Treasures and 'stuff' abound in quaint antique stores that 'ooze' with character

By Rozella Hardin

   Downtown Elizabethton boasts a certain kind of shops that gives our historic town a personality of its own -- it is the antique stores. They can be found on Elk Avenue and are sprinkled about on side streets, such as Broad Street and Sycamore Street.
   Heirlooms abound in these shops full of remembrances of days gone by, giving the younger generation a glimpse at the past and allowing others to reflect on precious memories.
   These quaint shops off-the-beaten-path contain a medley of arts, crafts and collectibles. There are many retailers under one roof, with a wide variety of merchandise.
   Collectors, historians, art aficionados and just plain packrats own these places and/or rent the space within.
   Each store claims a specialty -- that might not be apparent by window shopping alone. For example, inside The Picket Fence on Elk Avenue, the largest button jar in town sets on a counter near the front of the store. It has to be a 10-gallon bottle, which is two-thirds full of buttons. Farther back in the store is a unique mousetrap -- it can catch five mice at one time.
   Hanging on a support post is a framed print of America's favorite cowboy, Roy Rogers, as well as a framed Pepsi Cola advertisement from a magazine of days gone by. It seems that Pepsi has always been around. Large criss-cut saws of varying sizes hang high on the west wall of the store. Near the back of the store is an assortment of amber-colored whiskey bottles. Also, there is a set of McGuffey Readers -- books my grandparents used in school.
   Across the street at Antiques on Elk, is an old railroad jack and Lionel trains. There are several large outdoor thermometers among the collectibles.
   In the rear of the store is an assortment of old tools, including a Rutter spade, an old plant setter, and mowing scythes. Lining the wall of the stairway are old car tags. On the second floor in a corner is iron cookware -- remember the skillets? They were great for baking cornbread. At the front of the store is a collection of military memorabilia collected through the years by Guy Ferguson.
   In the front window is a homemade quilt chest -- it is rather crude, but is sure to become someone's treasure.
   Next door at Duck Crossing Antiques, the assortment of "stuff" includes old furniture. In the window is a rare Victorian Chocolate Server, dated around the 1800s. An old chimnea sets beside the front door.
   Down the Street at Merry Mary's is a collection of Wheatie Cereal Boxes -- one has Troy Aikman on the front, another Nolan Ryan. There's also a collection of Little Golden Books, dishes, and natural soap.
   The treasures in these stores are too numerous and too various to list, from tiny crystal dishes to mammoth colonial chiffoniers.
   It would practically require a book to give you a comprehensive list of what you can find in the antique and collectible stores in town. For instance, at the Maze on Sycamore Street, there are candles, jewelry, floral arrangements, paintings, etc.
   What'll you see runs the gamut between the quintessential antique store, with its finer furnishings and pieces, to the contemporary flea market, where you'll find a mixed bag of collectibles and general merchandise. They are establishments that do business under the moniker "antique store," whose vendors deal in everything from true rarities to, well, junk. But in this game, one man's junk really is another man's treasure.
   Just about every one of the businesses around and in town that calls itself an antique store operates on a consignment basis. Stall or booth space is rented to vendors (for varying time periods), and when a sale is made, the store gets a certain percentage of the price (this also varies from store to store). And some just rent the space. Some of the larger "antique stores" may have 50 to 100 vendors displaying their wares under one roof. They are definitely worth browsing.
   They are good places to find older items like collectible figurines and toys, old books, tools, antique glassware and housewares that are sure to induce nostalgia. Some items would be better off at someone's yard sale, but overall these stores ooze with character.
   Many of the stores are mini museums, with many display cases filled with collections of rare and antique knives, jewelry and other items of interest. Regardless, you are guaranteed to find whatever suits your fancy.
   Browsing antique and collectible shops. It's slow-paced. Easy. And some say hypnotic. There's a certain magic to browsing antique shops. Whether you're young or old, you will feel that magic too!
   Among the antique stores downtown are Merry Mary, Duck Crossing, Antiques on Elk, Pickett Fence, the Rebel Craftsman, the Maze Emporium on Sycamore Street, the Back Porch and Robin's Nest on W. Elk Avenue.