Take a walk down Alley Katz

Published 5:40 pm Thursday, December 1, 2011

Off the Water photo/KATIE ROHMAN A life-size Elvis Presley greets customers at the entrance of Alley Katz in downtown Niles.

Brian Mrotek and Steve Bailey knew they were taking a risk when they decided to open a new business in a down economy.

“It’s the worst time in your life to do it,” Mrotek said. “I just had to a make that move or I would

Brian Mrotek, left, and Steve Bailey, co-owners of Alley Katz, opened their store at 211 N. Second St., Niles, more than two months ago.

never do it.”

Mrotek has more than 14 years of experience selling collectibles. He is in the process of selling his store, the Junk Box, in Manitowoc, Wis., and moving to Niles. He currently has the only variety store Manitowoc, which was once known for boasting the most bars per capita in the U.S.

Bailey, who is new to owning a business, has lived in Niles for six years.

Bailey and Mrotek opened Alley Kats, an antiques and collectibles store, more than two months ago on North Second Street in Niles, next to Red Purl. They chose the location — a former optical business and before that, a music store where Tommy James and the Shondells took lessons — because of its proximity to the Four Flags Antique Mall.

“Little Niles is just a nice little Mayberry to me,” Mrotek said. “People are wonderful here. It’s almost like I have a family.”

Alley Kats is more of a variety store than an antiques shop. It carries everything from NASCAR merchandise to antique lamps to jewelry. A life-size Elvis Presley — which temporarily made its home in the Four Flags Antique Mall for the Apple Festival’s window decorating contest — dons a Santa Hat and plays a guitar. Rows of glittering brooches, pendants and earrings line glass cases. One display is devoted to Hummel figurines.

“We carry a variety of old and new stuff,” said Bailey, who also creates decorative Christmas bows for sale.

“I love nostalgia,” Mrotek said. “We do buy estates. I do a lot of trade shows.

“There’s so many antique stores around; I’m more of a variety store. We’re a middle-class collectors’ shop.”

Alley Katz is located at 211 N. Second St., Niles. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday.