The woman who has done everything, Elsie Babler, owns and operates Elsie’s Restaurant with her husband Lee in downtown Caledonia. She spouted off a list of other jobs – pig farmer, turkey farmer, mortgage broker, trucking dispatcher, cook, bartender, and the list goes on and on that she has held throughout her lifetime. Now she is expanding her resume to include running a consignment store.
Lee, an auctioneer, as is his father and brother, explained that he did not attend auctioneering school but instead learned how by listening to many tapes and practicing tongue twisters. Babler is the owner of Babler Auction Service, 120 W. Washington St., Caledonia.
“We’ve just done it all,” laughed Elsie.
Lee, with a grin on his face, continued, “You can say we live by the seat of our pants. We have a couple of things that have worked.”
The two, along with Caledonia entrepreneur Tomiko Hubka-Steele, purchased the former bar and livery on East Grove in downtown Caledonia. They renovated the building now home to a first-class hair salon, three one-bedroom Airbnb rentals, and a quaint consignment store.
Elsie has a family connection to the building. She is the great-great-granddaughter of Anton Hosch, owner of the buildings in the early 1900s. Her great-great-grandfather operated Hosch’s Tavern and the livery stable.
The Crooked Quarter refers to the quarter horses that were kept in the livery stable and the somewhat crooked building.
You would only know it is a consignment store if you asked Elsie. The duo created a boutique that is comfortable for shopping and catching up on the local news.
In the center of the room hangs a chandelier purchased from the Caledonia Art Gallery after finding a larger one for the art gallery. The color perfectly matches the colors in the original tin ceiling. Lee added that even areas where the paint is missing complement the store’s decor.
Elsie confirmed that the consigners are from the immediate area adding, “That way, we help everybody else make money too.”
Shoppers will find a variety of handmade items except for the clothes which are new, and a wide selection of antiques; sandals, jeans, jean jackets, dresses, tops, macrame wall hangings, wooden signs, glass mushrooms, entertainment posters, oak wall phone, sailing ship, crocks, kitchenware and more.
After purchasing a violin at one of Lee’s auctions for $10, Elsie brought it home to find evidence in the case that suggested it was a Stradivari. After having the violin appraised it was determined to be a replica worth $1,200 if repaired. The violin has been repaired and now takes center stage in The Crooked Quarter.
If Elsie is not working in the store, you may find one of her three daughters or Tomiko’s daughter ‘manning’ the store. Elsie’s three daughters like coming to the store because they get mom time without being interrupted. “It’s nice. I get quality time with my daughters. I love it,” said Elsie.
You will also find the job title, event planner, on Elsie’s resume. She resurrected the Caledonia Farmers Market this summer. The market is in the parking lot adjacent to the pocket park every Saturday morning from May to Halloween, weather permitting. The Market is open from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and features local vendors and live music. In addition, food is prepared and sold by area groups to raise money.
The Crooked Quarter is located at 113 E. Grove, one block from downtown. For questions about The Crooked Quarter and Caledonia Farmers Market call 507-725-1130.
Store hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday; Saturday from 9 a.m. -2 p.m., and closed Sunday and Monday.
Prediction: this is not the Bablers’ last venture.