Elephant’s Breath Antiques a rare find

Published 5:05 pm Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Elephant’s Breath employee Tamara Zebell shows one of the many pieces of antique furniture for sale at the downtown St. Joseph antique store. Off the Water photo/CRAIG HAUPERT

ST. JOSEPH — After nine years, people still ask Greg Christophersen about the name of his St. Joseph antique store, Elephant’s Breath.

What does it mean? Where does it come from?

As it turns out, the name has nothing to do with an elephant or the large animal’s breath.

Elephant’s Breath is a color of glaze coined by the Fulper Art Pottery company.

Christophersen’s wife of 29 years, Sharon, liked the name so much she named the business after it.

“When we first opened up, I told people they’d get 50 percent off if they could guess where the name came from, but no one guessed it,” Greg said laughing. “At the time, we thought it was kind of cool, but people still don’t understand it.”

Quirky name or not, Elephant’s Breath has been southwestern Michigan’s No. 1 destination for quality antique furniture.

The store specializes in furniture of the Arts & Crafts period, sometimes referred to as Mission furniture.

Prices range from $1 to thousands of dollars for some of the more rare pieces.

“We have nine dealers, and each one tries to bring in something different so we have more to offer,” Greg said.

The Christophersens have been collecting furniture and antiques for more than 30 years. They began selling so they could afford to collect more and better pieces. Pretty soon their house was full of antiques.

Elephant’s Breath is an extension of their passion for collecting and selling.

“We just enjoy it, and it is a very good investment,” Greg said. “It isn’t as good as gold, but it is never worth zero.”

Greg said he is getting more young people in the store looking for antique furniture. Popular items include industrial pieces, arts and crafts period pieces and mid-century pieces. Vintage pieces from the 1840s to 1850s are also in high demand.

“People love the quality and the look,” Greg said. “It is so difficult to duplicate some of the colors and the patina that comes with natural use.”

Elephant’s Breath is open from 11 to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It is open from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. The store is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday for winter hours.