It all started with a sugar bowl. Tom Krenek had acquired a distinctive creamer while in Budapest and once back in the States he wondered why he hadn’t thought to purchase the corresponding sugar bowl.

He now desired a twin vessel. A friend invited him along on a trip to the Kane County Fair and behold! There amongst all the trinkets and treasures he laid eyes upon the matching dish. He tried to bargain for it, but the merchant wouldn’t budge. It was then that he learned his creamer was a rare find dating back to the 1890’s.

And so the adventure began.

Tom was hooked, and his love of collecting and buying soon grew into the idea for an antique shop. Tom has now owned Krenek’s Antiques in Forest Park (7501 Madison Street) for over ten years – a quaint, tidy shop brimming with a cache of collectibles and curiosities.

Tom is the genial owner who makes all visitors and patrons feel at ease. A retired history teacher, the mellow merchant possesses a wealth of knowledge. From the history of ever-changing Madison Street to the constantly shifting world, one can’t help but feel better informed after the briefest of encounters with this temperate and tranquil shopkeeper.

As patrons peruse his thoughtfully displayed shelves of vintage jewelry, apparel, and furniture, it’s as though stepping into times gone by. Holding a rare find is like holding a crystal ball: via Tom’s narration you can be transported to another era. Today, Tom travels the U.S. and the world to bring his patrons atypical merchandise that stands the test of time.

“When someone wants furniture that will last, quality pieces, they come here,” Tom states.

He’s right. I learned my lesson. I have purchased furniture at major retailers for a pittance, thinking, “What a bargain!” That is until I learn that the items should come with an expiration date. No amount of patching, nailing, or gluing can make these pieces whole again.

Last summer I was strolling along Madison Street when I happened upon a small, high table on the sidewalk. It was a sturdy wooden piece, unfinished, certainly not spectacular, but a sign taped to the top spoke to me. It read: Take me home and refinish me! That was my first taste of Krenek’s.

I needed a nightstand, and looking at this piece my imagination took off: I suddenly saw the many possibilities. I took it home, like the proud owner of the scruffiest puppy from a pound, and showed it off to my sweetie.

He looked at the uninspired piece unenthusiastically, the way Desi looked at Lucy when she divulged yet another screwball scheme, but I knew he would learn to love it once it was transformed.

A quick trip to Fred’s Furniture Restoration, and a beautiful, black table was unveiled, which my partner hardly recognized. He admitted that he hadn’t seen the potential, but that it was a very handsome piece now.

This, my friends, is not disposable furniture.

Tom Krenek’s discerning eye brings us new gems each and every week. And along with each new piece, an opportunity to listen to an entertaining yarn, how a spotted Bohemian friendship glass was utilized in the 1800’s and how it came to rest on his shelf or how, like a detective, he identified a nineteenth century Victorian garnet broach by its safety chain and why it found a home at Krenek’s.

This gentleman, with his infinitely discriminating taste and perennially perceptive mind, does more than bring us vestiges of the past, he unleashes our imagination and unfurls a little bit of history for us to take home with each and every visit.

For store hours, call Krenek’s Antiques at 708.366.1242. Have you visited Krenek’s? If so, tell us what you love about it or tell us about your rare find! 

Stop back next week to read about another local, eco-friendly shop or a green product. I’ll see you around town and in the shops!

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