Where to get low-cost, funky and sometimes beautiful antique, and not-so-antique furniture.
CONFESSION: I realize that all may not share this addiction or feel the same high that I experience over a sixty-year-old rocker for $20.00 or a refrigerator for $35.00, but I admit that I’ll go to any length to satisfy this craving.
DEALERS: Some are nice guys trying to pass on a good thing while others will push up the price knowing the demand is high. The more obvious dealers in town are not always the most economical. Here I will only cover those places with either good prices, nice folks or an unusual assortment of goodies.
CHEAP BUT NOT SO NEAR
Sara’s Antiques, Hillsborough. Once you get to town, ask directions and most anyone can direct you. The most outstanding features here are Sara herself and her husband, truly original characters and good folks. This place has an amazing assortment of junk of every description plus some good antiques of medium price range. You will probably be a little overwhelmed at first by the sheer volume and mess but stagger around a bit and you’ll soon unearth a treasure or two. This was the home of my exquisite, twenty-five-year-old refrigerator for $35.00, which is in perfect condition. (It still had the original owner’s manual!)
Curiosity Shop, Siler City. I know it’s far. You have to leave Chapel Hill for the real bargains but this is well worth it if you like good, down-home antiques at reasonable prices. Nothing fancy here but everything is orderly and pleasant people run the shop. Simple furniture, knickknacks, old tools, etc. Their prices are far below any equivalent shop in Chapel Hill.
Herndon’s Warehouse Sales, Liberty St., Durham. Need a secondhand toilet? He’s got it and more. Plumbing, building materials (doors, windows, fixtures), furniture, etc. I’ve never been there myself but I have it from reliable addicts that the selection is good and the prices low to moderate. Who knows when you’ll need a 1926 desk calendar?
NOT SO CHEAP BUT REALLY NEAT
Good as New Shop, Rosemary St., Chapel Hill, just up the hill from Tiajuana Fat’s. A middle-man store working on a consignment basis with prices set between the seller and the shop. There are two houses, one contains clothes and the other has the furniture. This is your more run-of-the-mill secondhand stuff but is certainly worth a try. Some pieces are cheap and most of it is in very good condition. If you need to unload some of your own things, try it here.
Cottage Antiques, in the triangle corner in Carrboro. This looks like a tiny place but it is crammed with goods. If you really scrounge you can find bargains; the rest is moderately priced. I copped a lovely handmade table here for $12.00. Many of her items are curios and she has a large assortment of old quilts, not cheap but reasonably priced, considering their popularity.
PARTIAL LIST OF MORE STANDARD ANTIQUE DEALERS
The Country Store, Farrington Rd., Durham (four miles out 54, left on Farrington Rd., then about 2 miles). Rebuilt to resemble an old store and well done. They have crafts, fine antiques and a collector’s showing of old signs and patent medicines. Go by just to enjoy the sights. There’s a lot of history in the building, the adjacent house and the land which the family will share with you if you’ll ask.
The Log House Antiques, also Farrington Rd., Durham (very close to Country Store). Beautiful, refinished, prime antiques with matching prices. Go look and drool.
Daniel Boone Flea Market, Hillsborough. Here many dealers are set up together in one large building. There isn’t anything left out of this collection, which ranges from severe junk to beautiful antiques. China, furniture, books, tools, toys, coins, weapons. Open every day but Monday, but individual dealers are there en masse only on Sundays. At least a good hour’s browsing and some bargains.
The Barn, Chapel Hill-Durham Blvd., on the left halfway to Durham. Prices here are standard to a little high but there is a nice group of furniture, crafts and they do refinishing.
Trading Post, Carrboro. You name it, they’ve got it, in antiques, secondhand furniture and new, unfinished furniture. The prices are not low and often seem steep to me but the selection is large.
HABIT: I usually devote a weekend afternoon to making the rounds of at least two or three shops. That way the comparison in prices will be more clear. If you are new at this you must shop around or you’ll get burned for sure. Particularly important is talking to the owners. At all of these places I have had great conversations and found everyone more than eager to pass on their knowledge and stories.
RATIONALE: Old things are truly more beautiful, warm and interesting to me. Antiques, even most of the expensive ones, are still cheaper than an equivalent new piece. Most older furniture was built under higher standards of craftsmanship and was expected to last, unlike most factory stuff of today. Also, each piece seems more individualized than today’s modern pieces. They are always an investment which increase in value. Can any new furniture store guarantee you that? Imagine selling a piece of furniture for more than you paid for it after several years of use. Plainly it is cheaper and less consumptive than buying new furniture. Even those non-prime pieces are superior to new ones for me. The styles are so varied that most tastes can be satisfied.
NOT TO BE FORGOTTEN
One last homage to the GOOD ’OL PTA THRIFT SHOP, whose merits are well known to all. I salute you. May your spirit flourish! Can I ever forget my 25¢ jeans?