Bit of history shuts doors

Zack's Unique Collectibles in Olalla set to close in November

  • Oct. 7, 2014 2:00 p.m.

Steve Arstad

Black Press

Zack’s Unique Collectibles of Olalla will be closing its doors in November after 14 years in the community.

Sue Allen has been managing the popular collectible and used goods store since her father, James Irwin — Jim, as he was known to everyone — had a stroke in April of this year.

Irwin previously ran a similar store in Keremeos out of the building currently occupied by Geoff Berg’s Ox Yoke Antiques.

“He goes back at least 21 years in this area,” said Allen, “at one time he had both stores.  He carried furniture in Olalla, then eventually sold the Keremeos store and moved everything here.”

Irwin originally began trading in used and collectible goods at the flea market in Okanagan Falls,  eventually setting up shop in Oliver before moving to the Similkameen.

“He loved the shopping part of it,” Allen said. “He loved attending  garage and estate sales.”

Allen said Irwin had a couple of people helping him find items, as his customers often provided him with lists of items they were looking for.

“He knew what people wanted, and brought stuff into the store that he knew would sell,” Allen said. “He especially liked old tools, and historical stuff.”

Allen said Irwin became an information junkie after the advent of the Internet.

“He’d say he was researching an item in order to sell the product, but he really was just interested in finding out all he could about the things that came into his store,” Allen said, noting that some items Irwin found defied explanation.

“He sometimes found things that he had to research, simply to find out what they were used for.”

Allen is currently discounting all non-consignment items in the store by 50 per cent. She has been looking after the store since Jim’s stroke, but is finding it too much for her to handle. A break-in on the Labour Day weekend proved to be the last straw when thieves, obviously familiar with the operation, made off with a number of highly collectible items, including old coins. There was no insurance for the loss.

“On the one hand, I’m sad to see it closing,” she said, “I physically can’t keep it going.

“This was dad’s life — he loved it.”

Allen has relayed many messages to Irwin, who is living in Mariposa Gardens in Osoyoos,  from concerned customers.

“He had a number of regular collectors and bought stuff for people who were looking for specific things,”Allen said. “Old porcelain doorknobs, cast iron frying pans, license plates – he couldn’t keep those things on the shelf.”

A few of the unique things Irwin had for sale over the years included one of the earliest electric stove models ever produced; a  railway strong box more than 100 years old, and numerous antique lighters and old coins.

Today, the store is still bursting at the seams with everything one could think of — fishing rods, books, sporting goods, hardware, knicknacks,  apple box labels, old bottles, to name but a few of the many items still for sale.

Allen plans to wind up the operation by the end of November. In the meantime, she is open to offers on the property and all the goods.

“If somebody walks in and offers cash, it’s gone,” she said.

The property also contains another building that housed a Shell gas station and restaurant in the early 1970s. It serves as a residence today.

When Allen closes her doors in November, it will be the end of an era in Olalla, as it will be the first time in decades there hasn’t been an operating storefront business in the community.