Antiquing has been a popular hobby in America nearly as long as we’ve been a country. In Forsyth County—with its strong tradition of craftsmanship dating back to the 1700s, not to mention the wealth generated by so many internationally successful companies—it’s easy to find just about anything you want, from a wooden eagle crafted by one of Salem’s early residents to seating from a German castle.
Forsyth has a variety of shops, auctions, and flea markets dealing in such items. I’ve rarely purchased new furniture, preferring instead to find higher-quality pieces at lower prices in such businesses. With 2-year-old twin granddaughters, I need something to put just inside the front door to catch the mail, our keys, and my purse (and keep them away from those inquisitive fingers). While I was at it, I wanted to look for a nice set of glasses for drinks with company, so I pulled up Google, searched “antiques” and “Winston-Salem,” made a list of shops, and off I went.
It quickly became apparent that most antiques shops in Forsyth aren’t the dingy, dusty, dank junk-piled shops many remember from years gone by.
Antiques in Bethania
My first stop was Antiques in Bethania, where Bev Hamel has been a one-woman operation for 18 years. This was the most traditional-looking shop I’d visit, with primitive Federal and Victorian pieces making up the bulk of the furniture collection. Hamel knows what she buys and painstakingly details description, age, and location on the tags.
I was struck by an ornately carved three-piece seating group with red and gold upholstery just inside the door. A placard told the story of the set, which came from a castle in Germany. Nearby sits a pair of wooden shoes from Holland. Further in the store hangs a brightly colored polyester mumu from the ’60s.
“I go for the sublime to the ridiculous,” Hamel says. “From museum quality to primitive.” This ranges from a birthday card signed by Ronald and Nancy Reagan to a Yoda collectible.
She shows me a bushel basket, maybe 90 years old, mended long ago with tin newspaper plates. “You see how it was used, and it wore out, but they kept it and reused it. They didn’t throw it out. It’s a love,” she says, “that shows the love of age.” It’s a Buddhist philosophy called wabi-sabi, an appreciation of an item’s importance that comes with time, use, and imperfection. For Hamel, it’s just as important as craftsmanship.
Here I find an 1880s punched-tin pie safe from my native Pennsylvania that would serve my twin-proof entryway needs, though it might be a bit large for the space available. However, the 1930s Czech Republic decanter and delicate amethyst cordials for $85 might be exactly what I want for company.
I am a firm believer that you never buy the first thing you see so, on to the next.
Elizabeth’s at Hanes Park
In Winston-Salem’s West End sits a little enclave of secondhand shops all tucked cheek by jowl near Hanes Park. I was told this was not to be missed, so I dutifully parked along Reynolda Road and strolled from the Snob Shop to Shabby Tiques, Yours Truly to Elizabeth’s. (WARNING: You could easily lose a whole day on just these two blocks.)
When I entered Elizabeth’s, I was taken by the burst of vibrant color. While the silhouettes are recognizable as lines of bygone eras, many are new, produced with those lines but crafted from lighter woods or with modern needs taken into account. And a lot of the furniture, new or old, is ~gasp~ painted. For purists this might seem a heresy. But owners Denson Hauser and Tammie Rudisill say it’s better to have a great painted piece that you enjoy and use than something that sits in the attic slowly deteriorating.
The friends bought Elizabeth’s—a well-established shop packed with antiques, vintage furniture, and bric-a-brac—about three and a half years ago. They began making changes slowly, working to meet the needs of the customers and the vendors who rented space while staying true to their own standards and tastes.
When they first opened there was very little painted furniture. “But we had a washstand that sat here for a year, and I finally painted just the bottom,” Rudisill remembers. “The piece had sold before I was finished with it.” There are still pieces she won’t paint, such as the 18th century Moravian corner cabinet, but most are likely to meet the brush.
“Pure antiques aren’t a strong market in Winston-Salem,” Rudisill explains. Most of their customers tend to be young professionals with influences such as “Mad Men,” making Mid-Century Modern items the hot commodity.
“I’m super selective about what comes into this store,” Hauser says. He looks for items, new or old, that he would want for his own home, with uniqueness and good quality. “The best stuff isn’t mass produced and never was.”
Laster’s Fine Art & Antiques
Up next is Laster’s Fine Art & Antiques on Stratford Road. The walls are lined with framed art ranging from the Renaissance to contemporary works. Cases hold fine silver, coins, carved Japanese figures, jewelry, paintings, and more.
For 43 years, Larry Laster has been seeking out the beautiful, the important, and the unique. For most of those years he dealt directly with the interior design market. Now, however, he and his son, Ryan, sell to the public. The shop specializes in fine art and high-end antiques, but there are items for nearly any price point, from political ephemera at $15 to a locally crafted piece of Americana priced at $25,000. They have an astounding collection of maps and prints, botanicals, and etchings.
Larry worked hard to learn about his stock and to develop a customer base that knows and trusts him. “Integrity and reputation is something you have to earn,” he says. “You cannot buy that.”
That stellar reputation garnered the business an unexpected boon recently—the estate of Dr. Maya Angelou, who had also been a customer.
“[Her family] called and said we had been ‘highly recommended’ by the attorneys and other people in the area,” Ryan says.
Ryan has grown up around the business and helped his dad for years. Now he manages the store and is the link to a younger clientele. Ryan is able to relate better, Larry says, explaining the value of a well-made antique over a less expensive and more trendy piece from somewhere like Ikea.
