Real Deal Theo

The dirt parking lot--littered with derelict refrigerators, stoves, and washers--promises little. 

Theo's Appliances & Books near Grant, MI.
As I enter Theo's Used Appliances and Books, Theo himself rises from his easy chair, leaving remnants of a frozen dinner in front of his TV. I can't quite figure out if he lives here, but the makeshift kitchen and homey quarters carved from the shop's corner suggest the possibility. A thin layer of dust covers everything, and he appears surprised at my entry.

 I find a mix of newish appliances and nice vintage units, exceeding the low expectations set by the squat building flanked by overgrown arborvitae. "I don't spit-shine them," he declares, "or I'd need to charge another $100."

I wish I needed an appliance, because I want to buy from Theo. But he'll sell anything that isn't nailed down, he says, so I seek an item that might enrich both of us.
vintage swing a way can opener
Vintage Swing-A-Way can openers,
made in USA, available at
Laura's Last Ditch.
A book is out of the question--they occupy a single shelving unit in his improvised living room that I'd have to climb over him to reach. I spy an old made-in-USA Swing-A-Way can opener that would do for Laura's Last Ditch, but hardly dare inquire; with empty Chunky Soup cans filling a bin, I suspect he'd regret selling it.

As I near the exit, making a mental note to return when our iffy stove expires, I spot two retro box kite lamps. I assume they're knock-off vintage, but on closer inspection, the labels give them away as the real deal. Theo and I negotiate a price and he pulls change from his pocket--no cash register needed for this little hole-in-the-wall used appliance and book store.

I can't help but feel a kinship to Theo. We're a team, he and I, urging "Save and conserve!" while society bids "Waste and consume!" It can be lonely. Sometimes dust collects on my merchandise, too. But
Tsao Designs box kite lamps available
at Laura's Last Ditch.
Theo's Appliances and Books and Laura's Last Ditch Vintage Kitchenwares survive thanks to low overhead; the unpretentious demands of their owners; and customers who stumble into modest shops looking to save money, protect natural resources, or find the quality lacking in today's merchandise.

At home, I research the Tsao Designs box kite lamps but turn up nothing. Distinctive as they are, and by a designer that commands good prices, I aim for $190--enough to buy a range from Theo when the need arises. It'll be another deal, from the real deal.

Which business do you like to patronize that most people would overlook? Please leave a comment below!


  1. Theo's is on M-37 between Sparta and Grant, Michigan.

  2. I love Theo's have purchased several used appliances from him in the past. Love the quaintness of the building and items inside. :)


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