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How this local vintage shop persevered through the pandemic

"The things I like about vintage items, they take you back to a simpler time with things were less complicated. Everything in here brings memories."

BELLEVILLE, Ill — The pandemic has taken a toll on local small businesses. Shutdowns and restrictions caused some people to go out of business.

Christine Blanquart opened her vintage market in Belleville in February of 2020, right before the pandemic hit. Instead of giving up, she saw the possibilities. 

Some people see things as they are, but not Blanquart. She sees what could be.

“I have the front of this Tuk Tuk taxi that’s made into a bar,” Blanquart said. “Not look at what the item is but what that item possibly could be.” 

Blanquart’s Rusty Gem Vintage Market actually used to be something else.

“It was a 1960s automobile repair shop,” she said.  

She’s had the vision of having her own place for some time.  

“It was my dream to have my own shop,” she explained. 

But unexpectedly it became a dream deferred.  

“We bought the building not knowing there was going to be a global pandemic. I work as a nurse; my husband works at Siteman Cancer Center,” she said. “This pandemic hit us from all different sides.”

They may have been hit, but the couple did not lose faith and stayed focused on their dream. 

“I just kept hope. We just kept going and we didn’t give up,” she said. 

The shop is a product of their perseverance and is now filled with a little bit of everything.

“I can say that it’s a blend of different things,” she said. 

Those things are from years gone by.

“The things I like about vintage items, they take you back to a simpler time with things were less complicated. Everything in here brings memories. I get to hear people’s childhood stories all day long,” she told 5 On Your Side.

The slow down during the pandemic allowed her time to search throughout the Midwest for inventory. 

“Farms, barns, we go to estate sales. It’s usually anywhere I can get my truck to because I got to bring it all home,” she said.

She looks at it as “treasure hunting” and by repurposing these treasures she’s been able to look at her time during the pandemic differently than most people. 

“It could have gone one way but actually went in the most positive way that it could have,” she said. 

She can experience happiness now by seeing the possibilities. 

“I’m completely happy. This is something that I think I was made to do,” she said. 

If you want to more about her shop, click here.