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PHOTO: Chris Shields

Saturday Styles

Antiques, curiosities and conversation on Troy’s picturesque River Street

 

By Kathryn Lurie

At around 10 AM on a summer Saturday morning, River Street merchants are in the midst of moving their wares from inside their shops to the wide sidewalk that follows the mprominent curve of the street. Lampposts line the sidewalk, from which hang blue flags with the moniker “Troy’s Antique District.” Shops and merchandise line the street, and their merchants hang out nearby, ready with information about whatever it is you may stop to look at.

I make my way through the wares and stop in at Marmora Café to grab a cup of coffee for shopping fuel. It would take hours to discover all the hidden treasures in these shops, and many people are willing to spend the time.

I’m a sucker for wooden chairs, and the sidewalk was brimming with them, so I take my time poking around, examining designs, structure, and most importantly, price tags.

In the vintage glass-and-bottle store called the Glass Kids, a shopper peers at a piece and asks the man at the counter about the potential value of a glass bottle he owns.

“When you get a chance,” the shop guy says, “bring it down and I’ll look it up for you.”

In front of another shop, a pair of gorgeous carved wooden shutters lean against the storefront. A woman holds them up and admires them. I want them immediately, so I ask the woman to look at the price for me. “They’re $150 for the pair,” she offers, and I grudgingly pass up the dream of having those shutters on display in my living room, and move along.

Down the street, in the multi-dealer Bournebrook Antique Center, buckets of mill balls rest on ancient chests and old school chalkboards line a wall. There are beautiful, old, huge pieces of furniture everywhere, and cases exhibiting small, delicate things like jewelry and cameras from the early 1900s.

Glancing at a 1940s gold-mesh bag on display in a case, I comment to the clerk behind the counter, “It’s amazing how everything comes back in style.”

“Oh, isn’t it?” she grins. “But I don’t think vintage stuff ever really goes out of style.” I point out that there are modern gold-mesh bags on the market that look identical to the one in the case.

“That’s what you have to be careful of,” she says. “There’s this one store that makes stuff that looks old. You go to these auctions, and at times can’t tell the difference [between real and fake antiques].”

Pointing to a foam square displaying a couple dozen vintage silver rings in the case, I ask to see them. She places the square in front of me and we continue to chat as I try on every ring, one by one.

I ask her if the store gets very busy, and she says, “Depending on the day. I’m waiting to see how it’s going to be today with it being track season and all. You never know from one day to another how it’s going to be. Some days are unbelievable and then other days are dead.”

Reluctantly, I give back the delicate little rings, thank the clerk, and move on.

This is not the busiest Saturday River Street has seen, but small clusters of people move this way and that, saying hello to shopkeepers, catching up with friends, inspecting tea sets and baseball cards and the like. They open drawers in chests and sit on chairs to test them out.

The owner of Bournebrook, Mike, stands behind a counter and talks about a framed piece of Chinese-looking fabric with a small crowd of customers. “I know nothing about it, but I know that I like it,” he laughs.

He has more information to offer us as Chris, my shopping companion (and photographer for this story) sifts through some ancient-looking tools and asks about a particularly odd-looking, heavy thingamajig on sale for $5. Mike tells Chris, “If you can guess what that is, I’ll give it to you.” Chris takes a stab and says, “A specialized wrench?” Though close, he doesn’t get the tool for free.

“It’s a locking tool,” Mike explains, showing us its spring-loaded action. “If you look at . . . its casting, it’s probably about 1880. Because it’s shaped like that, it’s shaped not to indent. So it’s [for] either fabric, leather, canvas. And when you want to release it, just push that button and it releases.” He demonstrates the action, and we watch him, fascinated. “They were so ingenious in the old days . . . to come up with tools for a specific job, and they would make them or cast them, so a few of these were probably made.”

“I think I need it for $5,” Chris says.

“I think so. I did when I bought it,” Mike says with a grin.

We thank him for the information, Chris buys the fabric-leather-canvas thingamajig, and we move along.

Back out on the street, shop owners chat with browsers, pointing out intricacies of old bottles, dishes and street signs, and discussing the buying market in Chinatown in New York City.

As the day progresses, people mill around, stopping to lunch at the sidewalk tables in front of cafes, chewing on shawarma at the Lebanese food eatery Al-Baraki, and sipping coffee under the umbrellas at Marmora Café.

In addition to the antiques stores, there are a couple of charming jewelry shops dotting River Street, not to mention the River Street Beat Shop, which boasts a hodgepodge of records and videos, posters and T-shirts, prompting at least 20 minutes’ worth of leafing through bins on my part.

Dana Rudolph & Co. not only sells jewelry and accessories (everything from tiaras to curvy metal bookmarks), but also a variety of beads for the make-it-yourself types. Dana herself is usually there to help pick out gifts and answer questions as you try to take in all the colors of the sparkling gems in her showcases.

Down at 188 River St., Michael DeSantis’ new store, Eye Candy, utilizes natural elements (a prominent fountain provides a trickling-water backdrop, and two-thirds of the shop’s floor is hardwood; the rest gravel) to make for a most inviting space.

I take one more good look around before leaving River Street, and my eye catches a dazzling stained-glass window.

“You know you don’t need it,” Chris says to me, “but it would make you feel better just to have it, wouldn’t it?”

Indeed.


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