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‘You never know… what’s around the corner’

‘You never know… what’s around the corner’

Trying to describe the Stage Coach Antique Market is like trying to describe watermelon—words don’t come close. 

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Slow down, stop and stroll…

The Stage Coach Antique Market on Route 17, Gloucester

by Tom Chillemi

Trying to describe the Stage Coach Antique Market is like trying to describe watermelon—words don’t come close.

Since 1976 Stage Coach has been a fixture on Route 17 about 3 miles south of Gloucester’s Main Street. On any weekend about 50 regular vendors open the doors to their shops, while along the highway tables are set up by visiting vendors.

It’s a smorgasbord of unusual items

“You never know what’s around the corner,” is how BJ summed it up. BJ minds the shop for “The Real Deal,” purveyors of used guitars, other musical instruments and sound equipment. Guitar pickers congregate at The Real Deal on Sundays about 11 a.m. playing country, gospel and bluegrass.

But wait, there’s more! Tools abound on the other side—hand tools, power tools, things you don’t normally see, such as a 55-pound anvil new and in the box. (Remember, watermelon)

Keep going, there are refurbished lawn mowers, power equipment, refrigerators.

As BJ went to his car to get his glasses so he wouldn’t miss anything, he bought a boom box and speakers. “They worked with me.”

Make me an offer

Part yard sale, The Stage Coach Antique Market is the kind of place to “make an offer” on something you just gotta have. Negotiating in this Americana free trade zone is an art form, explained Terry Phillips.

Terry Phillips and his wife Helen are “holed up” in The Hide Out selling glassware, nicknacks and whatever. About five years ago they won a storage unit auction with a $25 bid. They sold some of the items for $300. “We were hooked,” he said.

Buying and selling is a stimulating hobby for the Phillipses. He’s 76 years old. “It keeps us young and alive and moving . . . too many people our age just sit around and watch TV.”

Antique memories

‘You never know… what’s around the corner’Antiques are memories, and chatting about the past is part of The Stage Coach. “We meet a lot of very nice people,” said Terry, “and shoplifters are few and far between.”

The art of negotiating dictates, “Be quiet . . . he who speaks first loses,” advises Terry, who tempers his dealmaking skills with compassion. “Would you take 25 cents for this,” a woman asked. He gave it to her.

“There’s not a thing in here that we want,” he added.

When he gets a ridiculously low offer, Terry will sometimes raise the price!

Nestled near the back of The Stage Coach is Edie and Chris Higginbotham’s boutique, selling ladies clothes, jewelry, shoes, and some “high-end” cast pots and pans. The name for their place is borrowed for an expression, “It Is What It Is,” which perhaps explained the “man cave” things like military clothes.

Edie explained that clearing her house of things from her father and grandfather was the idea for the shop. “This helped a lot to control stuff,” said Edie, who added she does not want her children to be burdened with her “stuff.”

Edie set a simple policy for stuff. “If I bring something home from the shop, I have to bring something back.” Edie enjoys meeting the people and she said the vendors are like family and they watch the stores for each other.

Phone switchboard 

‘You never know… what’s around the corner’
Phone calls used to require an “operator” to connect calls on a switch board like this at Mima’s Finds.

On a shop porch stands a relic of our communication heritage—a Bell System phone switchboard. There was a time, not so very long ago, when an operator would handle long distance calls and make connections by plugging in phone jacks into the lit up terminals.

Here at The Stage Coach it sits, nearly forgotten, waiting to be saved from the scrap heap.

“Get down tonight”

When college student Alexander Brown makes the trip from Richmond to home in Gloucester he makes time to look for classic vinyl albums at Daisy Lane Books. “It’s an excellent find, with excellent prices.”

From shelves and boxes Alexander adds to his album collection, Dean Martin, Elvis, Glen Campbell, KC and the Sunshine Band, AC/DC, Luther Vandross and Sinatra, to name a few. “This music is timeless,” said Alexander, who dances with his 94-year-old grandmother to big band music.

Perhaps in the back of his mind is the hope of finding rare albums. One thing is for sure, vinyl albums are getting rarer every day.

Daisy Lane owner Lynda Weston, a Deltaville native, recalls when 45 rpm records were used as Frisbees. She has been at The Stage Coach for 8 years selling books, 33 1/3 and 78 rpm albums, 8-track tapes, cassette tapes, 45s and lots of books, including pre-1970 books.

Little picker

‘You never know… what’s around the corner’
“It Is What It Is” is a boutique, selling ladies clothes, jewelry, shoes, and some “high-end” cast pots and pans, as well as man cave items.

Six-year-old Branson Detwiler and his grandfather had a hard time choosing which Hot Wheels cars to get at MGBoo Treasures.

Branson has been collecting three years and has about 350 toy cars. “The prices are very fair,” said his grandmother Lori.

Shop owner Mary Whitaker replied, “I got them for a good price, so I pass the savings on.”

Almost home

A trip to The Stage Coach will be winding down by mid-afternoon. The time to be there is in the morning.

But before leaving, this visitor went looking for the legendary “Peter Wright” anvil he’d been told of. In Regis’ Emporium was a full size anvil that was made in England in the 1890s, explained Regis. The hardened steel work surface is dished a little and marked from a century of being hammered on to form metal.

“This one rings good.” And so does The Stage Coach Antique Market—and its only at the Rivah.


Wandering and wondering

The Stage Coach Antique Market is located at a former sawmill site on Route 17 in Gloucester, explained Randy Holland, whose father Harris Holland started the market.

The sawmill had four modest houses for sawmill workers.

Harris started what would become a buy-sell-trade market place in 1976. “The people have made it what it is,” Randy said. Randy and wife Holli, together with his brother Mike Holland and his wife Cindy, own The Stage Coach Antique Market, which is open year around.

Sellers can rent tables for $10 on Saturdays. Sundays are busier and tables are $15 or two for $25. Reserve your table at 693-3951.

Randy spends his time managing shops and casting concrete lawn ornaments.

The idea for The Stage Coach name came from childhood when Randy’s sister got a stage coach bed.

Find out what it’s all about at 6053 George Washington Memorial Highway.

It’s big enough to keep you wandering, and wondering.