Finding treasures from the past: Glenville antiques dealer navigates running a business in a changing world

Published 1:00 pm Sunday, February 25, 2024

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By Ayanna Eckblad

Holding onto things from the past can help preserve memories, start conversations and remind us of a simpler time. This is one of the many reasons people enjoy antique collecting. Demand and the fluctuating market of vintage items makes it a fairly competitive business to get into.

For antiques dealer Russ Tordoff, it’s all part of the experience.

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Growing up on a farm near Lake Mills, Tordoff, 80, of Glenville never thought he would become an antiques dealer.

“I was actually out [antique] hunting and found some stuff,” Tordoff said. “I read an article that they were collecting cast iron seats which were off old farm implements, and I asked [the seller] what he wanted for it and he said, ‘Just take it.’”

Tordoff moved to southern Minnesota with his wife, JoAnn, in 1969 and opened his store, Countryside Antiques, in 1970. At one point he had a business partner who worked alongside him. The partner has since passed away. In the 1970s and ’80s Tordoff sold furniture and shipped it to the West Coast.

Shortly afterward, products like Coke machines, pianos and safes gained popularity.

While running the store, Russ and JoAnn raised two children, and Russ worked at Fountain Industries.

Currently, Tordoff focuses on selling items on a smaller scale as he is no longer able to move heavy furniture. Not only have the types of items he sells changed, but the methods in which he sells have changed as well.

“Business is changing,” he said.

Search engines like Google have helped lead new antique hunters to his door.

“If you Google ‘antique shops near Albert Lea’ … it comes up, and then they find me,” Tordoff said. “I get customers from all over the United States … I also sell on Ebay.”

Countryside Antiques’ stock includes items from the 1800s all the way to collectibles from around 2000.

“I still enjoy it,” he said. “I like old things.”

Tordoff’s antique business saw a rise in popularity as mid-century and cottage-core decorating styles became popular.

With small businesses across the country struggling, Tordoff credits some of his success to the fact that he owns the location that his store is in, a building near his home.

“I’m just a small business that’s paid for,” he said. “In town, if I was renting this much space, it would be hard to make it.” In the earlier days of his store, he used to rent space on Washington Street in Albert Lea as well.

The number of antique stores in Freeborn County has dwindled substantially, and the items customers look for are constantly changing. However, Tordoff plans to continue selling vintage items and collectibles as long as he is able to and as long as there are people who want to buy these items.

“One of the best things about the business is I meet really good people,” Tordoff said. “There’s a collector for everything.”
Countryside Antiques is at 17031 810th Ave. in Glenville and is open “by chance or appointment.” Appointments can be made by calling Tordoff at 507-402-0880.