Blue Water antique shops offer array of treasures

Check out this "local" decor piece at Back Porch Antiques.

While researching antique shops in the Blue Water region, I discovered a whole new world filled with people who live to find one-of-a-kind items, like a real-life treasure hunt. Antiquers from all over the Midwest know M-29 as the road to antique shops. It is part of an annual 150+ mile Antique Yard Sale Trail in August.

The special part is that each shop, although categorized similarly, has its own personality and unique items. You might think there would be competition, but instead, the owners have a strong comradery, often referring customers to other stores if they do not have a specific request. Every owner stays in the business for his or her own reason. Some solely sell antiques, but others also display newer finds. Either way, customers are left with a very personal shopping experience.

If you're looking for something vintage, the Blue Water region is the place to explore. If you are not a huge vintage shopper, give it a try! With such a huge selection, you will find something you love. Here are just a sampling of shops you can find in the Blue Water area.

Algonac Antique Mall and Trade Center
1030 Saint Clair River Dr., Algonac
Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Eleven years ago, this 8,000-square-foot space opened as a self-storage spot, but the owner was having a tough time filling upA variety of unique items are available at Algonac Trade Center the units. He was convinced to open some of them as vendor spaces, and both endeavors are now successful.
The antique mall and trade center essentially merged, so you'll find a little bit of everything new and old as you walk through.

Over 25 vendors display nautical items, vintage books, rustic decorations, and more. Manager Ann Kereazes does require dealers who label themselves specifically "antique" have at least 80 percent antique items.

Who comes to peruse these items? Kereazes says plenty of customers come from Canada, stop by while camping at Algonac State Park, and are locals who visit regularly. Algonac is a great starting point for antiquers traveling up M-29 who can hit Marine City, East China, St. Clair, and Port Huron as they move north.

"It's an eclectic group. The people who are into it are INTO it. They love flea markets and antique stores. That's how they'll spend their Sundays," Kereazes says.

It's not only beneficial for shoppers; it's helpful for vendors, too.
AAM&TC vendor Sandy Eads Barks started out selling her handmade jewelry there over 10 years ago with one booth and now has three.

"I love being a vendor. It is a creative outlet for me, and us girls like to have fun!" she says.

Almost all of the stores listed here are a short walk to beautiful water. Kereazes says she can see the St. Clair River from her desk.

"I love being so close to the water. That never gets tiring for me," she says.
Algonac interesting item: stuffed jackalope, record players

Avoca Antiques
8878 Avoca Road, Avoca
Every third Saturday and Sunday of the month, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

A vintage soda machine find at Avoca Antiques. Vintage items are always changing. For Carol Walsh, who owns Avoca Antiques, vintage means the 1950s and 1960s. To her daughter, who runs the shop with her, they're from the 1970s and 1980s. Shop owners have to keep up with the time frames and ages of customers.

Avoca Antiques perfects this. It has a large variety of antiques and vintage items, all hand-picked by the duo.

"You're always looking for that next great find. It's like a big scavenger hunt," Walsh says.

The constantly rotating stock boasts local memorabilia, household items, books, military pieces, a fenced in backyard with garden decor in the summer, and more. Vintage Christmas items are displayed year-round.

The vintage items are housed in a 120-to-140-year-old building. It was originally a bank, then a post office, and another antique shop, among other businesses before Walsh bought it eight years ago. She had bought and sold antiques long before that and loves being the one to run the sales. When asked about the cons or challenges of the business, she almost couldn't come up with an answer before quickly giving a vague one about finding good items at a fair price.

Walsh says nostalgia plays a huge role in vintage shopping. Even people who normally don't go antiquing will see something their mom or grandma had in the kitchen growing up, and it sparks a pleasant memory.

"I always tell people that if they look at something and it makes them smile, they should get it," Walsh explains.
Avoca interesting item: Canada Dry pop machine (back when 12-ounce cans were only 15 cents), vintage Christmas items

Back Porch Antiques
550 Broadway St., Marine City
Open daily, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

Bob Ahee got into the world of antiques when he met his wife, Janice, 15 years ago. They started a successful online store sellingAntique enthusiasts can find many great pieces, like this projector at Back Porch Antiques. primitive crafts, then went on to sell antique finds online. Customers didn't like that they couldn't look at and feel the antiques, so they sold on their back porch instead. Ahee then became a vendor selling primitives (that means really old, well before mass production) at the Marine City Antique Mall and learned the business from its owner at the time, Jim Holder. Eventually, the Ahees opened their own store. After being in business for nine years, this has been their most successful one yet.

"I have 20 vendors, and each one is unique. Everybody has something different," the business owner says.

Part of that success is on account of Ahee being privy to the changing mindset people have about antiques, particularly younger generations. Plenty of people love antiquing, but plenty of others think it is, "old, musty, and expensive," as he says.

He shared a story about a young couple that came into the store and claimed they didn't like antiques, but after walking through and realizing that's what they were looking at, they loved it.

Ahee says using words other than "antique" to describe items can be helpful in bringing about open-mindedness. His store is about 60 percent vintage now and 40 percent antiques.

If this is all new to you, antiques are older than vintage. Things only need to be 20 years old to be considered vintage, and though there is some debate among the community, antiques should be 50 years old minimum, though 100 is more generally accepted.

There are many sure sellers, and Ahee says the market is always changing and growing.

"The 1800s stuff, wood, is still going because the younger generations like mixing metal and wood together, and the primitives look good with accents," Ahee explains. "You might have a house full of 1950s furniture and then one piece from the 1800s."

