Antiques on Elm has everything you never knew you were looking for

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Celebrating the start of their10th year in business this week are, from left, Monica Riley, Marti Steiner Jones and Lita Hogan, of Antiques on Elm. Photo/Carol Robidoux

MANCHESTER, NH – In an unassuming brick-front building on Elm Street there exists a repository for anything and everything you can imagine. Based on its name, Antiques on Elm may technically sum up the contents of the shop, but the only way to really appreciate the spirit of this place is to step inside.

On a recent Sunday I did just that. It was my first-ever visit, something owner Marti Steiner Jones says she hears a lot.  Jones, who operates the shop seven days a week along with co-owners Lita Hogan and Monica Riley, invited me to see what I’ve been missing in advance of the start of their 10th year anniversary, which is April 1.

Someone call Chuck Stergiou at the Rex Theatre – he needs these posters. Photo/Carol Robidoux

The first thing that surprised me was the steady stream of antiquity aficionados coming through the door, some of them told me they were on the hunt for specific treasure, while others – many of them regulars – were there to see what was “new” in a world of other people’s old stuff.

“New” items come in all the time, says Jones, which is sort of the irony of a place where nothing and everything is new, depending on what you’re looking for and what day it is.

John Smith, a former vendor, still comes looking for good stuff. He scored this table for $37. Photo/Carol Robidoux

One such regular was John Smith of Mass., a former vendor who got into the habit of stopping into the shop while visiting his daughter, a student at the Institute of Art in Manchester.

He looks for fishing stuff and general items that catch his fancy. His parents were antique dealers, which he figures is why he loves them, too.

We found Smith at Vendor booth #66, after I followed Jones from the front of the shop only to discover there is way more to the store’s footprint than meets the eye – 10,000-square-feet, to be exact. Jones explains that they took over the space next door previously owned by Marklynn Pools when they moved out, allowing them to expand the current 97 vendor booths. There’s very little turnover, says Jones – once a vendor comes on, they tend to stick around.

“They have good vendors here. They’re always changing things up,” says Smith, while in the midst of negotiating a deal on a small table with Jones, who was on the phone with the vendor. They settle on $37.

Denise Monaghan discovered a lot to love on her first trip to Antiques on Elm. ‘I’l be back,” she said. Photo/Carol Robidoux

A few booths away Denise Monaghan is looking at some glass bottles. Like me, this is Monaghan’s first time in the store. As a lifelong resident of Manchester, she wonders out loud what took her so long.

“I got up this morning and it was so nice out, I wanted to do something adventurous, so I called my sister and we thought this might be a good idea,” she says. Monaghan used to go antiquing with her husband, who’s been gone six years now. She owns a 19th-century home in Manchester and loves to find collectibles that fit the era, mainly furniture, bottles and ink wells.

But she’s open to anything.

“There’s a lot to take in, a lot of memories here,” she says. “I saw a couple of pieces I like, Depression-era glass. My first thought when I walked in the door was that I can’t wait to tell my friends about it. I’ll definitely be back.”

George and Theresa Briand of Hudson are here for local memorabilia. Theresa is kneeling on the floor to get a closer look inside boxes filled with bottle openers.

They’re regulars, says Jones. Mainly bottles and crates – and related items.

“I only get the ones I don’t already have,” says Theresa, holding up a simple-looking metal 7-Up bottle-opener that has caught her eye.

George and Theresa Briand know what they’re looking for – items to resell for their retirement fund. Photo/Carol Robidoux

A 7-Up bottle opener was the catch of the day for Theresa Briand. Photo/Carol Robidoux

George Briand can’t get enough of the old wooden soda bottle crates. Photo/Carol Robidoux

“We come maybe three, four times a month – almost every weekend,” says George. We look for things that we can resell and eventually use as our retirement.”

Jones knows George loves the old wooden soda crates from the former Cotts bottling plant in Manchester, and points to one that’s part of the front window display.

“I probably have 100 crates I’ve been collecting over the past three years,” says George, who also frequents flea markets and auctions to hunt for treasure.

