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'The end of Jerome's era'

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PERHAM -- After 21 years of business, Jerome's Antiques and Compatibles is closing its doors.

Owned and operated for many years by Jerome Beodigheimer and his wife, Lina Belar, the Perham store will close on Tuesday, Nov. 1.

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"It's so sad," said Cindy Brown, an antique dealer and long-time friend of the owners. "It's the end of Jerome's era."

Jerome and Lina started the business in October of 1990. It began as a small consignment shop operated out of the back room of the former Grass Roots Gifts building on Main Street.

Its first year of sales brought in about $21,000, and the business quickly expanded.

"It just kept growing and growing and growing," said Lina.

By the late '90s it had grown out of its location downtown. Business was doing well, so the couple bought a new, larger building for the store, moving everything to its new (and current) location on Third Avenue SE.

By its peak years in the early 2000s, the shop was generating more than $120,000 per year. Lina attributes this success to a strong economy, consumer demand and her husband's way with people.

"He would remember everybody's name... personal things about people he'd only see once a year," Brown said. "He would ask about your kids and your family."

"Antiques were Jerome's passion," Lina said.

A native of Perham, Jerome was well known and loved by the community. He was a city council member for 17 years, as well as a member of the Perham Lions and Chamber of Commerce.

As chairperson of the Perham Park Board, he was instrumental in the planting of nearly 1,000 trees along city boulevards. Some people around town even referred to him as 'Mr. Green.'

He was also active in local choirs and plays, and helped to start a Recycling Committee. He was chair of the Parish Council for St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Rush Lake.

In addition, he hosted his own antique appraisal program on local TV, called "What it's Worth."

"He taught me everything I know about antiques," Brown said. "He always said the most important thing about being an antiques dealer is to remain honest."

After Jerome unexpectedly passed away in 2007, Lina tried to keep the shop going. With the help of family, Brown, and another friend and antiques dealer, Steve Polum, the store stayed open for another few years.

But as time went by and business declined, Lina had a harder and harder time making ends meet. The economy took a dive, eBay came on the antiques scene, and the next generation of shoppers preferred a newer, 'retro' brand of antiques.

She's also been struggling to find the time; as full-time project manager at the In Their Own Words Veteran's Museum, Lina's got a lot on her plate.

Between the museum and the store, she said, "I don't sleep."

A researcher and lover of history, Lina enjoys the antique business, but her true passion is her work for ITOW.

"When Jerome died, I had to make priorities," she said. "And they went: family, museum, antique shop -- in that order."

Not that she's making light of letting it go. She's had many customers ask her not to close the shop, and she takes their well-intentioned pleas to heart. But she feels she's doing what's best, and what's necessary.

"It's one of those unfortunate things," she said. "Although I'm sad about it, I'm not angry about it."

Brown shares those sentiments.

"Business has changed so much over the years," she said. "I'm very thankful to have been a part of it, and very sad to see the end of it... It's like grieving for Jerome all over again."

Marie Nitke is a reporter for the East Otter Tail Focus, a publication of Forum Communications Co.

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