By Elizabeth Granger / Photos: Richmond Wayne County Convention & Visitors Bureau
As manager of The Antique Lodge in Cambridge City, he welcomed the Stanley Pottery blue float platter that came to his shop.
As antique lover, he immediately bought it.
It shows why eastern Indiana’s Wayne County, known as Indiana’s Antique Alley, is so successful: knowledgeable dealers with a passion for their profession. For decades Centerville ruled the antiques scene, but Cambridge City, nine miles to the west, is the now darling of the antiques world. Today’s shops are bright, clean and spacious with items displayed in charming vignettes that look like home settings. Some pieces sell for hundreds—even thousands—of dollars, others for just a couple bucks.
Adkins says farmhouse items are super popular now, along with utility pieces that are usable – think washtubs, churns, dough bowls, ice crushers. Also, vintage items, jewelry, mid-century modern, repurposed items with an industrial look. “Young people just love this,” he says.
In his reverse auction, Adkins marks everything in a special section down by 10 percent every Monday morning. Eventually everything sells. There’s also a Christmas section all year long. And free popcorn. While some antique stores own the merchandise, many work by offering space to individual vendors who set up their own displays and decide prices. The store provides the location and takes care of shoppers. Some stores do both.
Beth Leisure’s National Road Antique Mall has been in Cambridge City for 20 years, longer than any others. About 90 vendors set up their wares in her mall. “I have something for everyone,” she says, because “almost everybody collects something.” Items range from post cards to kitchenware to glassware to furniture to tools to signs. Repurposed items are big. “One thing we sell on a regular basis is ladders,” she adds—to display quilts, etc.
People coming from away “don’t even believe our prices,” Leisure says. It means Antique Alley sells to dealers, who come with huge trucks and fill them, as well as to individual shoppers looking for one or two items.
Doug Price of High Hats Antique Mall says dealers call eastern Indiana their “honey pot.”
“We attract people from coast to coast,” he says. “Probably 50 percent of our customers are dealers who buy their inventory here to take back to their home towns for resale.”
Price moved from Richmond to Cambridge City’s former Sam Hoshour drugstore in 2016. He says Cambridge City is known nationally for its higher-end primitives. “They’re the number-one draw here,” he says. “People tend to collect what their grandparents had.”
Building 125 is actually four separate and very spacious buildings open from one to another inside. It has both antiques and reproductions in furniture, primitives, and quilts, plus small items that include note cards, linens, and candles. “I just want to attract a little bit of everybody,” says owner Norma Bertsch.
Wheeler’s Antiques in Centerville started the local antique craze in 1970. “My husband and I both liked antiques and the house got too full, so it was time to open shop,” says owner Sue Wheeler. A widow, she now shares the business with her son, Scott. “We like to find something unusual, something you don’t see just everywhere. I tried to pare down but I love finding and I love buying.”
The business has always had two buildings across the street from one another. Sue Wheeler handles the shop with glassware, paintings, and other more delicate items. Bigger items that include toys, signs, and furniture are in the other building, which Scott Wheeler runs. “My dad’s theory was that if one side of the street burned down, we’d still open up the next day,” he says.
Centerville is also home to the Centerville Antique Mall, formerly Webb’s. It’s the largest facility along Antique Alley with merchandise from many vendors ranging from huge tractors to small pieces of jewelry.
And then there’s Miss Bessie Buhl’s Eclectic Gardens. Larry Stone and his sister, Donna Lipps, have filled their yard, porches, and a shed with colorful, quirky finds as well as items created by Stone. The idea was to have a few items but, he says, things got carried away.
The business is named after Bessie Buhl, who owned the house and was a local minister for a Methodist Church in the early 1900s. She was known to be quite a character, and supposedly her spirit remains.
“They always think I’m Bessie,” Lipps says.
The duo would like to add a small café. It would complement other new eateries along U.S. 40. Cinnamon Spice Bakery, on the west edge of Centerville, is a perfect breakfast stop for coffee and doughnuts or other pastries. Apple fritters are the best sellers; in the fall, pumpkin fritters. There’s a small dining area where customers can sit at tables.
Lumpy’s Café in Cambridge City is open until 2 p.m. Its tenderloin sandwich gets rave reviews. A mid-day treat— ice cream, perhaps—is available at Main Street Sweets in Cambridge City. As for meals, Cambridge City’s No. 9 Grille boasts of great steaks, burgers and other proteins.
Centerville’s Ugly Mugs is all about craft beer and bar food. Owner Steve Terzini says the number-one menu item is loaded tater tots. Also popular are burgers, flatbreads, wraps, and pizzas.
As for lodging, the Inn at High Hats, above the antique store in Cambridge City, is a cozy apartment that sleeps four.
The Centerville Guest House is an entire house—an 1830s federal style home furnished with primitive antiques, right on U.S. 40. Popular for not only couples and business travelers but also girlfriends’ getaways.
For more information go to www.visitrichmond.org.