For Jill Reeves, the owner of the Appalachian Antique Mall, located in downtown Boone, her journey into the world of antiques began during World War II. Back then, when she was just a child, her mother ran what was called then a “second hand store.”
During wartime, many goods, ingredients and various items were rationed and so second hand stores were needed to recycle goods that were sparse. Reeves wasn’t interested in searching for items to sell as a youngster, but she did develop an interest in history later on, including the unique historical stories associated with certain antiques. All of this happened up north in the state of Wisconsin.
As with many others who live here in the High Country, Reeves’ life story eventually led to the mountains.
“Although I never remember going ‘junking’ with my Mom, I’ve always been interested in history and I love to learn the history of antiques and tell the stories about them,” said Reeves. “So, I had an appreciation for older things. Then, my grandmother passed away and I got some of her things, and eventually I was given some of my parent’s things. I was an antique dealer after that for about 20 years in Madison, Wis., just kind of on the side because it was fun.”
Reeves’ husband landed a job at the Lowe’s Hardware headquarters in Wilkesboro, N.C., years later and he was eventually relocated to Mooresville, N.C. In the meantime, Reeves was running antique stores here in Boone.
“There is no place better in the world than Boone,” said Reeves. “The weather is pretty darn good. The people are incredibly wonderful and they are kind, aware of the environment and try to take good care of it. Because the town wants to make things environmentally friendly, the air is good. And, I love it here because I have a cabin on the river. My section of the Watauga River has seven waterfalls and a swimming hole as well. So, for me, there is no place better.”
Reeves and her Appalachian Antique Mall is just a part of the world of antique shops located here in the High Country. From Boone to Blowing Rock to Banner Elk and many other places in the surrounding countryside, there is a lot to search for when it comes to antiques.
The stores found in this area range from the high end antiques collected from all over the country and the world found at The Gilded Age store near Seven Devils to places such as the Consignment Cottage in Banner Elk, where folks bring in their antiques to sell when moving or trying to make room for new items. Throughout the region, there are also many small antique stores that specialize in old time items found locally. All of this adds up to the fun experience of antiquing in the High Country.
Another favorite antique store found in downtown Boone is Antiques on Howard, located at 199 Howard Street. This establishment is run by Charlene Headley.
“My parents would go to thrift shops and my Dad was very handy so he would find items we needed around the house and he would redo them,” said Charlene Headley. “I still have some of those things that he worked on.”
In 1991, Headley and her husband moved to Boone from Florida after both had spent years in the banking business. It is a fascinating tale of saving up money and wanting to leave the more urban rat race behind to find a simpler way of living in a more rural setting.
“We just decided that we wanted a change in lifestyle,” said Headley. “My husband, Larry said, ‘Why don’t we go and see if there are some businesses for sale in western North Carolina somewhere and make a lifestyle change?’ So, that is what we did. We went down to Cullowhee and found a bicycle shop for sale. Then, we decided to buy a bicycle business in Boone. Unfortunately, Larry passed away in a motorcycle accident in 1999 and I was reeling, trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I kept running the bike shop for a while, employing ASU students who loved getting paid to work on bikes. I had a young manager who was very good at it, but then he died in a car accident on Shulls Mill Road on Mother’s Day. But as time went by, I knew that I still loved antiques.”
Headley found herself walking into the local antique store often and she eventually set up her own little booth. That led to securing a bigger booth and that led to being partners and eventually she bought the whole Antiques on Howard business.
During the years, Antiques On Howard has become a mellow, interesting and fun place to shop.
“Years ago, I had just bought a bunch of stuff from someone when a gentlemen walked in that was carrying a Jack Daniels bottle,” said Headley. “It was a green label bottle that had a cork on top of it and not a cap. I didn’t need any more items as I had too many, but he offered $15 for the bottle and I bought it. I looked it up online and the bottle turned out to be from one of the earlier productions by the Jack Daniels Distillery. I think they called it the famous Number 8 series. I sold it for close to 400 bucks. Not that it was a million dollar deal or anything, but finds like that make me happy.”
Occasionally, among the daily tourists and regular customers who show up at the shop, a famous person will walk in off the street.
“We get a lot of people who come year after year,” said Headley. “I recognize them and some of them have become actual friends. Antique people are really different because they look for antique shops. I try and say hello to them when they come in through the door and have a conversation with them once they are inside. I’ve also had people come in here that were performing at Appalachian State, as in they were on the schedule at the Schaefer Center or stadium on a Friday or Saturday night. Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town came in a few summers ago. She has a trailer that she tows behind their tour bus so that she can collect antiques as she travels. She loves mid-century modern pieces, as in the 1950s stuff. Singer Melissa Etheridge came in one time as well, but I wasn’t working that day. I was bummed!”
Antique sellers and antique store owners have to keep up with the trends happening in the antique would so as to survive in a fluctuating climate. Long time antique buyers, casual TV watchers and students fuel the changes.
“These days, many of the people that come in are minimalists,” said Reeves. “That is when they buy vintage CorningWare. CorningWare does not use Teflon in it, and yet you can cook with it on the stovetop, bake in it in the oven or use it in the microwave. The dishes have nice, big handles on them. The cookware material in CorningWare was made by a Dow–Corning engineer named S. Donald Stookey by accident in the 1950s. The company made nose cones for testing rockets. But, one day they overheated this material up ohotter than 900 degrees and it turned white. They took it out of the oven and it dropped onto the floor yet did not break. He said, ‘I think we have something here.’”
According to Reeves, antiquing is changing with the times.
“Younger people now, who have never fully been into antiques at all because they like the new hip stuff, are now minimalists who do not like clutter,” said Reeves. “Some of them only want things that have a use. They don’t want nice china with gold trim on it because you can’t put it in the dishwasher. So, now my dealers are getting rid of their old dishes and the prices are incredibly low because they are not as popular. Currently, they are buying the old multi-use CorningWare. You have to sense when the peak of the trend happens because after that, the prices go down quickly as everyone moves on to the next big thing. The TV ‘fixer-upper’ shows are also influencing the market and things like barn wood are hot. Old signs and old advertising tins are still collectable as well.”
No matter what kind of antiques you are looking for, or if you simply want to peruse the shops and see what moves you on any given day; a trip through the mountains in search of antique shops can lead to some excellent adventures.