Déjà Vu on Downer
Jody Mikkelsen started collected antiques in Europe and finally opened her own shop. It’s full of lovely things.
With her tresses of dark, wavy hair twirling in the sodden summer wind, Jody Mikkelsen, owner and purveyor of Déjà Vu on Downer, quickly whisked me out of the rain amidst an unexpected afternoon shower. Her little shop, Déjà Vu, located at 2567 N. Downer Ave., felt warm and inviting. Soft golden light cast by a large ornate chandelier and several pint-sized lamps illuminated the space. Multiple portraits of giggling, 18th century noble women dot the walls overlooking the wide array of furniture and collectibles. Among them: sofas, dining tables, chairs, armoires, rugs, mirrors, foot stools, and vases. A glass display cabinet in the back houses sparkly purses, jewelry, and accessories. The store is an art and design lover’s paradise.
I asked where we should sit, gesturing towards the many sofas and chairs peppering the entry way. Looking around we eventually decided on a poufy, paisley, mauve and pistachio colored loveseat, the sort of thing Marie Antoinette might have nibbled tea cakes on, and we started chatting. Jody, clad in a black blouse, with sleeves stitched with intricate glittery beadwork, talked animatedly about her little fledgling shop which opened January 7 of this year:
“A lot of people want to know if it’s consignment, and it’s not consignment. We have new things, we have old things, we have mostly antiques, and we even have ladies things. It’s just a mixture of fun unique items that you don’t see everywhere. I think when people come in they feel like there is so much. But it’s kind of like, not too cluttered but cluttered enough where it’s a treasure hunt.”
Indeed, the store doesn’t have the usual rat’s nest of dusty furniture and broken curios you find at most antique shops. Patrons need not duck and climb through endless piles of rubbish to get to what they want. Everything in the store is hand selected by Mikkelsen personally. She and her husband Steen, a native of Denmark, lived in that country for 12 years. During that time a picker friend of Jody’s would scour castles and old homes looking for “fabulous” European antiques, she says. Upon returning to the states, Jody began importing large containers full of Scandinavian, French and English treasures which she used to fill her shops. Now, with more and more demand for American antiques, she finds her collectables elsewhere.
Mikkelsen is new to Milwaukee, but her entrepreneurial spirit hardly stops at Déjà Vu. Jody and Steen own three other businesses in Lake Geneva WI; a home décor store, a children’s store, and a ladies shop. Mikkelsen even confesses to owning a 10.000 square foot warehouse full of odds and ends she’s collected over the years.
“I’ve had a lot of my treasures for a long time and now it’s time to share it with someone else,” she says.
Jody’s love of antiquing started young; her father used to run to sales and shop antiques quite frequently. As a teenager Mikkelsen would collect vintage records and living in Europe sparked her interest as well: “everything is an antique there,” she laughs. Her mother on the other hand had little interest in her family’s pastime. She did however inspire the name Déjà Vu.
“She’d come to visit me from Minnesota and she would say oh my gosh déjà vu, or oh my gosh déjà vu my grandmother had this and threw it away, and we’d say, Mom that’s not what déjà vu means and we’d laugh about it.”
The 1,400 square foot space is snuggled next to Boswell Book Company on the ever-changing Downer Ave business and shopping district. The area has seen a recent surge of investment and interest after the July 2013 opening of the relocated Pizza Man pizzeria on Downer. Other popular points of interest on the street include the near century-old Downer Theatre, Café Hollander, Sendik’s grocery, and the soon-to-be-opened Bel Air Cantina, set to replace the now defunct VIA Downer pizzeria.
When asked what is the favorite thing she has for sale, Mikkelsen points to a fireplace screen mounted on a wall. Fashioned completely from needlepoint, the screen depicts a woman sitting and holding a bowl full of winged cherubs. One cherub is being tossed into the air while another pets her dog’s nose. It is a piece she knows someone will someday see and find irresistible.
“I just love it when somebody comes in and falls in love with a piece and is so excited about it, it’s like that excitement spreads into my life also! I have had a couple of really great experiences where I have found a piece for somebody and we end up designing a whole room around it. I think there is something for everybody here. I hope people that are looking to find a piece to make their homes homey will come in here and find it.”