It was a chilly, rainy Sunday a few weeks ago when my friend Gary suggested we go do a little antiquing over in the Bellows Falls and Chester, Vt., area. Weekend time is so precious to me and I’m antsy to just keep working away outside in the gardens, but Mother Nature wasn’t having it, so away the four of us went — Gary, Roger, Diane and myself.
I chose to drive since I tend to get car sick when I’m a passenger on a rainy day. I know, it’s a little weird and it may be the association my brain makes with another rainy Sunday years ago when I was woefully hungover in the passenger seat on a weekend trip to Ogunquit, Maine. Who can say?
Anyway, our first stop was still in New Hampshire at Flying Pig Antiques in Westmoreland. It’s in an industrial office park, which was an unusual choice for an antiques store, but we ventured in.
My expectations weren’t high, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and quantity of items in this multi-dealer shop. Clean and well-executed, each booth had stuff I liked. Mostly at what I’d call retail prices, there wasn’t a lot that I felt had room for much of a markup that I could purchase and resell, but we did stumble upon an auction preview room.
Flying Pig does live online auctions. Cool! Check out their Facebook page or their website, flyingpigantiquesnh.com.
Next, we headed for good old Bellows Falls. Always a sentimental journey for me since I grew up in nearby Saxtons River and went to middle and two years of high school in “BF.” Gary and Roger had been talking about this really cool antiques store there they’d been to a couple weeks prior.
Well, sure enough, it was Windham Antique Center right on the square in downtown, just a few doors down from the Bellows Falls Opera House. For years this space was formerly Sam’s Army & Navy.
For some reason I had it in my head that it was going to be an extremely high-end shop filled with just “important” antiques. I’m so glad we went, though.
I immediately fell in love with the sweeping, dramatic feel and gorgeously curated “rooms” that filled the two floors. One whole wall was lined with massive old display cabinets from long-gone local shops — beautiful old wood, glowing with age.
A multi-dealer shop, the owners had made fabulous use of old architectural columns, adorned with rustic drapery, to create some individual centerpiece booths. I read an article on vermonartsliving.com, “Impeccable pedigree: Windham Antiques Center puts Bellows Falls on the map,” where the perfect description was attributed to owner, Michael Bruno: the intent was to try to create the feeling of a 19th-century museum being unpacked for an installation.
And indeed it does. No actual “museum” filled with untouchable antiques here, though. Pricing was quite fair and the selection awe-inspiring. One corner on the main floor that I was particularly drawn to was filled with minerals, microscopes, old bones and fossils. I love this kind of stuff!
Poking around the whole place, it truly felt like an old department store filled with gorgeous vintage furniture and curiosities. Downstairs, there’s a whole section dedicated to antique hardware — knobs, hinges, brackets and light fixture parts.
Another whole area was beautiful china. A weakness for me, I was drawn to a huge set with a deep indigo border and I did contemplate it, but quickly remembered the variety of sets I already own and wrenched myself away.
I wound up buying a cow jaw bone with intact teeth and a lovely little botanical print. The jawbone is on display in a glass front bookcase at home and the print I’ll resell.
At the front counter I was relating to co-owner Michael, and a really nice sales lady, how dizzying the place was. I could spend all day there and I was more than a little bit envious of the vast, creative displays they’ve created there.
My little 14-by-16-foot booth in Peterborough pales in comparison, but then I reminded myself of something. We make choices in life. These guys took a risk and followed a dream. It’s indeed a dream come true.
I thought we might eat lunch next at a little funky café a few doors down but Diane mentioned “the buffet” as Gary and Roger chuckled. What she was talking about was the vast assortment of free samples you can munch on when visiting the Vermont Country Store in Rockingham.
The three of them visit frequently and despite my resistance about it being a huge tourist trap, we had a great time there. They have some really cool stuff, from every tincture and ointment you can think of to soaps and household products from yesteryear, fudge, candy and tons of cheeses and dip mixes. Even throwback stuff from the ‘70s like Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific shampoo!
Diane bought fudge; Gary and Roger bought nothing. I bought a whole ton of mixes and a vintage-looking tin of crackers and a big jug of citrusy men’s body lotion. I’m not a window shopper. If I’m going to shop, I shop!
Next was Chester, Vt., where we located Stone House Antique Center. Another huge, multi-dealer space, it was chock-a-block full with a more familiar mixture of furniture and smalls. Some booths had sales going on which is always a magnet for me.
I bought an old industrial metal test tube rack and an architectural column that is about 6 feet tall. Well, let me tell you that made for an interesting ride home with that thing extending from the back of my VW wagon all the way up between me and Diane in the front seat. Roger had his hands on it to keep it from blasting through the windshield in case I made any sudden stops.
We started wending our way home via a drive-by of my old childhood home in Saxtons River. It always tugs at my heart when I do so. Not as well-kept up as it was when I was a child, I always vow I’ll buy it back someday.
I guess I’m still a Vermonter at heart.