Treasure Hunt

September 2021 View more

By Kelly Aiglon

A few short months ago, you had to climb to the third floor of the Beidelman Furniture building to get your fix. Today, a walk down bustling Water Street will put any treasure hunters right where they belong: at the door of Antiques of Naperville. 

The roomy new shop is, as owner Eric Jungnickel lovingly describes it, “organized chaos.” Or, you can refer to it as “full of happiness,” as one recent customer did. Either way, Jungnickel’s decades-long career in high-end antiques and collectibles is finally getting the showcase it deserves after he moved into his very own shop in June. 

Everything you come across in this spacious, high-ceilinged space is spot-
on in terms of breadth of selection and style, and has just the right amount of quirk. You’ll find plenty of rarely seen items—a Zenith tube radio, a vintage ceremonial drum, and a 1930s rosewood dining set from Hong Kong, for example—as well as timeless go-to items like costume jewelry and gilded barware.

Journey to the Forefront

When Jungnickel moved to Naperville in 1990, he had a dealer space in a former bowling alley downtown (today, that space is the Barnes & Noble store). He’s also rented booths at several antique shops since—most notably Affordable Antiques on Ogden and Naper—but none have offered him the kind of visibility that the Water Street District has.

“The hunt is the fun,” Jungnickel says of the shop, which he runs with his girlfriend, Laura Evans. When setting things up, they executed a specific vision. “We fanned everything out from the center, like spokes on a wheel,” he says. The grand centerpiece is a large brass telescope, around which circles all matter of home decor, furniture, kitchenware, clothing and accessories, and just plain oddities.

The shop sells “true antiques,” which means Jungnickel doesn’t refinish or repurpose them before selling. So the patina you see on that brass Model T horn and the fade on the wood of the fold-out bar is all part of the charm. 

Passion for Miscellany

Jungnickel started collecting in 1974, with his first baseball ticket. It was St. Louis Cardinals vs. the Cincinnati Reds, playing at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis. From there, Jungnickel began holding on to event programs, tickets, and sports memorabilia. “I’m not a packrat … more of a keeper of family stuff,” he says. 

Running an antique business has prompted Jungnickel to look at everything with a new eye. “I’ve learned that you can’t get away with selling only what you like,” he says. “Everyone has different tastes.” Even so, Jungnickel’s personal interests keep drawing him to sports collectibles, particularly anything related to auto racing. After all, he was “born on a race day in Indy.”

Through the years, Jungnickel’s passion for collecting has only intensified and he’s started seeking out anything that catches his fancy. He once bought a Santa Claus bobblehead for $6 on a whim and now has 100 different Santa bobbleheads in his personal collection. 

When it comes to antiques, what matters most to Jungnickel are the stories and people behind the objects. He spends time chatting with those who sell to him, because the human connection is important to understanding the object’s history and value. 

Says Jungnickel, “I hear all the time from people I buy from, ‘Make sure it finds a good home.’ I’m so glad
I can do that.” 

Photo by Steve Metsch/Naperville Sun