August 7, 2012

Road Trip: Antiquing in North Carolina

On our road trip down to Asheville over the weekend, we decided to take the long route down so we could stop as we pleased at antique shops along the way. We love getting the chance to visit antique shops when we travel, because we always find unique bits of history to that locale — sometimes you will find much more of one type of thing versus another just depending on what region you're in. For example, on our way down to North Carolina, you may notice we saw much much more tobacco and cigarette related antiques since the area is known well for its tobacco fields.

Well, we ended up stopping at 5 places when it came down to it and it would have been even more, but not all of the ones we pulled off to pop into were open on Thursdays, let alone before noon (when we travel, we like to get up and go). Because we did get a chance to take so many "antique breaks" during the trip, we figured we'd just give our picking adventures a post of their own to remember the good, the bad and the finds that got away. In the end, we brought back 3 new-to-us vintage treasures to RVA which you can find at the end of the post, but took a look at much, much more along the way...

We passed by about 4 places as we made our way through VA, alas none were open, so the first place we stopped at for real was this Antiques and Furniture mall in Greensboro, NC.

Walking in, the parking lot signs seemed promising:

Tim and I love antique malls over smaller specialty antique shops — they have a lot of variety and you just never know what you might find. This place was huge...

We saw lots of larger pieces we loved but didn't leave with due to space and wallet constraints like:
  • The big marquee star sign we thought would look great hanging on the wall as a statement piece.
  • The antique wooden cart — these are so popular refurbished as coffee tables.
  • We thought that tall blue trunk would be fun to replace the one we have under our TV in our family room right now or just at the foot of one of the beds upstairs.
  • Loved the tall industrial stool, and thought if there had been 3 of them they'd be perfect at the bar in our kitchen.

Tim found this and other metal boxes he thought might make a good outdoor mailbox stand-in. Right now, we have a mail slot on our front door and Basil literally goes crazy every time the mail carrier comes, so we've been trying to think of alternatives to the slot — a vintage box like this could be pretty cool, no?

This antique shop had rows of vintage hardware supplies — knobs, pulls, hinges and more. We loved all the colors and options available and thought they'd give a modern furniture re-do a nostalgic update.

We didn't leave with anything from the first place, but hit the road again and found ourselves stopping into 2 different antique shops just before we got to Hickory, NC. This was the first shop we stopped in:

We didn't leave this shop empty handed, but you'll have to wait until the bottom of this post (unless you scroll down right now) to find out what we scored here. Hint, there were 2 of them and they are porcelain.

After packing up our finds in the car, we headed down the street a bit to this second place, which was a much larger mall type antique shop:

This mall was carefully curated with lots of unique finds including a collection of pedal cars, like this little tractor:

I thought that tractor could be so cute in a kids' room. I also came across this manual "non electric" door bell that would need to be installed right through the front door — I thought something like this could be cool for our house down the road, but we didn't end up leaving with it (even though it claimed that it could "install in minutes").

We did, however, leave that place with two more finds that are also waiting for their time to shine down at the bottom of this post.

Once in Hickory, we called it a day on antiquing until we hit the road again the next morning. Between Hickory, NC and Asheville, NC, we happened upon this little antique mall and combined winery called The Old Mill Antiques. It was a little off the beaten path, but had a lot of unique finds:

This place had a lot more "mantiques" (manly antiques) like this big collection of axes — which I thought could look cool as a smaller collection up on a wall or in a man cave:

  • We also liked this green glass ashtray Tim came across, but some of the glass was broken.
  • There were tons of crates filled with entire bottle collections, which we've always had a hard time finding before — some of the displays were pretty impressive.
  • If we'd had a truck, we would have left with lots of furniture. It seemed like every place we went, I kept finding all these larger scale pieces I wanted — Tim kept telling me I was looking at the wrong kind of pieces, haha.
  • We both loved the scale of this tobacco basket and thought it would look great on a wall in our house, but when we pulled it out to look at it, large enough pieces were missing that we decided to leave this one behind.

Tim and I both fell in love with this little pinball machine game — again, we thought it would look really cool as a piece of wall art in a small space, but the backing was exposed enough we weren't sure we'd be able to figure out how to mount it to the wall without disassembling further, so we left it where it was and have visions for vintage games on our walls now.

Once we got into Asheville, met up with our friends and had lunch, they already had an antique place in mind for us to check out in Asheville — do they know us or what?

This place in Asheville was called the Tobacco Barn, and it was literally one of the best antique shops Tim and I have ever been to in terms of selection, variety, unique finds and prices. The space was over 77,000 square feet, filled to the brim.

When we walked in, I literally began to feel my heart beating fast as I tried to visually take in the space and formulate a mental plan of attack for looking at everything. I like to feel like I will be able to see everything at one point or another, but at this place, there was so much to take in I got nervous I wouldn't be able to do it — I know that probably sounds crazy.

Maybe you can tell how jittery I was feeling by the shakiness of this first photo:

It was at that point I just gave up on the hope of being able to scan everything in this barn and just enjoyed looking around at whatever stuck out to us.

There, that's better:

Yes, this place was huge. We'd hoped to find a large metal, wooden or porcelain advertising sign at some point on the trip — like the one below. We came across several that didn't work for one reason or another and even found a huge "Food Store" sign we thought would have been perfect on the blank wall in our kitchen, but it was way too big to haul back in our car.

