Meet Your Merchant: Little shop of history
In many ways, Sue Ballew’s Carson City antique shop keeps memories alive.
Ballew opened White Cat Antiques three years ago and filled it with collectibles that tell the story of Nevada’s pioneer past.
But the shop also tells a personal story.
“It’s in memory of my daughter who died of breast cancer,” said Ballew, who also writes a history column for the Nevada Appeal. “She had a business called White Cat and then she passed away so we decided to honor her memory by calling this White Cat Antiques.”
Ballew, a lifelong Carson City resident, said her daughter, Christa Ballew-Matthews, and her father, Bill Dolan, died within a couple weeks of each other three years ago. Afterward, Ballew and her mother decided to open the business.
“When my daughter was really sick she said, ‘Whatever you do, Mom, make the most of every day,’ ” Ballew said. “So that’s what we’re doing.”
Today, business is doing well for Ballew and her business partner Ranee Ceglia, who runs the Yarn Niche, which offers knitted goods such as hats, sweaters and bags. She joined Ballew two years ago inside the John Small house on Curry Street.
Ballew said summer brings the majority of her customers, tourists who usually wander into her shop after visiting the state museum. Ceglia said the winter months boost her business as the demand for knitted Christmas gifts rises.
The collection of goods Ballew offers dates back to the 1800s, including a pantry that was used in a pioneer wagon. It includes a coffee grinder, too.
“I collect old magazines and newspapers from the late 1800s or as far back as I can go,” Ballew said. “We just have a variety of things in here. Jewelry, china, pottery, glassware. We have a few trains and old records.”
Ballew said a lot of the collection comes from her father, a longtime Appeal columnist. Her mother also collects jewelry and antique books, which have been added to the store’s supply.
She said antiques let her meet people, including collectors and dealers from around the world.
“It’s fun to go out and find things and it’s fun to meet people because when they come in you always get a little bit of their history,” Ballew said.
Ceglia said the shop has attracted customers from as far as Alaska, Texas and Scotland.
Starting next month, the two partners will start to teach classes inside the antique shop: Ceglia will teach knitting on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4:30 p.m. and Ballew will start a writing class, which hasn’t been scheduled yet. They said people who are interested should call for details.
Ballew is also a lifelong history buff.
In addition to writing Past Pages with her brother Trent Dolan, the siblings also co-wrote the book, “Early Carson City” and are planning on publishing “20th Century Carson City” next year.
“History has always been a part of our lives, ever since we were little,” Ballew said, adding she’s been able to study the ebb and flow of Carson City over the years.
“It’s just fascinating every day,” she said.