By Kate Raddatz

HOPKINS, Minn. (WCCO) — Browsing in an antique shop is almost like traveling through time. You never know what you might come across to spruce up your home or trigger a fond memory.

This week in the “Best of Minnesota,” your votes sent Kate Raddatz to downtown Hopkins where eight antique shops fill a four-block area. At the center of it all is your pick: Antiques on Main Street.

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If you haven’t visited downtown Hopkins, you may want to put it on your to-do list — that is, if you like towns with an old-timey feel, with shops and stores so inviting, that when you walk-in the door, someone like Hal Miller might greet you:

“Hello, welcome to Antiques on Main Street: 50 dealers, two levels, 50,000 square feet, coffee and cookies and hot apple cider at the other end,” he tells customers.

Hal is the “husband” part of the husband-wife ownership at Antiques on Main Street.

(credit: CBS)

“Antique dealers — we consider ourselves the preservers of posterity,” he said.

If you own a business, you would want a guy like Hal on your team. He’s a no-nonsense kind of guy whose former career in government work has imprinted on him the need for efficiency and accuracy — just try keeping up with the guy.

“There’s a number of other antique stores,” Hal’s wife and co-owner Nancy Miller said. “We have six within a two-block area.”

In Hopkins, Nancy says the antique dealers embrace and support each other — a notion that might leave some marketing strategists scratching their heads.

“It helps, yes, because our merchandise is unique,” Nancy said.

Unique is a good word to use — not only in describing the merchandise, but each dealer as well.

“It’s all about the hunt,” antique dealer Kay said.

(credit: CBS)

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“I’ve been collecting hunting and fishing collectibles for over fifty years now,” Randy, another local antique dealer, said.

Antiques on Main is like 50 stores in one, with each dealer as a specialist in their own area of interest.

“I was a history major in school, so I know a lot of things about history, so everything kind of connects together,” Dale, another dealer, said.

For some dealers, it’s about making a little more room at home.

“I retired and I had to find something to do with myself, and I’m running out of room at the house so I decided to come into the store and start selling a few things,” Randy said. “It’s graduated to where I’m getting rid of a lot more things than I thought I would.”

And does that make the wife happy?

“She’s happy when i get rid of stuff, yeah!” Randy said.

Stuff, collectibles, whatever you want to call it — we all have something that trips our trigger and begs the question.

“How many hands have handled that? Was this a treasure to someone?” antique dealer Kathy said.

So take it from the experts.

“It’s just going and finding the thing that makes your heart beat,” Kay said.

With 50 different dealers, Antiques on Main Street is an eclectic shop, so if you’re looking for something a little off the wall, there’s a good chance you’ll find it.

“I have a tendency to humanize inanimate objects and think, ‘Where have you been? What can you tell me about you? Maybe somebody else can have this as a treasure now,'” Kathy said.

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Hal and Nancy keep the shop open seven days a week — Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m to 6 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

Kate Raddatz