Historical Morris retail items now in new retail store
GiGi displays Baum’s mercantile furniture, other items
MORRIS – Furniture, display items and other memorabilia from one of the first Morris retail establishments have come full circle.
Last month Jim Baum, businessman and the last of the dynasty of the Morris retail store Baum’s, donated several pieces to Heidi Kindlespire, owner of GiGi on Washington Street.
Many of the items had been part of Baum’s since 1905 and had been put in storage in the basement of the building before being donated to GiGi, where they can once again be a useful part of the downtown Morris retail establishment.
“I love that it was in Morris retail in the early 1900s,” Kindlespire said “Now it’s back in Morris retail. I love the character and the history that it all brings.”
Kindlespire opened GiGi, named after her grandmother Patricia “GiGi” Petersen, about two years ago and recently expanded to more than double her space. The store sells women’s apparel, shoes and accessories. With the expansion, she began searching for a long, low and sturdy table, which she could ring up purchases, bag items and wrap gifts.
Her search was fruitless until she thought to call on Baum.
“Jim’s family started Morris retail,” she said. “He’s still an integral part of retail in Morris. ... I called him, and he came right in.”
Baum took her to the basement under the building that used to be Baum’s and showed her the items he had in storage, then offered to give her whatever she needed for her store.
“I think I was just shocked more than anything,” Kindlespire said of his offer. “I am still just beside myself at his generosity and his excitement for what I was planning.”
Baum said many of the items were in the original H.H. Baum dry goods store in 1905. The mercantile table and another table were in use upstairs until 1954, when they were put in the basement and used for marking merchandise, storage and other uses. The store closed in 2007.
“They were very good, usable pieces,” Baum said. “Those tables had two-inch countertops. You couldn’t buy anything like them now.”
He also gave Kindlespire a couple of his antique cash registers, a wooden thread box, a dresser, ceramic heads used to display hats, lingerie figurines, a large accounts receivable ledger, and several smaller items, such as a yardage estimator, a cloth meter, scissors and a skirt marker.
“We were primarily selling fabric by the yard back then,” Baum said.
The mercantile table still has the brass studs on the edge where fabric was measured by the quarter yard.
Baum has good memories of the pieces. He remembers one Easter weekend – possibly 1964 – selling 500 hats off the ceramic heads. They were sold for $1.99, $2.99, $3.99, and the “very expensive” ones sold for $4.99.
“I’m so happy to have someone who’s interested in these things,” he said.
He also praised Kindlespire for the novel ways she used the antiques in her modern shop, especially the way she used the accounts payable ledger as her earring display.
“That is perhaps the most inventive display piece I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I never thought that would be used at all. She’s very creative and knows her merchandise.”
Several other pieces from Baum’s can also be seen in the Grundy County Historical Museum.