Rochester delivers antiques on a global scale

Rochester, Minn., may be a small city of 100,000 residents, but it welcomes more than 2.5 million visitors each year, largely because of the world-renowned Mayo Clinic. While travelers from far and wide frequent the city’s many independent restaurants and hotels, it’s the strong antique community that reaps the most surprising benefit. The Minnesota Department of Revenue estimates that up to $80 million are spent in Rochester on antique sales each year. Combine this with Gold Rush, one of the nation’s largest antique shows held three times per year, and Rochester is a paradise for anyone seeking treasures from eras gone by.

Rochester, a Midwestern city known best for its innovative businesses such as the Mayo Clinic and IBM, has regularly been featured in national magazines as one of the best places to live. But, while residents, along with the more than 500,000 patients from more than 140 countries who travel to Rochester each year, enjoy the city’s many amenities, it is the internationally acclaimed and passionate antique community that is a less publicized gem.

Mayo Clinic has global reach

Rochester’s antiques dealers cater to many overseas customers generated by the Mayo Clinic. In addition, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s statistics, global travel to the United States has been setting record highs for the past ten years. This international travel trend paired with the Mayo Clinic’s draw of global patients, allows Rochester’s antique community to serve visitors from across the world with a variety of specialty items.

Many of Rochester’s antiques appeal to an international audience because of their uniqueness and rarity. For example, customers from countries like Italy and Japan enjoy John Kruesel’s General Merchandise and Auction Company because of its wide selection of antique lighting and lampshades. Kruesel and other city shop owners know that many of the antiquers who come into their stores are from abroad and they accommodate this global audience.

 “Since many of our customers are from out of town, as Mayo patients or relatives, we keep a variety of portable antiques that are easy to take back to other countries,” said Graylen Becker, an employee at Kruesel’s shop, which also ships items back to foreign visitors’ homes.

The influx of international travel goes hand in hand with an increasingly global market for goods. The rise of information technology and increased communications across the world have resulted in a global market economy, the benefits of which are evident in Rochester’s antiques community. No longer does one need to travel to England to find a mirror made of mercury from the 1700s. Instead, such exclusive items are available in shops such as Rochester’s Mayowood Galleries, known for fine-quality, authentic English antiques or Blondell Antiques, characterized by its vast selection of Swedish and Norwegian furniture.

Minnesota is known for its Scandinavian population, and at Blondell Antiques, Norwegians and Swedes can commune with their heritage without traveling abroad by browsing through treasures dating back to the 1600s.

 “We have museum-quality folk art and antiques, from wedding crowns and aged, silver violins to clocks and 300-year old furniture,” said Tom Blondell, owner of Blondell Antiques.

Local scene marked by Gold Rush event

While exclusive and rare collectibles characterize antiquing for some international shoppers, many other collectors enjoy hunting for hidden treasures at a low cost. Rochester’s Gold Rush Days, a three-day antique show that takes place the secone weekend in May, the third weekend in August, and the third weekend in September each year at Rochester’s Olmstead County Fairgrounds, is the perfect place to do both. The warm-weather tradition of more than  400 vendors gives travelers, locals and deal-seekers an assortment of antiques to choose from.

“Vendors have a wide variety of primitive collectables, jewelry, pottery and more,” said Carol Olson, event coordinator. “Both the dedicated antique shopper and casual browser will find something to their liking.”

 Gold Rush has come a long way since its beginning in 1972. Now offering more than 1,200 antique and collectible booths, the show has an entire section devoted to bargain items, similar to a flea market. Deal-seekers will surely find inexpensive collectibles, but that’s not the only way they can discover discount antiques in Rochester. The city’s antique malls offer another venue for low-cost hunters to search for reasonably priced, historic treasures.

 “At the Antique Mall on Third Street, there is something for any budget and suitcase size, from metal cookie-cutters, for as little as one dollar, to 18th and 19th century porcelain and enamelware,” said Dave Finseth, Antique Mall employee.

Rochester antique dealers characterized by passion

While many deal-seekers pursue the convenience of online shopping and Web sites such as eBay or, Rochester’s antique dealers know how to keep customers coming into the store.

U.S. online retail sales have nearly doubled in the past four years, according to, but Rochester shops continue to see foot-traffic, due in large part to the  passion and tried-and-true customer service perfected by Rochester’s antique dealers.

“We will gladly walk around the store with our customers and help them find what they’re looking for, because an antique that may be useless in the eyes of one person, often serves an important function for another,” said Kruesel.

In-store customers throughout the city will not only find superb service, but they experience a historical ‘journey through time’ while browsing Rochester’s shops, often guided by the passion and enthusiasm of employees.

“The antiques we sell serve as a gateway into the past and each carries strong historical significance,” said Blondell.

  Like Blondell, Rochester’s dealers and employees have a true desire to work with antiques and are incredibly knowledgeable about them, as most of Rochester’s shops have been in business for more than 30 years. It’s the owners’ expertise and genuine passion for antiques and their historical value, which make Rochester’s shops so successful.

Rochester is a mid-sized city in southeastern Minnesota known for its world-renowned medical research facility, the Mayo Clinic, and the innovative IBM Corporation. It offers a clean, safe, family friendly and inexpensive environment for people to live, work and play. For more information regarding Rochester, please contact Robin Mindt at 414-224-9424 or or visit