Mike Frawley, 32, of Hooksett is ready to check out his pile of goodies. He’s a regular and also a reseller who comes looking for vintage toys.

Mike Frawley comes often to look for vintage toys. Photo/Carol Robidoux

Mike Frawleys’ take – a Transformer, and other items he will resell. Photo/Carol Robidoux

“It’s more about the hunt for me,” he says, showing off a blue transformer among other items he has scored. “Anything ET-related, I keep. There are a lot of memories here.”

After talking to a few more people I feel the need to go rogue and take a closer look at the various items.

Talk about flashbacks – I spot a familar Barbie case from my childhood, circa 1965. There’s a dome-shaped metal ice bucket embossed with penguins, an exact replica of one my parents owned, sitting on a table next to a glass with swirly vinyl that looks just like one from my 1970s kitchen. It’s easy to get lost in the nostalgia – from Golden Books and McCall’s dress patterns to rotary telephones, old radios, costume jewelry and abandoned old photographs.

This penguin-embossed ice bucket gave me flashbacks. Photo/Carol Robidoux

There are some lovely furniture pieces, lots of old vinyl records, and plenty of items that are New Hampshire-made.

I think to myself that for all the people who say we need more retail shops on Elm Street, I’m willing to bet they have yet to step into this place. It’s like a giant timeless department store filled with everything you never knew you were looking for.

Need a 1933 Ford Truck grill? Been looking for a three-foot-tall Sam Adams beer stein? A vintage Forecast luggage set? A gold-tone 1960s reclining chaise? A 1940s muton fur coat? Check, check, check, check, and check.

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Need a 1933 Ford Truck grill? Been looking for a three-foot-tall Sam Adams beer stein? A vintage Forecast luggage set? A gold-tone 1960s reclining chaise? A 1940s muton fur coat? Check, check, check, check, and check.

Joanna Aiken of Epping has been a vendor at Antiques on Elm along with Dan Thibeault for about a year and a half now.

“I love it, I love the ladies who run it, and I love the customers,” says Aiken, who describes her booth as eclectic. “We’re both collectors, so our shop is pretty much whatever we want to let go of.”

She says her love of antiques goes back farther than she can remember.

Joanna Aiken, left, and Dan Thibeault setting up their vendor booth at Antiques on Elm. Photo/Carol Robidoux

“Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been attracted to them. We had an antique clock from the 1700s one of our ancestors built from applewood, and when I was little I would sneak up to get the skeleton key and open the cabinet just so I could smell it. I’ve always been obsessed with old things,” says Aiken, who lives in the house her dad built. “I bought it from them and kept most of the antiques they had, and I just keep filling it.”

Monica Riley looks for markings on a piece of jewelry brought in by a seller. Photo/Carol Robidoux

It’s no surprise that Jones, Hogan and Riley are all antique-lovers as well – each with their own niche. Jones, whose passion is old cameras and early photography, is the original owner who took over the place on April 1, 2012. Hogan, whose mother was an antique collector, says it’s a bit like being a history detective.

“I used to tag along with my mother when I was young, begrudgingly, but now I get it,” says Hogan, who likes primitive items, old boxes and tins.

Riley favors Victorian-era antiques, and says she recently went from working full-time to part-time at her day job so she could spend more time at the shop.

“For me it was a hobby that became my passion,” Hogan says.

Below: Slideshow of a fraction of the finds at Antiques on Elm

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They have gotten to know their regulars by the things they love – the book guy, the clothing lady, the Pyrex people.

Doreen Koor of Salem has come to sift through a box of silverware. She is an artist and loves the variety of items she can find at antique shops to use in her still-life paintings. “He indulges me in my hunting expeditions,” she said, smiling in the direction of her husband. As she digs deeper, something catches his attention and they are momentarily lost – like everyone else here – in a time machine designed to revive old memories and keep you coming back for more.

Antiques on Elm is located at 321 Elm St. in Manchester. They are having an anniversary sale on April 8–11. Click here for more information.

Antiques on Elm will celebrate their 10th year in business on Elm Street April 1 with an anniversary sale from April 8-11. Photo/Carol Robidoux




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