From time-to-time I like to highlight the amazing and wonderful vendors who help make the Staunton Antiques Center (SAC) not just another antique mall, but rather a community of curators, makers, and finders who, together, are more than any of us would be on our own.
You can see a couple of my earlier posts on our vendors here:
Vendors Make Us Great
Today, however, I want to celebrate a Staunton Antiques Center old-timer, one who’s been with us for a long while and whose content is always exciting, unique, local, and prolific (he’s got a LOT of stuff to see.)
It’s Stuart, the man with the huge collection of license plates, glass bottles, posters and collectibles of all kinds, with a special focus on Civil War and 19th century paper ephemera, Virginia and Shenandoah Valley books (among others), lots of belt buckles, fur hides, salt pottery jars, brass ware, old postcards and, oh, you name it and Stuart probably has it.
But rather than listing an inventory, I sat down with Stuart to pick his brain on what makes him an “antique nut” (like the rest of us). So let’s let him tell his story.
Stuart’s Multiple Booths
Ellen: So tell us, Stuart, How did you get into buying and selling antiques?
Stuart: My wife and I lived in an 1840s log cabin for 10 years before moving to an 1890 farmhouse. We would visit local antique shops and fairs and accumulated a number old wood tool boxes, advertising, bottles, and pottery over the years. We began running out of horizontal space at home and were discussing how to cut back.
I often would stop at Dusty’s Antique Store in Mt Sidney (now closed) and one day noticed that they had a booth available.
When I got home I suggested to my wife, a potter by profession, that it might be a good place to sell her pottery and some of our surplus antiques. We set up the booth and it turned out that the items from home sold well, but the pottery didn’t do as well. I ended up with the entire booth and began hunting items to sell at local auctions.
I was bitten by the antique “bug.”
Ultimately I opened a booth at a mall in Harrisonburg and then one (and now several) in Staunton. I currently have booths at the Factory Antique Mall and Verona Antiques in addition to the ones at The Staunton Antique Center. You can find my booths at SAC by the code “SLP.” There’s one very near the front of the shop, and then another one filled with books and other items at the back of the shop against the far wall.
Ellen: I know I love the hunt, finding things that I think are just delightful and that I think shoppers will love discovering. What’s your favorite part of being in this industry and why?
Stuart: I definitely enjoy the hunt for cool items to sell. I routinely stop by yard and estate sales, auctions, as well as shops and antique fairs looking for “treasure.” This business is also very educational as I research items I buy and learn more about them. Certainly I feel good about items when they sell, some quickly and some years later.
Ellen: I agree — researching what I find is something wonderful to me, too, because I learn so much and I think it helps when we can pass that information on to our shoppers by including it on a sign or on the item’s tag.
So, what are your favorite things to find and sell and why?
Stuart: I prefer local items, things that actually have a label from Staunton, or Waynesboro, or somewhere else with a proven local connection to the Shenandoah Valley. Things like bottles, books, pottery, folk art, and railroad items. I have a lot of experience selling these items and have a comfort level with their value. But if you visit my booths you will find everything from belt buckles to Barbies and Longaberger baskets to NASCAR racing jackets.
Ellen: And what about that feeling that you can’t part with something, that that thing is JUST for you. Are there any things that you find that you don’t sell because you want to keep them for yourself/your own collections? If so, what, and why are you passionate about that thing?
Stuart: I buy items that I like and that I think I can sell for a profit. I do personally collect carved decoys, veterinary bottles and Inuit (eskimo) soapstone carvings. I’ve run out of horizontal space at home so I bring my spillover to my booths.
Ellen: I know what that’s like — there’s so much interesting stuff in the world. We have to self-edit or our homes would be overrun (and our spouses would kick us out!)
See some of Stuart’s booths at Staunton Antiques Center in this gallery:
Ellen: So who is this purveyor of wisdom offering all his insights on antiques? What’s your background?
Stuart: Well, I’m Stuart Porter, 71, and raised in suburbs of Philadelphia. I’ve got a Bachelor of Science from Washington and Lee University and a Veterinary Medical Doctor degree from the University of Pennsylvania. I live in Fort Defiance and I’ve got an antiques addiction!
Ellen: And that brings me to this — Have you always been in this business? If not, what did you do before antique selling?
Stuart: Before I got into the antique business I was a veterinarian working in the Blue Ridge Community College Veterinary Technician program. I taught there for 37 years. I also co-founded the Wildlife Center of Virginia and worked there for 12 years.
I opened my first antique booth while I was still working because all I didn’t have to be there, in the booth itself. All I had to do was keep it stocked and they sold my items.
Ellen: We get so many questions from shoppers about items, about their history, even about what to look for. What do you think antique buyers should know when they come shopping in antique stores* — what advice would you give?
Stuart: Most of the customers I speak with at the various antique malls are not looking for anything in particular. When they see something they like or that provokes a pleasant memory they buy it. Some come looking for a particular piece of furniture or tool or glassware. In either case you need to spend the time to look around, high and low.
Some booths are messier than others and the treasures may be buried. Also take time to look in the glass cases as they often contain some real gems.
Ellen: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Stuart: The time to buy it is when you see it.
Ellen: I know — I learned the hard way not to hope it will “still be there” when you go back. Now, you might find something else when you go back, so you should go back, but if you love it, get it right then!
Thank you Stuart for your wisdom and insight, for your amazing collection of local items and really one-of-a-kind other items. Thanks for keeping your booth stocked full of wonders and for helping to make the Staunton Antiques Center as wonderful as it is!
And I’d also like to add that Stuart’s wife Terri is a regular artist at our upstairs art gallery The Artisans Loft, which is a much better venue for her fabulous pottery to be seen than mixed in with Stuart’s antique treasures.
Come See For Yourself
Thank you readers for visiting the blog and taking this journey across time with us, for helping to “keep it green” by buying things that already exist instead of asking more from the industrial economy, and thank you for being our customers, our friends, and our neighbors — it’s what makes a community something meaningful and worth treasuring!
— Ellen Boden, Proprietress, Staunton Antiques Center
*For more insight into antiques shopping, download my FREE e-book guide to shopping antiques in our region: