By Joan Cronk
Sometimes when a couple is fixed up on a blind date by relatives, it just doesn’t work out. In the case of Sharon and Terry Van Eaton, not only has it worked out but their marriage has lasted 52 years.
The Van Eatons are longtime Eatonville residents. They own and operate Founding Family Antiques in Eatonville, and they have a long history with the community.
Terry’s grandfather, T. C. Van Eaton, founded Eatonville, and his dad ran a Chevrolet dealership in the town beginning in 1947. Terry worked there most of his adult life, retiring in 2000.
Before moving back to Eatonville, the couple lived in Pennsylvania for a time, and it was there they became interested in antiques.
“The antique business is a whole culture,” said Terry, adding that Pennsylvania is the center of the antique world. “It is the state that has the lowest move-out rate, so there is a huge reservoir of generations living there.”
Founding Family Antiques is just steps away from the Van Eaton’s back door, and the business is a full-time job. It’s open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed Sunday and Monday. However, they do encourage customers to call to be sure they are open.
The 5,000 square feet of shop is jam-packed from floor to ceiling with hand-picked antiques, and both the Van Eatons know the history of every single item.
Each piece of merchandise has been inventoried and researched, and the price tag carries the description of the item written in Sharon’s precise handwriting.
The history of antiques is of special interest to Sharon. She also enjoys dealing with their customers. The couple said their business keeps them in a continuous state of education.
“We make a distinct effort to know what we sell. We can tell you the history, and that makes it more interesting for the customer,” said Terry.
“It is a people business. You meet people who are in various stages of their lives and they have to make decisions,” Sharon said.
The Van Eatons are pros at guiding folks through this sometimes difficult process of selling their antiques after a death or a change in circumstances.
“We work hard at keeping a trust relationship with the customers,” said Terry. “When we buy, we buy item by item and give them a copy of everything with the price on it, and then we let them talk it over. We are very conscientious and have a good reputation.”
The Van Eatons direct their customers to reliable dealers when an antique sale is in order. Because they have been in business for such a long time, the couple have good relationships with trusted businesses.
The Van Eatons raised four children in their large home, which was built in 1913 and moved to its present location in 1970. The warm, rich paneling throughout the living area came out of an old home in Tacoma.
On Dec. 3, Founding Family Antiques will celebrate 50 years in the antique business. When asked what they would do to commemorate that special day, Terry replied, “We might bake a cake and have an open house.”
Their business takes a lot of time.
“If you do it right, it is a ton of work to run the store. Many nights I work until 1 a.m.,” said Sharon.
As they showed off their large inventory in the store, it was obvious that the couple loves their business.
“We certainly aren’t bored,” said Terry cheerfully.