MONROE – Nick Nichols has fond memories of growing up with a yard sale-loving mother.
Nichols credits the time spent looking for antiques and collectibles with mom as the inspiration for opening The Bronze Bear, an antique store located at 1401 N. Charlotte Ave. in Monroe.
“I remember I enjoyed going and doing that with her, and it just seemed like it would be a good business,” he said. “It was something I enjoyed, and I thought it would make a beautiful store. And so far it’s working out.”
Nichols hasn’t always been in the antique business. His venture sprung out of necessity when he lost his 15-year position with Lowe’s Home Improvement and couldn’t find employment for six months.
“I decided when unemployment ran out we needed to do something,” he said of him and his wife, Julyana. “We took our savings and opened a store” in December 2013.
The antique shop’s name is rooted in Nichols’s childhood. He remembers a fountain in his hometown of Geneseo, New York, placed there in 1888 by brothers Herbert and William Wadsworth to honor their mother and passionate animal lover, Emmeline. The Emmeline Austin Wadsworth Fountain features a bronze bear holding a lamppost, and is known affectionately around town as The Bronze Bear or The Bear in the Square.
The fountain was designed by Richard Morris Hunt, who along with designing the base of the Statue of Liberty also worked on many displays included in the Biltmore House in Asheville. That connection between his childhood home and his new state inspired Nichols to bring The Bronze Bear to Monroe.
The shop sells antiques that Nichols and his wife purchase from a variety of places including auctions, estate sales and locals.
“A lot of the things you can’t find locally, I’ve purchased online,” he said. “We offer a wide variety of items from antique porcelain to French Vienna-type things.”
The Bronze Bear also carries antique clocks, numerous glass items, jewelry and purses. “I just try to collect and display things I remember growing up and I like. It seems to be working so far,” Nichols said.
Sales for the first-time businessman have steadied in the last few months, Nichols said. A tough January transformed into a pleasant February as sales increased and Nichols grew more comfortable with the business.
“Unfortunately, there’s no ‘How to Open a Business for Dummies’ guide,” he said. “It’s not as easy as you might think.”
Nichols is pleased with his location on Charlotte Avenue, calling it a “cute” neighborhood that he’s been told is “an up-and-coming area.”
Nichols has received good feedback from his neighbors and customers, who say his store has antiques others don’t and the items are clean and presentable.
“Some of the comments customers have made is that it’s very well laid-out, items are grouped together so it’s easy to find things you’re looking for,” he said.
The Bronze Bear is open Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Find more information at www.bronzebearantiques.com.