Story and photos by Tom Barr and John Hamilton
Story and photos by Tom Barr and John Hamilton
‘Tis the season to be thinking outside the (big) box.
And even outside the Amazon and the eBay.
Small shops in Ohio communities offer a wealth of unique items that you can actually pick up and look at to ensure that your Christmas gift is unique as well as fitting for your gift recipient.
“For me, shopping at a small shop vs. going to Walmart or Amazon or whatever, it’s the uniqueness of items that we carry,” said Joni Palmer, who with husband Brad owns Alma’s Attic in Wilmington.
“I always think it’s neat for people to be able to support local businesses,” she said. “We order from different suppliers than the large retailers do, so it’s a different line of goods that we carry. And also we can do personalization more than the large retailers can.
“I carry quilts and curtains; I only carry a small sampling but I can special order if you are looking for something else. I can put together gift baskets — it’s a more personal shopping experience.”
Alma’s Attic offers a wealth of antiques and vintage items to new items and home decor, and makes the shopping experience an easy one.
“We’re not an antique mall, so we don’t have separate booths set up for vendors; it’s all ours,” said Joni. “So instead of having little booths where you find the same item scattered throughout the store, we’re able to categorize, so I have a section of advertising at the front, I have toys all grouped together on one wall, I have glassware grouped together on another wall … so just a little bit different shopping experience than you find at most antique stores.”
Alma’s Attic — which is larger than it may appear from the outside — also features a permanent Christmas room.
“We carry Christmas year-round and we have a room that’s a combination of vintage and new Christmas items,” she said, “and as we get closer to the holidays we expand into the main part of the store and carry even more items.
Ironically, it’s the “big box” corporate world that led the Palmers to starting Alma’s Attic less than two year ago.
“It’s a classic case of one door closing and another opening,” said Joni. “When corporate restructuring brought my retail management career of over 20 years to a close, Brad and I began to discuss which direction I should take for the future.
“We both have an interest in antiques, and for several years had rented booth space in antique stores as a hobby, so making that a full-time pursuit became a possibility. As we gravitated to that option, we began discussing locations, and it struck me that Clinton County had a shortage of antique stores.
“Many people prefer to dedicate an entire day when they go ‘antiquing,’ so we felt that the lack of shops in the area was contributing to people traveling to Lebanon, Waynesville, Springfield and other locations instead of shopping locally,” she said.
She said that just in the first year since Alma’s Attic opened, “at least two additional antique shops have opened in Wilmington, and I hope to see even more. I would love to see Wilmington become known as a destination location for antique shopping!”
Alma’s Attic offers furniture, lighting, advertising, glassware, wall art, books, clothing, toys, and much, much more as well as gifts and home décor with a primitive or country theme including lighting, quilts, throws, pillows, wreaths, wall décor, Crossroads Candles, Swan Creek Candles, Candles by Jackie, Yoder’s jams and jellies, Windy Acres candy, goat milk soaps and lotions, greeting cards, dish towels, rugs, curtains, and more.
The store is open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday.
At Sugartree Mill (formerly Shops at the Old Mill), Owner Diane Dell and General Manager Isaac Dell believe the rich history of the building is one factor in pulling in shoppers.
“This was a big spot for all the farmers,” said Isaac. “Having been built in the late 1800s, there’s a lot of history in the grain industry.”
For about 30 years, before the Dells came into ownership in the past year, the location had mostly been an antique shop and shared its location with For a Song and a Story at one point. Now the facility offers both the old and the new.
“Whether it’s antiques that have a lot of history to them or newer goods, the store provides a good variety,” said Isaac.
It’s the combination of old and new that Diane thinks makes the spot so unique.
“It’s a combination of antiques your grandma would have, but we also have newer items,” said Diane.
An outing in the store could include browsing lamps, old toys, books, old glass pop bottles, grandfather clocks, John Wayne memorabilia, books about Quakerism, kitchen appliances, old tools, candles, home decor, plate sets and music albums from movie soundtracks to John Denver and Beverly Sills to Harry Belafonte.
But even if a visitor doesn’t find the exact item they were looking for, the Dells hope the inviting atmosphere and the fun of looking around will make it a worthwhile visit — and Christmas shoppers may just find a unique hidden gem.
Which to them makes shopping at local spots all the more enjoyable.