When I was 21, I stopped into dilapidated antique store I passed every day on my way to work & bought my first antique – an old cabinet card of a young girl with her arm around a dog. I fell in love with that little card….with its story that I could only imagine & with someone else’s history I was holding right there in my hands. From that moment forward I wanted to have an antique store of my own so that I could always offer others a similar, magical journey into the past. Flash forward twenty-I’m-not-saying-how-many years and my dream became a reality. Slowly.
Where I live in the north east is prime country for having the classic road-side antique shop next to your quintessential New England house – preferably in the big old barn standing beside it. Fortunately for me, I live in an historic, 126 year old cape that once was renowned for its rambling L shape and massive, attached barn with a stream running through it. Unfortunately for me, that barn burned to the ground some time in the late 1950’s, taking most of the house with it. All that remains is the original portion of the house – my lovely cape – and this town’s memory of a prosperous, beautiful farm in its heyday. It was going to take some ingenuity to turn a “what’s wrong with this picture?” situation into the perfect setting for my antique shop.
When this house was purchased it was in a state of disrepair. It had been abandoned. The roof leaked. An assortment of critters had taken up residence in the attic. The plumbing & heating were shot. The electricity consisted of a few hanging wires & sockets. There was no insulation. The kitchen had water damage & the upstairs, equal amounts of fire damage. The windows were the originals & air flowed freely through them even though they wouldn’t open. There were four layers of filthy carpet and double the layers of stained wallpaper on the walls. The once gorgeous, terraced rock gardens were a jungled nightmare. Garbage was strewn about the property. A tree was growing up through the crumbling back porch. The front door was hanging by one hinge. I could continue but I think you’ve got it. So when I referred to “my lovely cape” above, what I really meant was….it’s lovely now! And when I referred to “ingenuity” afterwards…..well, that actually turned out to be blood, sweat & tears, not to mention the other, overused cliché – time & money.
After the house was completely gutted, it was charmingly & quite cleverly rebuilt from the inside out – taking advantage of every possible use of space & lovingly reusing or repurposing any materials & architectural components that could be salvaged. More so, thousands of hours, it seems, were spent in the gardens trying to rejuvenate & restore them to their former beauty & glory. While it continues to be a work in progress, it is a tremendous improvement over its former state. Even more gratifying are the enthusiastic comments & compliments from passersby, neighbors & community folks who have patiently awaited & watched its slow but wonderful transformation.
So while the house & grounds were becoming pretty as a picture & welcoming for potential customers, there remained the one, kind-of big issue of not having a barn to use for a shop. It was a conundrum, to say the least, but basically boiled down to only two options – build or buy. After serious deliberation, the latter was chosen. While it sounds relatively simple, it simply was not. First, the grounds needed to be prepped to withstand a building. That entailed measurement, excavation & creating a solid pad on which it would rest. A deep & long trench also needed to be dug from the house to where the building would stand in order to have the shop wired for electricity. Plants & grass were moved & destroyed in that process, so there was many a day spent replanting & re-seeding lawn, sometimes in the pouring rain, just to be sure there would be flowers & grass by the time I opened my shop. And let’s not forget picking out an actual barn in its entirety. So many choices! So many details! But they were all decided upon after much time & consideration….& I’m proud to say four words I never thought I’d utter in my lifetime……”I bought a barn!” You may wonder to yourself, “What happens after all that?” because it certainly IS an awful lot of THAT. Well, essentially you just wait for the day the barn is to be delivered & try not to have heart failure in anticipation!
It was a gorgeous spring day in April when the barn was scheduled to arrive. I was assured delivery would be at 2:00 p.m., so I was outside & waiting on my front stoop half an hour early because I could not contain my excitement. I sat there contemplating everything I had been through up to this point, & while it seemed like this moment should mark the culmination of a very long story, I realized it actually was the beginning of a whole other adventure…..opening my antique shop. I was beside myself. I was overcome. I was verklempt. And then I saw it. I saw a procession coming up the road. I saw a flatbed trailer coming up the road lead by a state-required safety vehicle. Oh my God, I saw my barn on a huge truck that said “wide load” coming towards me!!! I hopped right up & I think I kept on hopping. I waved furiously as this large, lights-flashing entourage approached me & my house. It was here!!! It was here!! I couldn’t believe it was finally here!!!! And then….it kept on going. My stunning barn went right past me & kept on going up a small hill until everything disappeared into the mountainscape & I was left standing there in the immense quiet that always follows some type of catastrophic event, with my mouth wide open, trying to figure out what had just happened.
Two seconds later I was on the phone with the barn company attempting to ascertain just that. Where exactly was my barn going? What was going on? A nice lady told me she would have to hang up & try to contact the truck driver & call me back. More waiting. More silence. Much pacing. Then my phone rang! It seems someone had accidentally written a one in front of my house number on the delivery instructions. Although I had been certain the driver had seen me waving like a nut outside the correct location, he still thought the address to be much further up the road & had driven onward out of sight. Now who was the nut? So it was more like 3:00 p.m. when all was said & done because a long, rural road is really not the best scenario for turning around a wide load. But this was successfully maneuvered somehow (I never asked) & the entourage was properly redirected back to me. I will never forget how incredibly breathtaking it was to behold the pomp & circumstance with which my barn finally made its descent down the hill & truly arrived on my property. One small step for the delivery guy. One giant leap for Antique Shop Girl. Now that I had the proper, quintessential setting in place, I could at last fulfill my dream of opening an antique business. This, of course, is just the beginning of the story…. (continued after photo)
There is so much to learn from this initial saga, from my first, rather huge adventure as an Antique Shop Girl. If I had to reflect on only one aspect, however, this would be it: Having a dream is pretty much like holding an antique in your hand for the first time….holding an object or memento, as it were, from someone else’s life that whispers of past dreams & accomplishments….things that were once here & now are gone. One minute you see dreams unfolding before you, & in the next they can just as easily disappear almost as quickly as they appeared. So don’t take any step toward a dream for granted. Cherish each milestone. Laugh through the sweat & tears. Be proud of your efforts & what they’ve achieved. And share that story with many so that your dream lives on & inspires others long after you are gone. Just like an antique in your hand.