Connie Yore to head Michigan Questers organization

While growing up, Connie Yore had an interest in archaeology.

She didn't become Indiana Jones, circling the globe protecting antiquities, deciding instead to major in art at Michigan State University.

Connie YoreHowever, she has bought and sold antiques for 50 years, including 38 years in downtown St. Joseph as the owner of Days of Yore on State Street.

And as the founding member of the local chapter of Questers International, an organization of antique and history enthusiasts, she has helped restore and preserve Southwest Michigan's heritage.

In recognition of her efforts, Yore has been appointed to a two-year term as president of Michigan Questers, representing 69 chapters and more than 1,000 members. This is the first time that a president has been selected from the west side of Michigan.

Yore is a member of the Questers' Burnett Traders Chapter No. 567, started in 1972 (the chapter is named for William Burnett, who landed his canoe on the west bank of the St. Joseph River about 1780, establishing the first permanent European settlement in the area).

Yore spoke with Herald-Palladium Staff Writer John Matuszak about her work with Questers and her interest in antiques.

Tell us about Questers and how you became involved?

Questers is an international antiques study group. It was started in 1944 by Elizabeth Bess Bardens in Philadelphia. I became involved with antiques through my mother-in-law, and I was in a Questers chapter when I lived in Illinois. When we moved to St. Joseph (44 years ago), I decided to start a chapter here. ... We have about 20 active members, and we've gone as high as 25. It's a very strong chapter. We have good workers, who are very devoted to helping the community and raising money (for restoration projects). It's a doing group, and they really contribute a lot.

What types of projects has the local chapter been involved in?

We contributed to the restoration of the Fresnel lens (at the St. Joseph lighthouse). We donated money to the Heritage Museum for the restoration of the mausoleum doors from the Benton Harbor cemetery. We've given money for the Ben King statue on the bluff and the cotton candy machine at the Silver Beach Carousel museum.

What does the state Questers organization do?

It supports the formation of new chapters. There is no chapter in Kalamazoo. We had a chapter in Coloma, but that is no more. ... The state (organization) gives matching grants and funds. We received that for the Morton House. There is a state convention and an international convention. Last year (the international convention) was in Grand Rapids, it had never been that close to us before. The executive board approves the raising and spending of money.

What is the most rewarding part of belonging to Questers for you?

It's helping the community in the restoration and preservation of our heritage. It will be lost if we don't continue that. The next generation has to realize that.

How have you seen the antiques scene change in Southwest Michigan?

It's growing. Unfortunately, the younger generation is not interested in being collectors like my generation was. They buy antiques and collectibles to use them. They're not interested in china and glass and silver. They don't want to clean it, they don't want to fix it. They're looking for mid-century items from the '50s, '60s, '70s and up to the '80s, because that's when they were children.

What is the difference between an antique and a collectible?

Antiques are (at least) 100 years old. It's because the government put that on things being brought into the United States. Collectibles are 50 years old.

What advice do you give collectors?

I tell them to collect what you enjoy. Don't buy or collect something because you think it is going to grow in value. That is very hard to determine.

One of the unique items in your shop is the black velvet portrait of E.T. Where did that come from?

That came from the Silver Dollar, and it belongs to my son, who lives in California. People were always asking about it, and he said just put a price on it, and I put $1.6 million. Some people ask me if that is the actual price. One family I kidded and told them "It was actually over the bed of Steven Spielberg." And they said "It was?"

What do you enjoy most about operating Days of Yore?

I'm very happy when someone comes to the counter with an item and touches it and says "I've been looking for this for 10 years, and you have it! I'm so happy!" It makes me very happy.

Do you have antiques and collectibles at home?

I have a Victorian living room, and an Arts and Crafts family room, and a 1950s basement with local memorabilia and advertising signs and die-cast cars (along with a soda shop counter).

What would you say to someone thinking about joining Questers?

I'd say come to a meeting and see what we're about. See that we're a working club and don't just sit around and drink tea and eat crumpets. ... Our motto is "It's fun to seek and a joy to find." I think that says it all.