Bob & Lois Shinko, Owners of The Country Store

FEATURE ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, September 3, 2000, By NORMA HIGGINS, Morning Journal Correspondent

"Avon couple make the past special

AVON - Bob and Lois Shinko like to collect antiques and they had a yearning to run their own antique store.

In 1973, 10 years after they were married, they decided to take a different kind of plunge and opened their antique store in Avon called The Country Store. They took the collectibles and antiques they had gathered through the years and moved them to an 1896 building at the town's busy intersection of Colorado and Detroit roads.

Even the building is a treasure to them, because it is where Mrs. Shinko's great-great aunt, Emma Weiler, had had a millinery store. Her store was described in an old Lorain County atlas as, ''She was a dealer in dry goods, Yankee notions, hardware, crockery, farm implements, groceries, and country produce taken in exchange for goods,'' said Mrs. Shinko.

When the flea market at Avon United Methodist Church was floundering in the early 1970s, Mrs. Shinko thought of ways to bring out-of-towners to Avon for community events.

''In the old days, we had the steam engine show up at Tom's Country Place,'' recalled Mrs. Shinko. ''And the outhouse races,'' she laughed recalling memories of people sitting in ramshackle outhouses being pushed by friends and careening wildly down Stoney Ridge Road to Detroit Road cheered on by onlookers.

''The reason we stopped the races (aside from a traffic jam at the finish line) was because at the last one someone almost ran into the Avon police cruiser at the corner,'' she laughed.

Another Avon highlight the Shinko's are involved with is the Candlelight Walk at Christmas. They remember the first one in 1978 when the town turned out to light the community Christmas tree, see Santa Claus and enjoy hot chocolate at the Old Town Hall. Refreshments were offered at the eight antique shops doing business then.

Though the Shinko's were still living in Westlake at the time, their children, David and Ann Marie, who were then 7 and 9 respectively, were among the first elves dressed in green caps and snowsuits. Friends and cousins were drafted to fill in the background.

The event has grown in scope through the years, as have the number of antiques stores in the city. Now, along with refreshments offered at the antique businesses, transportation to parking is provided.

''I think the most romantic event we ever have are the Candlelight Walks every December,'' said Mrs. Shinko. ''When the candles are lit, the whole town sparkles!''

From downtown businesses in the old district working together to promote the city came the formation of the French Creek Development Association. The city has designated the area as the French Creek Historical District.

The first meetings of the Association were short, but full of seemingly endless ideas. People remember Mrs. Shinko with her collection of papers under her arm, sometimes held together with rubber bands, and knew when the papers were put on a table it was a sign that the meeting would begin.

Bob and Lois Shinko

Bob and Lois Shinko, owners of The Country Store, have been nurturing antiques in Avon for the past 40 years. MORNING JOURNAL/PAUL WALSH.  

Out of those informal meetings, came other ideas to promote Avon, she said. One of those is the annual citywide garage sale.

''This is the easiest one, we don't have to do a thing,'' she said.

''In the fall, we would have Scarecrow Decorating Contest among the school children, and the winning entries would be on display in the local businesses,'' she described as one of the preparations for the Fall Festival.

The silver-hair, fit-looking Shinko and his sandy-hair wife with her blue-gray eyes are both 62 and laugh easily together remembering all their experiences.

Hosting family affairs at their 1830 Victorian home on the east end of Avon, known as Fern Hill, is a special pleasure for them. They also love to dance, travel, and go to plays.

''The Country Store idea we thought would make life easier, because we wouldn't do shows (antique) anymore,'' laughed Mrs. Shinko, ''but that didn't happen.''...

NEWS ARTICLE from the Chronicle Telegram, June 26, 2004, by Nick Houser

"A place to find some Junk

AVON - Nearly 20 years ago, Lois Shinko was looking for a way to clear out her late uncle's house, which was loaded to the brim with antiques and other items. Her dilemma resulted in the Aunt Teak and Uncle Junk Festival, otherwise known as Avon's annual garage sale, which will invade garages, lawns and sidewalks today and Sunday.

Shinko, who owns Countryside Antiques on Detroit Road, became hooked on rummage sales because of that same pack rat uncle when she accompanied him to West Virginia looking for antiques and other goods more than 30 years ago. "I remember we would go down there with him for a day and go searching for anything," she said. "That's where we got our first wooden telephone."

Avon's big sale is still going strong after an auspicious start. The Aunt Teak and Uncle Junk Festival was started after there were problems with Avon's previous community gathering event, the outhouse races. After a runaway entry in the annual outhouse race down Stoney Ridge Road crashed into one of the town's police cruisers, Shinko said the community needed a new summer gathering.

This weekend, more than 40 vendors from as far away as Cincinnati and Mentor will set up shop along Detroit Road, but the real highlights are the garage sales throughout the city.

At least 80 residents are listed on the official garage sale map, available at any French Creek merchant, but Shinko said many more will have their garages open for business. "It's a real community event, and ours was the original in the county," she said. "We'll have people from around town in their 90s that come out with their walkers to sell antiques and other trinkets. They need some help now, but we have some real diehards."

Shinko herself has some interesting new finds up for sale outside of her store. She recently found a bench seat that was used in an old horse-drawn buggy. Keeping with the transportation theme, she also has a thick oak desk off of a boat that used to sail Lake Erie.