WEST LOOP — As she looks around at her massive collection of vintage furniture and fixtures, antique shop owner Jan Seymour says it's the people — not the stuff — who have kept her going for more than 40 years in business.
"All of the people you've met over the years. And the stories and the politicians. They stop in, they talk politics, problems. Every customer that comes in, they just like to get it off their chest," Seymour said, laughing.
After 22 years at 225 N. Racine Ave., Jan's Antiques will head to a smaller space in Evanston. Seymour said she received a letter from New Management LLC in April explaining that her lease would not be renewed and requesting she be out of the building by the end of the month.
"It was a shock. I almost drove my car into Lake Michigan," Seymour said of receiving the letter. She since was allowed to stay through this year and she plans to be out by the spring.
With Google moving in just blocks away from her old space, Seymour said she worries the neighborhood will turn into a tech hub, pushing out the area's established market vendors.
A New Management representative said he couldn't discuss plans for the building.
Take a wrong turn at Jan's Antiques and you can easily become lost in a 15,000-square-foot labyrinth of doors, paintings and antique toilet bowls. Old wedding photos crowd huge jars of marbles. Bikes and chandeliers engulf the ceiling. Whole shelves are eclipsed by piles of old doorknobs and ancient plates.
Before Jan's Antiques, Seymour started as Jan's Bathrooms and Kitchens, a shop she opened at a former drugstore on skid row in 1971. Originally, she sold custom fixtures and furniture, but after an encounter with a guy selling distressed furniture, she began selling antiques. Over her 40 years in business, Seymour has also sold and rented out props to theaters, and her furniture has made appearances in films like "My Best Friend's Wedding," "The Untouchables" and "High Fidelity."
With the move to her new spot at 2002 Dempster St. in Evanston, Seymour will lose almost 4,000 feet of space. She also has to run back and forth between the two stores, which means lately Jan's doesn't always open on time.
Thursday afternoon, three chilly antiques hunters stood in a frigid stairwell waiting for Jan's to open. At a half-hour past the 2:30 p.m. opening time, Seymour's assistant, John David Murray, announced was taking everyone next door to warm up and have a coffee.
When she finally arrived, Seymour was swamped with conversation and haggling. Brothers Joey and Tony Langone have known Jan Seymour since her days on Skid Row. The two are picking up a set of giant medieval-looking dining rooms chairs.
In another part of the Jan's maze, a woman and her 6-year-old son hunt for an antique bathroom faucet. Courtney Doyle, 41, has been coming to Jan's since she was a girl, when her family lived in Little Italy. Seymour told her the bathroom goods have already been packed away.
"The inventory is here. If you're looking for something, you'll definitely find it here," Doyle said, looking around Jan's. "It's sad. Being an old neighborhood person, you don't want to see the neighborhood totally change."
Seymour said she hopes to be completely moved into the Evanston store by spring and will be offering storewide discounts through that time.
As she walked the aisles, the antiques lady straightened a cabinet door and shoved a kitschy painting across the way into another stack of art.
"I'm gonna miss the neighborhood, oh my God. You know, you're like a pioneer. I was a pioneer to do any kind of retailing, any kind of shop like this in this area," she said.