July 6, 2004 > Bite & Browse
Bite & Browse
It all began as a sandwich shop that made it easy for customers to snack their way along the aisles of antiques that founders, Will and Beverly Wredberg and Joan Doughty stocked beginning in 1982. The shop was an outgrowth of a flea market business that became tiresome with constant setting up displays and then tearing them down. The idea of a collective was appealing since the chores of shopkeeping could be divided and costs of doing business reduced. Niles was the perfect choice for these traders in collectibles and antiques. Here they were surrounded by like souls and the historic atmosphere of a small town with a big heart.
The idea for the shop came to the Wredbergs when a particularly large building in the historic area caught their attention. At the same time, they had been reading up on collectibles and resolved that a collective of dealers would be the way to go. Beverly decided she would like to serve refreshments in the shop, as well. Along with her husband, Will, and co-founder Joan Doughty, the three opened Bite & Browse on June 19, 1982.
By opening up a collective instead of their own personal antique shop, Beverly explains that she, her husband and Doughty could leave others in charge of the store and not "...be tied down," to its everyday management. A collective also offered a unique alternative to the typical antique or collectible shop. Bite & Browse boasts 3500 square feet - quite large compared to the typical antique shop.
The original location was devastated by fire in March 1990, forcing a move to the present location and the loss of the sandwich shop. The name seemed appropriate, but with no eatery, a new meaning for Bite & Browse was sought. It was decided that the tag line could now mean, "A Bite Out of History - A Browse Thru the Past." Although members of the collective meet monthly to discuss their business, each has his or her own love of history and its artifacts. The group blends their talents between each dealer's passion, so a "browser" can find almost anything here!
During its 22 year history the shop has grown from a handful of dealers to the impressive 32 it offers today. From Black Memorabilia to Betty Boop, whatever you may seek, chances are it can be found at Bite & Browse. If, for some reason, the item you are looking for is not available, you can let the staff know and they will keep an eye out for your elusive collectible.
"Not everyone collects the same things. With over 30 dealers [at Bite & Browse], there's a better chance of finding that item your Granny had when you were growing up," notes dealer Keith Elrod.
Will Wredberg used to advertise for his collective by asking, "Have you ever wished you had your own store?"
Apparently, many people do for Bite & Browse has grown into an extensive collective of collector's from around the area.
"Becoming a dealer is incredibly easy," says Elrod and emphasizes that anyone can become a dealer if they have something to sell.
A major part of Bite & Browse's success can be attributed to the devotion and hard work put forth by its dealers. Every member of the collective takes a turn working at the store, performing various duties. Those who hold a space in the shop are required to work three to four days a month. Individuals with a display case must work one day a month. If, for example, a dealer decides to have two cases at Bite & Browse, they would be expected to work two days a month inside the store.
Duties of the collective members reach beyond the walls of Bite & Browse. The members are expected to work together to improve and promote the unique shop as well as the Niles area. Elrod is not only a dealer at Bite & Browse but its historian and promoter, as well.
Each dealer at Bite & Browse is knowledgeable not only about their own merchandise but that of the other collectors' as well. The dealers work together to create a complete collection of varied items for even the most hard-to-please collector; some even going as far as China to find rare and unusual items.
Nestled in among the shops in Old Town Niles, Bite & Browse has proven to be a testament to the success of a well-planned business. Will passed away in 2002 and Joan has since retired but Beverly remains as the manager of the collective. Wredberg oversees the daily operations of the shop, making sure it stays true to its origins - a friendly place to search for your favorite collectible or antique.
When asked what she herself collects, Wredberg answered, "You name it, and I've got it." At the top of her list are teddy bears and glassware, which you can easily find at Bite & Browse.
Although no longer serving sandwiches as it did in 1982, a tasty "bite" can still be found in Bite & Browse. Complimentary cookies and desserts are set out along with coffee for customers to enjoy as they roam the aisles.
Bite & Browse dealers include Beverly Wredberg, Tom and Gloria Dobesh, Betty Knight, Gail Keene, Vickie Swank, Henry Hann, Maria Tompkins, Ken and Joyce Lee, Jackie Rudy, Keith Elrod, Susan Fayen, Yvonne Price, Don Pereira, Alice Schnabel, Faith and Rubin Prevost, Jean Lucchesi, Liz and Raymond Robinson, MaryAnn Carpenter, Sandra Salmon and Joan Carroll, Carolyn Scott, Sherril Spellman, Florence Dossey, Emily Briggs, Jean Cameron, Carol Odom, Diane Alves, Jerry Oliver, Lisa and Catherine, Don Wright.
Bite & Browse
37565 Niles Blvd., Fremont
(Take a virtual tour of dealer's booths on this website)
Open Daily 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. (Sunday: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.)
Collectibles, Glassware, Jewelry, Linens, Toys, Primitives, Furniture, Country Items, Picture Frames, Gift Items and much more!