By Pamela Dozois
Ana Curiel has an eye for design, a nose for erudite pickers and artists, and a taste for success. Taking a leap of faith with a vision of possibilities, she has assembled 10 antique dealers and artists to join her in creating “Sisters,” an antique store in Los Alamos.
Curiel and her husband George are not newcomers to the antiques business. They have had stores in Guadalupe and Oldtown Orcutt and have been in the business for nearly 15 years.
In March, however, Curiel lost her lease on a building in Orcutt where she had owned an antique store, also called “Sisters,” for eight years. One of her customers knew she was looking for another location and suggested she look in Los Alamos.
The idea interested her, particularly because she and her husband were thinking of purchasing a home in Los Alamos. On a drive through town, Curiel noticed a house on Bell Street that was being remodeled. It had formerly housed an antique store called “Gussied Up.” Her realtor put her in touch with the owner of the building, Debbie Love, owner of DL Electric.
Curiel talked to Love about renting the house and the plans she had in mind for an antique store. She suggested that Love visit her store in Orcutt, which she did, and was duly impressed. Love subsequently called Curiel and said if she was interested, she could rent the building.
“I didn’t know what to say so I asked for a few days to think about it and to talk it over with my husband. The rent was considerably more than we were paying in Orcutt and the house was so big. I was concerned with how I was going to fill it,” Curiel said.
“After weighing all the pros and cons, I had firmly decided to decline the offer. I had convinced myself that it was just too big an endeavor at the moment. When the phone rang and it was Love on the line asking me if I was interested in renting the house, out of nowhere, I just blurted out, ‘I’ll take it.’ It just came out of my mouth – it was like I’d just sent the wrong text message to someone,” she said.
The gravity of her spontaneous decision began to sink in but she had a vision in mind of what the antique store would look like.
“I knew I wanted to bring in vendors, but from where? I wanted them to be the best of the best and easy to work with,” she said.
She told Madeline Jex, the owner of a little antique store next door called “Gentleman Farmer” about her plans. Soon she received a phone call from Jex asking if she had any spaces left.
“I think I want to move in and be a part of your store,” Jex said.
“Madeline knows so many people in this business and she put me in contact with the majority of these ladies who now fill the store,” said Curiel. “Everything began to suddenly come together.”
Carol Wood had had a space in “Gussied Up” and wanted to have a space in the new store. Mary Kay West, an artist, read a sign in front of the store “Looking for Vendors” and she called Curiel to say she was interested.
Patty Kodenko, who worked at various antique shows, thought it would be a good fit for her as well. Kodenko called Melissa Blue and they reached out to their friends.
Jen Curtis came into the store when it first opened. She had wanted to open a store in Los Alamos but with a full-time job she decided it was better to take a space in “Sisters.”
Polly Jane signed up, then Jan Hooten and Claire Gallion. The last vendor to come in was Judy Watkins, who used to promote “Remnants of the Past,” a vintage, antique artisan and home décor show.
Curiel said that Watkins has a huge following and is a great asset to the store.
“Every piece of the puzzle began to fall into place and it just worked,” Curiel said. “Every one of our vendors has a unique style but it all blends perfectly. Working with 10 ladies can be difficult, but not with these ladies – I considered them all my sisters,” she said. “This store would be really hard to recreate because we help one another and work together to make it a success. I learn something new every day about this business from my sisters.”
Since opening in April, Sisters has held two vintage and antique markets or pop-up shows on the front lawn, where an additional 23 antique dealers rent space for a one-day event.
“They were a huge success,” Curiel said. “The vendors even sign up a year in advance to be a part of the next event. It’s a free to the public … to come in and browse. We plan on hosting more events in the future.”
Curiel’s husband George is a welder by day and on the weekends he works at the store.
”I couldn’t have done this without him – all the ladies love him,” she said.
The Curiels live in Orcutt and have two boys. George, 24, is in the Navy and married. Daniel, 20, is on the baseball team at Hancock College.
As to how Sisters found its name? While looking for unique items to decorate her new home in Orcutt 15 years ago, Ana’s younger sister Sylvia encouraged her to open her own store, which she did in 2003 in a Guadalupe property belonging to her mother.
Her parents had owned the Imperial Café in Guadalupe for 35 years. When they sold the restaurant and property, Curiel opened a new “Sisters” close to home, which gave her more time to spend with her children with a little left over for herself.
“My biggest concern is that my vendors do well. If they do well, then it’s working,” Curiel said. “I plan on taking it day by day. Our small little shop works very well.”
“I would like to thank the community of Los Alamos. I’ve fallen in love with this little town. My husband and I hope to make this our home.”
Sisters, at 349 Bell St. in Los Alamos, is open seven days a week from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 805-357-9415 for more information, visit their Facebook page or follow @sistersgiftsandhome on Instagram.