curiosities and conversation on Troy’s picturesque River Street
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.
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.”
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.
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
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.
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.”
think I need it for $5,” Chris says.
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
I take one more good look around before leaving River Street,
and my eye catches a dazzling stained-glass window.
know you don’t need it,” Chris says to me, “but it would make
you feel better just to have it, wouldn’t it?”