By Shana Siren Kempton
Sally Smith strolled into Whistle Stop Antiques during a lunch break and inquired about a possible booth rental. As is often the case when visiting an antique shop, she did not leave empty-handed but left with much more than she ever anticipated. Instead of a 10 x 10 rental space, she had agreed to purchase the entire store — all 7,000 square feet of it. On July 1, 2010, she took ownership.
“I literally came to Belton for lunch and ended up with a shop!” Smith exclaims. Twelve years later, Smith still does not regret that spur of the moment decision that changed her life.
Located in a bustling area of Belton on the historic Main Street currently decked out in holiday style, Whistle Stop Antiques is one of five antique businesses in the downtown area. The large brick building was constructed between 1888 and 1893 after a fire destroyed the original block of wood buildings. Part of the shop was once an old livery stable, and the other, a grocery store.
Named Whistle Stop because of its proximity to the train tracks and stop on the railroad’s historic Blair Line, a train rests behind the store. Just as the Belton, Grandview, and Kansas City Railroad connect yesteryear with today by offering periodic excursions through Belton, the items on display throughout the store connect the past with today.
Whistle Stop specializes in general line antiques arranged in vignettes so that customers feel as if they are walking through parts of a home during a party. Smith enjoys showcasing dining tables and place settings with specialty pieces such as collectible sardine forks which came into vogue in the Victorian era. From glassware, Vietri ceramics, and a dazzling display of vintage Christopher Radko glass ornaments, to vinyl, figurines, and a working pump organ from the late 1800s, Whistle Stop won’t leave visitors empty handed. Other offerings include a line of Fusion Mineral Paints for giving new life to furniture.
Smith likes to fill the space with beautiful things, people, and music, and feels passionate about giving back to the community. She serves on numerous boards and scholarship committees. “If you have a business, especially in a small town, you need to give back however you can,” says Smith.
Whistle Stop has hosted board meetings and house concerts for traveling musicians. After a pause of some events, Smith plans to resume concerts in 2023. Her involvement with KC Café Radio has introduced her to Grammy nominees, singers from Ireland, and musicians from across America who have made the stop at Whistle Stop to play in an intimate setting amongst the antiques.
After battling stage 3 lung cancer, Smith approached life differently and uses the motto, “What have I got to lose?” This mentality led her to owning a dream antique shop, taking a weeklong trip on a wooden schooner off the coast of Maine, opening her home to traveling musicians, and most recently, purchasing the building on Main Street so that she can be her own landlord. In January, she will celebrate 20 years as a cancer survivor.
(Smith went looking at antiques and bought the business! I went looking for an interview at her shop and discovered that exquisite pump organ. Following Smith’s advice: “If somebody presents you with a situation and you feel like you might want to do it, you probably should,” I will find a space to give that lovely organ a new life as I pull out the stops and listen to the wind whistle and hum through the pipes. What does Whistle Stop have in store for you? )
Whistle Stop Antiques is located at 315 Main Street in Belton, MO. Hours are Monday-Saturday, 10-5, and Thursdays, 11-6. For more information, visit their Facebook page or https://whistlestopantiquesbelton.com/