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Montrose boutique owner, 92, shows no signs of stopping

Keeping her cat fed is just one of things that keep Fiona Bayliss going.

January 16, 2012|Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com
  • Fiona Bayliss, 92, of La Crescenta, is the owner of Fiona's Antiques and Gifts in Montrose, on Thursday, November 17, 2011. Bayliss has been at the same location on N. Verdugo Road since 1966. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
Fiona Bayliss, 92, of La Crescenta, is the owner of Fiona's…

Sometimes customers step into Fiona Bayliss’ Montrose boutique and ask if she’s still alive.

She’s 92, but she won’t bat an eye. “Is there a law against getting old?” she’ll say. If they bring up retirement, she’ll blame her cat, Ragtime.

“I support a cat and my cat likes to eat, so I go to work every day,” she said.

Bayliss has operated “Fiona’s Antiques and Gifts” on North Verdugo Road since 1966 and she has no intention of stopping. She said so on a clear, chilly morning recently, wearing a new fuzzy purple sweater as she spoke with her own brand of humor and charm. She’d pause only to greet customers with hot apple cider and chocolate chip cookies.

In 1961, a friend abandoned a Honolulu Avenue shop and granted the space to Bayliss. If she couldn’t make rent (then $95 per month), Bayliss promised her husband, she’d “come home and quiet down.”

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As a side hobby, she refinished furniture. After her first day’s work she nearly sold out of it, telling her husband that night, “I’ll leave the bed and the stove, but we have to take the rest of the furniture out.”

Bayliss moved to her current location five years later. Weeks after the move, her husband went to the hospital feeling ill. The doctors called Bayliss the next morning — he had cancer. He died before Bayliss and their son arrived at the hospital.

“Oh, it broke my heart. I mean, I haven’t gotten over it yet,” she said.

She kept busy attending night school, managing the shop and raising her son in La Crescenta. “The world didn’t stop,” she said. “I just had no idea that you had to reinvent your life.

“Attitude and gratitude are very important in this world,” she said, adding, “I used to say, you might be handed a cactus, but you don’t have to sit on it. You’ve got to get up and do something about it.”

What Bayliss did was fill her shop with items that shoppers find irresistible.

You’ll find fragrant, soft and colorful gifts on display: candles, fine quilt work, hand soaps, tea sets, note cards, handmade dolls, garden fixtures.

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