particular day. The most recent item that tugged on my heartstrings when it sold was a circa 1820 dresser. It was magnificent, and I might or might not have hugged it goodbye…
If the Quad Cities needed to know one thing about your small business, what would it be?
While we operate under the umbrella of Skeleton Key Art and Antiques, our business is really more like 85 businesses. And as you can imagine, with that many artisans and antique dealers, there is something new to see every single day.
Why did you choose to pursue running your own business as opposed to working for someone else?
It really never occurred to me to do anything else. After graduating from Augustana, I spent years working for other people, but I always knew I’d own my own business someday. There are certain traits that I’ve seen over and over in most of the small business owners I know, and I’d like to think I possess them as well. I think most of us share a strong work ethic, a confidence in our abilities, and energy to spare. I think if you’ve got those traits covered you might as well work for yourself. Past that, it’s just a matter of figuring out what you’re passionate about.
What is your favorite part about being located in the Quad Cities?
I grew up in a very small town (around 400 people) and went to school in a slightly larger small town (around 7,000 people.) When I moved to the Quad Cities I thought it was enormous. Over time I’ve come to appreciate how it walks the line between a large city and a small town. In my mind, it really is the perfect size for a community, with plenty to do, and yet you are maybe 1-2 people removed from anyone else in the area. It has a great balance.
How long has your business been running?
Skeleton Key opened on August 1, 2013, so just over five years now. (YAY- Congrats!)
What is your favorite part about running an antique shop?
The people we meet, hands down. We’ve made incredible friendships with not only our vendors, but many of our customers as well. It was unexpected, but has been an amazing bonus of running Skeleton Key.
“We host multiple events every year, an average of one or two a month, including the Rock Island Artists’ Market, That Dam Shopping Trip, and the Antique Island Shop Hop. The best way to keep up to date on all that we have going on is to follow our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/skeletonkeyartandantiques
Thank you so much, Brandy, for giving us the opportunity to get to know you and your business a little better! We wish you the best of luck in the future and can’t wait to see your business continue to flourish!
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You have no idea, as a business owner, what this does to boost visibility of the business and the morale of the owners as well! So go and show some love! We appreciate the fact that you take the time to do so!
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