“We’re trying to educate customers as we go,” he says. “We don’t sell art as an investment. We sell it to people to love. Something that will make their homes more comfortable and their lives happier.”
I didn’t find any drink sets here, but there was a hand-painted Oriental cabinet that is just the right height. I don’t have any other Asian elements in the front room, but this could possibly work. The search continues.
Kinnaman’s Furniture & Antiques
Right next door to Laster’s is Kinnaman’s Furniture & Antiques, a mother-daughter operation that started 16 years ago as “a retirement thing that kept going and going and going.”
Niki Kinnaman and her daughter, Michelle, keep the 24,000 square-foot building filled with an ever-changing selection of new, showroom samples, pre-owned, and antique furniture and collectables. They both love French antiques but are attentive to what their customers want. “Not a lot of antiques are selling,” Niki lamented. “They’ll buy the solid mahogany copy of the antiques but don’t want the antique itself.”
Too often people are afraid older furniture won’t stand up to use. When possible she explains that quality antiques are much more durable than most new furniture.
“It’s lasted 100 years,” she says with a laugh. “It will be fine.”
The store is staged in vignettes, often pairing an antique with newer items showing how an older piece can be incorporated into nearly any home. There’s a dark heavy carved table paired with sleek showroom zebra print chairs; a metal workshop counter with a Tiffany-style lamp; a contemporary bed with a 1930s blanket chest.
“We price things to go out the door,” she says. “If they buy something they really like, and we get them started, they’ll be back. Unique and different sells.”
The one antique she can’t keep on the floor, she adds, is an Empire chest. Men especially gravitate to the strong masculine drawers that date from 1840-1880.
“Young people are getting smart and buying real wood,” she explains, and buying second-hand and antique gets you much more for your dollar than buying new. “Good hardwoods are selling, and estates in this region have them.”
I find a lovely green cabinet from the ’40s for $149. This may be the one. In a side room I find a set of 8 metal goblets embossed with a bamboo design for only $14.
Black Dog Vintage
Tucked into a shopping plaza at the edge of Lewisville, Black Dog is the passion of a transplanted Michigan native who has become one of the town’s strongest cheerleaders.
Cathy Gerrety has been working with antiques and vintage items her whole life. “I think it’s what I’m meant to do,” she says. “It’s the story of somebody’s life, what they thought was important,” she says. “You get lost in the story.”
She delights in sharing those stories with people who come to her store or her auctions. “Kids will ask ‘What’s this?’ That’s a typewriter, a phone, a record player,” she laughs. “We really did have cool stuff growing up. We weren’t attached to a phone.”
She offers goods from estates and auctions and also rents space to dealers, which brings a wide and eclectic selection to the store. But she is adamant that items be quality and in great shape. “If it’s chipped or torn or something the dollar store has, I don’t want it here.” She recalls a time when she declined to buy a piece because it didn’t meet her standard, and the prospective seller accused her of being ‘The Rodeo Drive of Lewisville.’ “I was thrilled to hear that!” she exclaims.
Beginning April 4 and running alternating Saturdays through October, Gerrety organizes an outdoor flea market near the shop. She also stresses the importance of buying local, often recommending other shops to customers. “We’ve earned our business through hard work, honesty, and taking
care of our customers,” she says. Here I find a painted three-drawer chest for $169 and a great coffee service on a Lazy Susan from the 1960s. Company may have to have coffee instead of drinks.
* * *
And thus concludes my antiquing adventure in Forsyth County. At the end of the day I had enjoyed five shops, each different from the next but all with a few things in common—beautiful and interesting items, well-informed owners, and a desire to help customers find exactly the right piece. The experience left me with one overriding thought: Buy what you love. Love what you buy.
Other Antiquing Options
Goat Feathers Antiques. With a constantly-changing inventory, this popular shop in the West Salem area features a wide variety of antiques and collectibles at affordable prices. 836 S. Broad St. 336-575-3004. facebook.com/goatfeathersantiques.
IDEAS. We love the quirky, creative look of this shop—which is part home store, part interior design studio. Inside you’ll find an eclectic mix of vintage and new items. 1145 Burke St. 336-406-9978. www.ideastudio.ws.
Lost in Time Antique Mall. An expansive and eclectic selection of antiques, coupled with a knowledgable staff, make this one of the most popular antiquing spots in Winston-Salem. 2105 Peters Creek Pkwy. 336-725-5829. facebook.com/lostintimeantiquemall.
NC Art & Antiques Mall. This antique supercenter features more than 50 dealers under one roof. 1590 Peters Creek Pkwy. (inside Dynasty Furniture). 336-721-9904. ncartandantiquesmall.com.
V’s Treasures. Called a “pickers paradise,” this Washington Park-area business has been specializing in vintage and repurposed items for more than 15 years. Find it on Facebook (search for V’s Treasure). 2117 S. Main St. 336-986-3533.
EVENT: Hoots Flea Market. This monthly market outside of Hoots Roller Bar features a variety of vendors selling antique, vintage, and handmade items. Food trucks, a beer garden, raffles, and an auction also highlight the events. This month’s market will be May 16. For more info on attending or selling, call 917-517-0037 or go to hootsflea.com.
NOTE: photos for this story were taken at Laster’s and Black Dog Vintage.