Cranberry-tinted crystal boxes, French egg perfume holders and silver-plated spoon warmers are among the delicate antique trinkets displayed on tables and shelves inside Sallea Antiques at 66 Elm St.

Georgia-bred shop owner Sally Kaltman said she is "constantly buying" European antiques, which is how she broke into the business as an interior designer 30 years ago.

"I would go to England and France to buy decorative items for my clients, and before I knew it, I fell in love with boxes," she said, lifting a tortoiseshell box from its assigned spot on a shelf in her store. "I became the queen of boxes, which is much better than the bag lady -- I'd rather be the box lady."

When she first fell into antique buying and selling, Kaltman said she shared a shop on Main Street with five other antiques dealers. Today she has her own shop, and the only downside is that the rent costs "a fortune."

She describes Sallea Antiques as one of six antiqus troves in New Canaan, with a reputation for centuries-old tortoiseshell boxes, wooden tea caddies and Chinese porcelain.

"We're a center of all sorts of things in here," Kaltman said. "This surrounding area is very good for my shop. People come on the train and spend the day here."

Fruit-shaped tea boxes made of 18th century fruitwood are among the most popular items in the shop, said Kaltman, fitting a hollow wooden pear in her palm.

Kaltman said the boxes, which also come fashioned as apples, melons and eggplants, cost between $7,000 and $10,000.

"You're not always selling the customer what they like, you're selling them what they can afford that they like," she explained. "Some people come in here and pick up a book, see it's $100 and turn away. Others will buy a couple. ... That's why we have lots of smaller things and then we have furniture and paintings, too."

In a rare business where, "the older it is, the better it sells," Kaltman said items in her shop often come, leave the store and get bought back.

A pair of lanterns hanging in the shop window last week sold to a New Canaanite many years ago, she said. The resident no longer wanted them, and Kaltman said she was happy to buy them back.

A birdcage hoisted above an armoire that Kaltman kept in her Florida home before she sold the property once belonged to her friend who lived in Normandy.

"He got a divorce, and I got the cage," she said. "That's one thing about antiques. You sell them and, if you're lucky, you buy them back and they're worth even more."

Kaltman's antiques travel in circles beyond a simple buy-back. Each year, she and her small staff bring the best of her collection to antiques shows in Nantucket, New York City, Newport, R.I., and Houston. Her best collectables voyage to 11 shows in 12 months, she said.

"It's a nightmare," Kaltman said. "Everything goes in 40-inch trunks ... smaller things go in plastic lugs. Everything gets wrapped in incontinent diapers, bubble and tissue paper."

She added, "We try not to hit any bumps in the road."

In two weeks, Kaltman will exhibit boxes and bowls at the International Antiques Fair at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. Christopher Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy's son, owns the market and runs the annual three-day sale.

Ten days later, she will show her items at The Wayside Inn Antiques Show in Sudbury, Mass.

"If you want to travel ... this is the business for you," Kaltman said.