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Rivah Visitor's Guide

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Chart a course antiquing at the Rivah

by Reid Pierce Armstrong

imageAs summer slips away, so do many of the activities people enjoy at the river. Boats are dry docked and golf clubs are put back in the closet. Lawn furniture is pulled into the garage for the winter and some local stores and restaurants cut back their hours. 

But autumn and winter are some of the best times to enjoy the Rivah. Quiet weekends become more about lazing around reading a book, sampling those restaurants that were too crowded in the summer, and veering off the beaten path to explore some of the Rivah’s more eclectic offerings.

It is an ideal time to explore the area’s many antique shops, flea markets and consignment stores. From classic 18th century antiques to funky garden decor, from rare oyster plates to vintage kitchen utensils, there’s something for serious collectors and casual shoppers alike.

On any given Saturday you can take out a map and chart a course between the scores of interesting little stores speckled along the roads from Colonial Beach to Gloucester Point. Saturdays are typically the best days to shop since almost every antique shop in the area is open Saturday for at least part of the day, but a well-planned trip can be successful on other days as well.

One lovely Saturday morning in September, when my dad and I were looking for some way to spend quality time together, we decided to take a tour of Northumberland’s antique shops. There are a dozen shops in Northumberland that sell antiques, consignments or vintage goods, making it a great place to shop.

imageWe started the morning at the Lottsburg auction house, where auctioneer Grayson Smith was having a tool sale. Almost every Saturday, there’s an auction under way in Lottsburg. It starts outside with small boxes of knickknacks and moves inside to the big stuff after 10 a.m.

It was definitely “man day” that Saturday, with everything from old tool chests to machinery, and we could have spent the better part of the day there, but this was just meant to be a warm-up. There’s nothing like the chant of an auctioneer to get you in the mood for shopping.

imageOn Route 360 near Callao we stopped at Miss Daisy’s Antiques, now in its seventh year in business. The shop features the finest display of glassware in the county. Depression glass, elegant glass, milk glass, carnival glass, chandeliers, you name it—the place sparkles with reds, blues, greens and silvers. Shop owner Junell Haskins said she has a loyal following of glass collectors.

We admired some of her vintage lighting and a display of colored glass reflecting light in the window.

Up the road, where the highway bends 90 degrees to the right, is Fine Things, located in the oldest building in Callao, formerly the hardware store. There, Frank Wood specializes in original antique prints and has one of the largest collection of Civil War prints and documents as well as African-American prints and documents in the area.

He walked us through a small portion of a new display he was organizing, and showed us an original newspaper clipping from the Civil War era that was in better shape than last week’s paper sitting under my desk.

imageA little farther up 360, Nina’s New and Nearly New, run by Al Scerbo, has loads of sports memorabilia, from vintage bikes to signed baseball cards and other collectables. We’ve always found something to take home in this shop. Beneath the collectables one can often find vintage furniture for sale at very reasonable prices. I’ve walked out of there with everything from funky lamps to useful dressers. That day, my dad couldn’t resist purchasing an unusual oyster plate for a friend who collects them.

imageIn Heathsville, Great Stuff & Co. has one of my favorite cottage gardens in the area. I often stop just to walk around the building, inspecting all of owner Gayle Marston’s ideas for recycling “junk.” This summer she had flowering vines growing up and around an old outdoor umbrella, flowers popping up through the seat of an old chair, and planters made between the rungs of a broken wooden ladder.

“I like taking things and repurposing them,” she told me.

Inside the house, which used to be Heathsville’s animal hospital when her father was the veterinarian, she sells all things vintage, from kitchen utensils to gardening items. Gayle said she fills her shop with decor and enjoys design and helping customers create beautiful spaces in their own homes. “Even if it’s just an arrangement on the mantel,” she said.

As I was walking back to the car, I found some old decorative register covers that I just couldn’t resist.

At Secondhand Rose in Edwardsville, if you see something you like you’d better buy it now because it won’t be there tomorrow. Vintage and consignment furniture is displayed outside under a large covered porch and passersby are often drawn to a sudden halt by something eye-catching.

Camel saddle stools, mid-century dressers, retro kitchen chairs, inlaid end tables, Flexible Flyer sleds are just a few of the things that have made me hit the brakes on my way through Edwardsville. This is a great shop for people who are looking for great prices and don’t mind putting in a little elbow grease to make their purchases shine.

The pink antique shop on 360 in Burgess has been around for a while but it was purchased two years ago by Tom and Carol Muratore who renamed it Plum Summer. It is primarily a gift shop these days, Tom said, but it still has antique furniture such as dressers, armoires, sewing tables and lamps.

Across the road, Bay Shore Auction carries a large inventory of used furniture, and the discerning shopper can find vintage and antiques among the loot.

imageJogging back down the road to Route 200, be sure to visit The Burgess House that opened just recently and has room after room filled with vintage furniture, retro kitchen gadgets and collectables mixed in among its gift items.

Eight shops and an auction had pushed us to our limit for the day. It was nearly two o’clock (many of the shops close down in the early afternoon) and we could hear our stomachs growling.

We finished our adventure off with iced tea and chicken salad sandwiches at Newsome’s in Burgess before heading home.

Click on the image above to view a clickable map that highlights antique shops across the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck.

We chalked it up to a successful day of shopping. We’d found some gifts for friends as well as some items for ourselves. We enjoyed taking a slower ride through Northumberland County, stopping along the way and chatting with the owners. It was a nice break from the daily hauls to and from the grocery store, work, the bank and school and a nice way to spend time together.

So pull out this map and chart your own course. Try a day in Tappahannock where half-a-dozen shops are clustered together, or a drive along Route 3, making certain to stop in Lively and visit Louise Jesse who’s celebrating 55 years of business at Epping Forest. Or, loop through White Stone, Irvington and Kilmarnock taking time to explore the two large antique malls and several smaller specialty shops. One could also make a day of antiquing through Hayes and Gloucester where there are plenty of shops to peruse, or zigzag around Middlesex and Mathews, hitting some local favorites.

Whatever course you chart, make sure to leave plenty of room in the trunk because, on a day like this, you never know what you may be bringing home.

posted 10.01.2008

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