North Fork antique dealers move into larger storefronts

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10/18/2012 12:56 PM |

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Jason and Rena Wilhelm own White Weathered Barn in Greenport, where all the merchandise, including imprinted silverware is hand-crafted.

Greenport resident Rena Wilhelm now has more room to store paint, slabs of wood, light bulbs and silverware.

The added space isn’t the result of her cleaning out a garage. The lifelong artist recently moved her Greenport Village antique shop, The White Weathered Barn, into a larger space on Front Street.

Ms. Wilhelm makes vases out of old light bulbs and imprints loving messages on vintage silverware while her husband, Jason, rummages through lumber yards in search of reclaimed wood.

“It’s amazing,” Ms. Wilhelm said of her new location. “I now have an area to work and it’s not a little space behind the counter.”

Ms. Wilhelm is one of many North Fork collectibles and antique shop owners who have recently decided to expand their businesses.

In 2002, she opened her first all-handmade decor shop in Ossining in Westchester County. Although she closed after six years when business slowed down, Ms. Wilhelm continued to sell her artwork privately. She later organized craft events at a meeting house in Ossining, which was a white barn that stood about 80 feet long and 55 feet wide.

Ms. Wilhelm said she has fond memories of the barn, where nearly 40 artists got together to showcase their work. She then opened her second shop in nearby Sugar Loft and named her store The White Weathered Barn.

In 2011, Mr. and Ms. Wilhelm decided in to move to Greenport, where Mr. Wilhelm grew up. They opened a store in a 400-square foot space located on a side street off Main Street next to Clawflowers. A tattoo studio is expected to open in her former location this spring.

In May, Ms. Wilhelm quickly pounced on the 1,100-square foot vacancy on Front Street because she believed it would provide enough room for her restoration work. The prime spot, which backs on the harbor area, would also garner more foot traffic, she said.

“When I’m mixing lavender, you can smell it down the block,” Ms. Wilhelm said. “People have said they specifically come in because of the scent.”

In downtown Riverhead, Aquebogue resident Owen Swift opened his antique shop two months ago in the space that was Nancy’s Treasure Chest, which closed over the winter.

For more than 25 years, Mr. Swift has developed his family business with his wife, Teresa, and daughter, Katie. Melissa Migrinere, an interior designer, helps out with the business as well.

Mr. Swift’s eclectic collection at the former boat storage facility ranges from classic French farm tables to seven-foot panels from a 17th-century Italian carousel.

Mr. Swift said he plans to rotate his antique furniture and home decor items between his new 1,000-square-foot store in Riverhead and his warehouse in Connecticut.

The Ireland native, who grew up in London and moved to the North Fork in 1976, said he believes more people want to furnish their homes with antiques because of their classic looks and durability.

“It’s incorrect that antique pieces are more expensive,” Mr. Swift said. “Their value increases with age.”

In downtown Southold, Lori Guyer is not only moving her antique shop into a larger space, she’s also looking to try new things during the off-season, such as hosting design classes.

Ms. Guyer, owner of White Flower Farmhouse, recently moved from a 600-square foot store on Peconic Lane into a 1,500-square-foot shop at the former Country Charm space on Main Road.

The vacancy caught her eye one day when she noticed the landlord had whitewashed the space from floor to ceiling. Plus the store is big enough to accommodate a workspace where she can build furniture out of recycled materials.

“I don’t have to rent a barn anymore,” Ms. Guyer said. “Now everything is all in one place.”

Ms. Guyer said she plans to work with other local businesses to revitalize the area during the colder months. For example, she’s working with the Southold Historical Society to promote a candlelight shopping event on Black Friday.

Other businesses are popping up around her store as well. A Taste of the North Fork is also moving from Peconic Lane to Main Road in Southold, and a second-hand shop is moving into the annex store.

Ms. Guyer ran her first antique store, a 250-square-foot place in Wading River, for two years until she and her family moved to Southold in 2003.

From pottery to vintage European linens and hardware, Ms. Guyer said her merchandise is carefully selected but affordable.

“Very rarely does someone not walk out with a little something,” she said. “There isn’t anything too expensive here because I like it to sell, so I can put new stuff in weekly. That’s fun for me.”

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