A benefit of selling vintage and antiques, he says, is that the stores don't have to rely on local shoppers. One customer of Back Porch Vintage drove 17 hours from out-of-state just to pick up a cabinet.

Among the thoughtfully displayed objects and Marine City collectibles that decorate Back Porch Antiques, there's a nice surprise that immediately makes you feel like a kid again. Back Porch Antiques has a little area called The Candy Jar, a general store set-up specializing in nostalgic candy that is set in glass jars and sold by the quarter pound. Ahee opened it after the party store neighboring him closed, and local children lost their candy spot.

BPA interesting item: About a year ago, Ahee bought a $40,000-$50,000 collection of advertising stoneware that quickly sold. He has seen some furniture items he has sold at museums.

Everything Classic Antiques
315 Huron Ave., Port Huron
Sunday, Noon-6 p.m.; Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

Everything Classic Antiques offers plenty of pieces to add the perfect touch. Are you looking to decorate your loft? This place has everything you could imagine and more. The late 1800s building was once a J. C. Penney, so longtime employee Sherrie Demeniuk says, "It's like a vintage department store now."

It hosts booths from 53 vendors and consignments from about 600 people. Demeniuk estimates that there are at least a million items to shop for, like paintings, ceramics, glassware, appliances, and furniture. Although most is old, she says there is a mix of old and new.

Customers spend hours perusing thousands of square feet, and they will soon be able to enjoy a resale clothing space in the basement, which is slated for April.

ECA opened in July 2012 right in the middle of downtown Port Huron. They see a 50/50 mix of locals and out-of-towners, many from neighboring Canada.

"When you go north into The Thumb, you'll find the small shops, so we're kind of a gateway for the Thumb," Demeniuk says. "People come here and then ask where else they can go once they're up here."

EC interesting item: Chickering piano
Demeniuk also has a summertime shop in Croswell, about an hour away from ECA, called Manor House Vintage Boutique.

Marine City Antique Mall
105 Fairbanks St., Marine City
Sunday, 1-5 p.m.; Closed Monday; Tuesday- Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

For a very authentic antique experience, taking it back to the roots, head to Marine City Antique Mall. The shop started in theLooking to change up your dining space? Shops like Marine City Antique Mall offer dining sets like this. 1970s under a different name and is now owned by one of the original vendors, George Kunnath, with help from manager Donna Eddington.

Marine City residents may remember when it was called Jan's Antiques and Jim's Too just a few years ago.
Stop by and browse through three floors with 16 vendors while 1940s music sets the tone in the background. Kunnath insists MCAM isn't a flea market or gift shop, so you'll be surrounded by antiques and collectibles.

He says most of the items selling right now are smaller collectibles, things that are easy to carry. Although furniture doesn't sell quite as much as it used to, Kunnath says it doesn't get better than well-built antique furniture.

He is on the hunt for a hutch himself, something he hopes to pay $400-$500 for. He says he would pay over $1,000 more than that at a commercial chain for a much lower quality piece.

"Some of these (antique pieces of furniture), even the chests, you need two people to lift because they're made of heavy oak or another sturdy material," Kunnath says.

The high volume of antique shops draws out-of-towners to Marine City. It has become a hub for those who spend their time buying and selling.

"In Marine City, they're looking for antiques or collectibles, and they come here where there are a dozen shops (approximately) instead of just finding one off on the side of the road," Kunnath says. "People say they come here because there's a lot of choice, a lot of variety."

MCAM interesting item: Kunnath's barber chair from around the 1940s. The brown chair has a swinging seat off to the side where the barber could sit, a piece across the top so kids can sit, and a razor strap hanging off of one end.

Red Barn Vintage Market
4950 King Rd., East China
Sunday, Noon-5 p.m.; Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Also has a booth at Grand Trunk Marketplace

Red Barn Vintage Market is different than the other selected stores. The barn between Marine City and Port Huron is not an antique store or mall, but it has plenty of antiques.

Want to remember the good old days of typewriters? You might be able to find one at Red Barn Vintage Market Owner Robert Ring is a picker who goes to estate buyouts, barn cleanups, and farm auctions. What he finds there, he sells at RBVM as architectural salvage with help from his wife, Conni.

"We're not a higher end store. We're more or less a fun place to go kick back and dig through bins. You can touch everything we sell," owner Robert Ring says.

He sells a huge variety of items, a good mix of country and industrial, from car parts to farm windows (over 150 of them), lighting to older tools and vintage hardware.

Although it is open to the public, this spot is more of a wholesale place where other stores pick up their items.

Ring has seen an increase in artists and DIYers stopping in over the last few years, too, and he encourages people to turn what they buy into something else and post it on Friends of the Red Barn Vintage Market.

"Some vendors do not like the idea of repainting something older. If you buy something from me, I don't care what you do with it. I hope you have fun with it!" Ring says, noting that he understands why some owners do not feel the same way.

He claims Flea Market Flip and Joanna Gaines are the inspiration for many of his customers searching for a shabby-chic look. They make headboards, jewelry holders, picture frames, blanket ladders, and more with the help of Pinterest.

Ring buys in bulk in order to sell cheaper. A few weeks ago, Ring got a call about wooden doors at a house in St. Clair, but he ended up with three truckloads of items. That sums up Ring's genuine passion, even after starting RBVM over 10 years ago.

He excitedly talks about the enjoyment he gets out of the challenge of finding items. Somebody will say there's junk in a corner of an estate, but he'll discover treasures buried underneath it.

"To me, the fun is when you take the boxes back to the barn and get a chance to go through them. It's like Christmas every day," Ring says.

RBVM interesting item:Macomb Daily/Oakland Press newspaper boxes

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