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updated: 6/14/2013 9:47 PM

99-year-old antique dealer still going strong

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Winger Marketing

Gladys Aguirre will celebrate her 99th birthday on June 24 doing just what she's been doing for the past fifty years --- operating a successful antique business. This Chicagoan who is somewhat of a legend in the world of antiques has been an avid collector for some seventy years turning her passion into a career that continues to flourish.

Gladys can be found at Heritage Trail Mall in Wilmette, where she has a booth chocked full of antiques and unique collectibles. She has been with Heritage Trail, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this summer, since it opened its doors in 1993. "Gladys is the person we often turn to when we are unable to identify certain items," said Joan Carlson, proprietor of the award-winning mall housed in a historic dry goods store with adjoining stable. Her determination and commitment set an example for our novice dealers and she works her required hours each month without fail.

When she got married in 1940, Gladys's mother gave her several things from her own collections. Gladys almost immediately was "hooked" on treasures from the past. As her penchant for gathering things grew, it was her husband who suggested that she get rid of some of "her junk" and turn her collecting addiction into a business. Her first business venture was to rent a space at the Grayslake Flea Market. The rest is history.

An impressive collection of shaving mugs and moustache cups with saucers are among her favorite things. As a native Chicagoan, Gladys is especially attracted to Chicago memorabilia. She's often amused at the things she had in her home that are now valuable antiques. Needless to say, the rising cost of everything from booth rentals to merchandise and everything in between cease to amaze her. Also, due to generational attitudes, what were valuable antiques at one time may not have any market value now.

She remembers her first job at the Boston Store as a Saturday "Regular" which paid $2.50 for the entire day. Gladys also worked as a ticket-taker in the Chinese Village at the 1933 World's Fair. She remembers one of the exhibits having a spectacular Jade Pagoda. Other memories of that wonderful time overflow as she recalls the excitement surrounding the Fair. Gladys, however, embraces change which is probably why she's so much a part of today's world. Happy Birthday to a great lady!