Though the nooks and crannies of the Pleasant Hill Antique Mall are packed with fascinating objects, owners Bob and Betty Johnson both agree that the most interesting thing in the place is a Johnson Log Cabin Coffee Bin from 1912.
“They had a great name, too,” Bob Johnson said.
A further journey into the three interconnected warehouses of the Pleasant Hill Antique Mall reveals sturdy wooden furniture, a small upright piano, endless rows of dishes and shelves upon shelves of old books, some wrapped in plastic dust jackets for preservation. There are recurve bows and hunting rifles, sun-faded paintings, dead-eyed haunted-looking dolls and a giant wooden canoe, propped atop two dividers with a sticker marked “sold” in the center.
The edges of the mall feature glass-fronted cabinets for the smaller antiques, containing hundreds of pocketknives, elegant perfume bottles and a machete in a leather sheath.
“I don’t bring a lot of money [to work],” said Michelle Howell, who has worked at the mall for four years. “Otherwise I’d be flat broke.”
The antiques are not the property of the owners. Instead, over two hundred vendors rent booths for their items, checking in as their schedules dictate. Howell said customers are mostly older people, but plenty of teenagers and families with children come by as well.
“The Bradley theater department comes by sometimes, if they need something,” Bob said.
The Johnsons have owned the antique mall for 32 years. Bob’s passion for restoring old furniture led them to take an interest in antiques, and Betty originally ran the now-closed restaurant in the center of the warehouses.
The staff at Pleasant Hill is just them and four employees, down from 20 since they closed the restaurant. They said their grandchildren grew up working at the mall and are quick to praise all their employees who have since moved on, listing teachers, nurses and city councilmen among their success stories.
The largest warehouse was once a school, and the Johnsons built the two smaller additions with the help of two of their sons, who are carpenters. Visitors can move through all three buildings, stopping to pet Lucky, the Johnson’s friendly black pit bull mix.
“We adopted Lucky five years ago,” Betty said. “Everybody comes in and knows Lucky.”
Pleasant Hill Antique Mall is located on Pleasant Hill Road in East Peoria. Anyone with questions can reach out to them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ PleasantHillAntiqueMall/.