by Rob Benneian
You join a family when you walk into George and Alice’s.
A spread fitting of an informal gathering of relatives is casually arranged towards the rear of the room. You must navigate a sea of happy people to reach it. Meats and cheeses, fruits and vegetables, desserts, punch and even a popcorn maker.
An Evel Knievel pinball machine and a piano sit opposite each other, left to right across the room. Baseball cards, hockey figurines, model cars and more than 60 ceramic plates line the tables that take up the centre of the room and the shelves along the walls.
Larry Trealout stands in the back room. A lifetime’s worth of collectibles, well-organized with labels and codes only he truly understands, surround him. The only clue that you are in a place of business and not your grandparent’s home is the small sign above the door which reads “Staff Only.”
That’s just the way Trealout, the shop’s owner, wants it. He warmly greets every customer who comes through the door of his antique shop on Wyandotte Street East.
George and Alice’s Place, which opened Oct. 19, is the fulfillment of a dream 20 years in the making. Trealout, 63, has been an industrial education teacher at St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic High School in LaSalle. for 14 years. When Trealout talks about his passion, emotion lacing his words, it is almost impossible not to be swept away with him.
“It came to a head last Christmas when the kids thought I was becoming a hoarder,” Trealout said. “We’ve been looking at this building for two-and-a-half years. We finally got the building we want, a great area, fantastic people all around. A lot of tender loving care went into getting it ready. It’s been a dream of ours. Here we are, we’ve got our store.”
Prior to his teaching career at Villanova, Trealout had a contracting business. While building an addition on a home 20 years ago, he fell in love with the home’s owner, a woman named Judy. They were married three years later. Trealout credits his wife, who acts at the store’s bookkeeper, with helping make the dream of owning an antique store a reality.
“She spent about three weeks, seven days (per week), 24 hours a day building this business plan,” Trealout said.
The shop’s name is a reference to the two owners’ nicknames. Due to the long hair he sported during his construction days, Trealout’s co-workers dubbed him “Alice.” For reasons he could not explain, he calls his wife “George.”
“I don’t know why, I’ve just always called her George,” Trealout said. “We sign birthday cards that way too, George and Alice.”
Trealout said he visits antique stores and buys items over the Internet on sites like eBay and Kijiji. He dreamed of owning a shop that would be different from the traditional ones he frequented. He said he envisions customers watching movies and eating popcorn after-hours at his shop, further adding to the familial mood he wants to see at George and Alice’s Place. He also plans to begin to build children’s toys to sell.
“We’re totally having fun with this,” Trealout said. “You meet a lot of great people.”