You never know what you’ll find!
A jar of old marbles (and suddenly you are nine years old again). A mid-century maple table that would look great next to the sofa in your second home. Bennington pottery that is good as new (and 50% off). A vintage dress (and earrings to match), a movie poster from the old General Stark Theatre, an old glass insulator, Jethro Tull on vinyl, vintage Valentines.
Who hasn’t fallen under the spell of a well-stocked antique shop?
Bennington now boasts half a dozen such shops. Veteran visitors may remember the antique barn formerly located at Camelot Village just west of Old Bennington. When that property changed hands a couple of years ago, the dealers who had booths there needed to find new digs. They have now done so, and most of the new shops they’ve opened are located right downtown, with one more a few miles to the north on Route 7A.
“Business has been good,” says John Del Prete, part-owner of Main Street Antiques. “People have been spending more time at home because of Covid. Maybe they’re redecorating and want to add some original touches. Or they need baking tools or a better reading lamp.”
John’s wife Shauna adds, “Some people come in to time travel. We’re like a museum where the exhibits are for sale. Other people just want a particular item – a mortar and pestle, say – and don’t want to go to Walmart or a high-priced kitchen store to buy one.”
The shop features booths curated by 15 different dealers, all with their own specialties. The dealers source their finds mostly from estate sales and auctions, and sometimes people walk into the store with treasures, or what they think may be treasures, in their hands. “We don’t provide professional appraisals, but if you bring something in, we’ll tell you what we think it’s worth, and we may make you an offer,” says John.
The south side of East Main is also the home of Monument Vintage, another well-organized multi-dealer shop. This one has (among other things) coins, clocks, lamps, collectibles, and Bennington pottery, including some unusual pieces by Potters founder David Gil.
Co-owner Chet Chapin shows me a glass butter dish with a cover from 1882; the top of the cover is adorned with a frosted glass pheasant that serves as a handle. “Beautiful, but not my style,” I tell Chet. He gives me a look (a smirk?) and leads me to a collection of Cracker Jack prizes from the ‘50s and ‘60s. A wave of nostalgia passes through me like a tsunami.
A mile farther east on Main (Route 9 East) will bring you to the aptly named Owl’s Nest, the oldest of the establishments surveyed here, which moved to its present quarters from a spot near the Four Corners two years ago. It’s more spacious and less organized than the downtown shops, with plenty of room for furniture and other larger items.
Owner Jeanne Gauthier, a master period upholsterer, figures there is something for everyone at her store. Full disclosure: my wife has bought a couple of pieces from her in recent years, and Jeanne has re-upholstered a chair for me.
She specializes in restyling and upcycling old furniture and building new pieces from antique wood. In case you’re not familiar with upcycling, it’s the creative reuse of existing materials. “An antidote to our throw-away culture,” says Jeanne.
When Camelot Village closed, Sarah Krinsky, operator of the My Generation Vintage shop there, regrouped by teaming up with friend Bri Magnifico to open the W. Collective in a handsome brick building in the heart of downtown.
The shop features wares from 8 vendors, most of them women. Besides choice garments from the 30s to the 90s (ancient history to today’s Bennington College students), the shop offers vintage and modern housewares, sustainably sourced products from Fare Well Trading and Fare Well Fine Jewelry, and many unique craft items, like master carver Nick Arakawa’s small wooden scoops.
In spring and summer, you can sit down for a good cup of coffee, brewed from beans from Wilmington’s 1A Coffee Roasters, on the patio behind the store; take-out’s available year-round. So is the Alaskan Sourdough Starter, direct from Anchorage in a two-ounce pouch.
For a different vibe, there is G.’s Books and Records at 475 East Main. Push on the door at the left of the building (a bell will ring) and go right upstairs. Ron Gallagher, the genial proprietor, will greet you and give you, if you like, a quick tour of four fully stocked rooms. This is where I saw that vinyl Jethro Tull, one of several by that venerable band in the tabletop bins. The band’s friends are here as well, along with other genres besides rock.
Gallagher’s got some older records on hand too (45s and Edisons) and some interesting books at bargain prices. “Just about everybody who comes in here buys something,” he says.
Don’t stop now. Take Route 7A a few miles north and you’ll see Covered Bridge Antiques on your left. That location has been a second-hand store under various names and owners for many years (TMI: I bought a used roto-tiller there in 1983; still works).
The current store may be the best version of the premises yet. Owner Raoul Mallalieu opened up only a month and a half ago, and he is pleased with the response he’s had. There are items from 14 discerning dealers under his wide roof, ranging from large pieces of furniture to small pieces of estate jewelry. There’s also artwork. I spotted a couple of fine framed prints by Luigi Lucioni, whose “Birches” was in the Bennington Museum’s Robert Frost show last summer.
All of these businesses maintain a presence on Facebook (and some on Instagram) if you want to keep track of the latest arrivals. Their owners are a friendly and helpful bunch, people in most cases who have been drawn to Vermont and to Bennington by the quality of life here — to which they are now contributing.
P.S. Want to see (but not touch) some real nice pieces? Go to the Bennington Museum when it opens for the season in April: 18th-century Vermont furniture, Bennington pottery, curios of all kinds, and a Wasp touring car from 1925. Sales are limited to the gift shop!
- Pownal resident Phil Holland writes a monthly post for this website.
Bennington antique stores mentioned in this post:
- Main Street Antiques
473 Main St.
(closed Feb 15-28 for remodeling)
- Monument Vintage
435 Main St.
- The Owl’s Nest
753 Main St.
- W. Collective
332 Main St.
- G.’s Records and Books
475 Main St.
- Covered Bridge Antiques
2026 Route 7A