Sandy Erdman: Find Prized Possessions in Fountain City

May 26, 2019

At 2 S. Main St. in Fountain City, Wis., is a unique store with antiques, furniture and home decor. It’s called Prized Possessions. Its owner is Brent Ellis.

As we know, a business can be found in every kind of building imaginable. Ellis tells of his building, “There is an amazing history to the building. Since the late 19th century, it has held a variety of businesses including a printing shop, pharmacy, general store and most recently a soda fountain and laundromat. The soda fountain bar is still in the shop and is the oldest marble bar in Buffalo County. There is a beautiful stained glass over the doors showing an eagle catching a fish.

“This is a place to come see and get some rare gems that you wouldn’t see in your average antique store,” Ellis said. “Everyone is in awe over how well the building turned out. People in the community have really appreciated the effort to restore and maintain the building. And the character and history of the building perfectly compliments the unique pieces within the shop. I think everybody is just ready to see the shop finally open!”

As for the inspiration for the shop’s name, Ellis said, “I grew up in Trempeauleau, Wis. After I graduated from school I moved to Chicago and lived there for several years. During that time I fell in love with the art and architecture there. That led me to museums, open houses, and estate sales. Eventually I started collecting some pieces that caught my eye at estate sales. Seeing the joy that these items brought to me and to my friends and family inspired me to start my own business after moving back to this area.

“My father was the big help in remodeling the shop, and my mother helps with design and with my beautiful flower beds,” he said. “The store name, Prized Possessions, came about because I feel that each piece I have will become someone’s prized possession. And there have even been some pieces that I can’t part with and they have become my own prized possessions!”

Since the shop is only about 1,200 square feet, Ellis said, “I must be very selective when buying and staging the shop. I live above the shop, where I do some small repairs to my pieces. And there is a barn where I keep some pieces that I am working on. But mostly I rely on a local network of very talented people who help restore pieces that are in need of some love.”

Being an avid collector, “My collection grew and some of my friends and family expressed interest in certain pieces. So I began selling more through word-of-mouth to people who shared my same tastes. That allowed me to continue buying new pieces and building my client base. After doing this for a few years I decided to take the risk to open this shop. I do find a lot of my items in estate sales, auctions, or through word-of-mouth. You never know what gems are hiding in some people’s homes. I’m always on the hunt for new items, mostly antique furniture, bronzes, busts, and rarities.”

Ellis gets some inspiration from home decor magazines. “I would say more comes from visiting estates, museums and seeing collections that other people have. I love when customers come to me to find certain items at a certain price as I always keep my customers in mind when I’m on the hunt for new treasures. Mostly antiques and gently used home décor are in the shop. I want everything to be things that you won’t find anywhere else. I have several repeat customers from the Twin Cities who have purchased pieces from me, as well as customers from Madison and Chicago.”

As you view the front of the shop and then step in, you will certainly find that Ellis loves to shop for unique pieces and sometimes can be attached to them. “One of the first pieces of furniture in my collection is currently in the shop,” he said. “As my collection continues to grow, I have to share some of these amazing pieces with others who truly appreciate them. It always makes me a little sad to see a piece from my collection sell, but even more it makes me happy knowing that it is going to someone who is going to appreciate and treasure it.”

The goal, Ellis says, “Is to find some of these hidden gems and share them with the community. I love the joy that it brings to people when they find their own prized possession. There is nothing like finding an old piece that has so much history and meaning and bringing it into your home.”

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