We kept coming across salvaged industrial lights or other pieces of industrial hardware we thought would make a cool salvaged light. This is something we'd love to try to make for the house at some point.

Tim and I both bee-lined for this larger than life muted green factory cart. We have a thing for industrial factory carts. Tim joked that you could plop a mattress down on that thing and turn it into a bed — and I actually thought that was a brilliant idea.

So. much. to. see.
  • More industrial marquee letters — again, great potential for decorating with.
  • Rows of wooden file cabinets I was drooling over at the thought of storing all my jewelry supplies.
  • Carnival and carousel parts all over the place — again, how cute for a kids' room!? I was channeling my sister all day with her 3 kids.
  • Tons of industrial porcelain gloves molds — also great for quirky display pieces.

Another piece Tim and I both fell head over heels for was this over-sized wooden butcher block. We've wanted a "real deal" butcher block since we met and this one was one of those that made us stop in our tracks. Too bad it was also too big to fit in our little car on the way home. Maybe next time.

More refurbished metal letters —in any color and combination:

  • You guys know I have a thing for mercury glass lamps. I snapped a pic of this one just to remember it in passing.
  • The garden structures went for miles and had me daydreaming of the possibilities of climbing vines in our own backyard.
  • There were rows upon rows of dining chair sets — yes, full sets. We found many we liked and gave us some good ideas for chairs we might like to start looking for a little closer to home.
  • This wooden duck rocker had so much nostalgic charm, I again thought it could make a cute decor addition to a nursery or playroom.

Speaking of dining room chair sets, we loved the look of these manufactured tolix style cafe chairs — they were painted in a rusty color we thought would go well against the rustic wood of our farm table.

After spotting the rust colored metal chairs, we came across this same colored wooden bench — it was crazy how well they matched and how much we liked the idea of a bench for one side of the table and the metal chairs around the rest of the table. We didn't end up getting either, but it gave us some great inspiration and something to think about.

My one regret from the day was leaving behind this industrial laundry cart:

It was one of the first things we laid eyes on and weren't sure if it would fit in the car, so we decided to sleep on it and then didn't end up going back to get it. If I had to do it over again, I would have brought it back home with us. Lesson learned.

Out of all the places we stopped along the way, the Antique Tobacco Barn in Asheville was our favorite — and the one we are still talking about now that we are back home in Richmond. We've already decided if we are to go back to Asheville anytime soon that we will have to take a larger vehicle so we can stop back by there. It's definitely a stop we'd recommend if you are in or driving through the area.

OK, OK, so what did we get?

Tim picked up this adorable folding striped fabric market basket. We are a sucker for baskets and this was just one of those unique ones you don't come across very often — we love it:

We are also suckers for a good wooden crate, and this Sunbeam Bread crate was calling our names as we came across it. We use crates for everything from decor, to photography props, to centerpieces and storage — so we know this guy will be put to good use.

Side note: I made Tim hold up everything while he was doing yard-work if anyone is wondering why he is holding everything with garden gloves on!

Last but not least, we did leave with these 2 porcelain glove molds. They went straight to their new spot on display in our downstairs hall bathroom — adding just the right amount of an interesting/slightly creepy vibe. I know it's weird, but that's us.

So that's what we saw, and that's what we got!

We hope you enjoyed tagging along on our little antiquing/roadtrip to Asheville — this is just one of those things Tim and I like to do together. Do you have a favorite travel ritual or also love to go antiquing?

Find the rest of our travel and food adventures on our way down to Asheville in this post.


  1. LOVE this post! I'm always thinking I should go antiquing/thrifting and document as I go...then never do. Thanks for the inspiration and tips on good places in my home state! Looks like you had fun!

    1. Thanks Bekah,

      It was fun to document as you said — this is something we've never done so extensively before but might make a habit of it on larger trips like these!

  2. Hey the old Ben Franklin (renamed now by new owners) in my town in Chariton, Iowa uses those folding baskets for shoppers and I think they still use them. I don't get into town much anymore but I grinned when I saw that.

    1. Karen,

      WHERE is that Ben Franklin, ha! I think the new owners are AC Moore, right? That's the new name here in Richmond.

  3. Just curious. What would you have used the laundry cart for?

    1. Angela we would actually would have used it for laundry storage in our laubdry room. That or for blankets and linens! Thanks for stopping by our little world.

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  8. This post may be long forgotten but I just happened upon it while searching for places to shop for antiques near Durham, NC. The picture of the "pinball" machine caused me to say out loud, "No way!" What you see there is a pachenko machine from Japan, c. 1970. My husband's father brought one home with him from Japan back then, and it has been sitting in storage in Southern California for these 40 plus years. Last spring, my mother-in-law mailed it to us and we have since put it up in our living room as functional art. We just used two small blocks of wood, some picture frame wire, and two sturdy eye bolts to hang it on the wall (using the studs). It looks great! Next time you get a notion like that, buy the fun and worry about how you'll hang it later. There are plenty of folks online who can help you out!

  9. I go antiquing in and around NC frequently. Westmoreland in Statesville and and Antiques and Furniture and Greensboro are among my favorites. Another good find is Grandaddy's in Burlington

    1. We will have to check those out next time down! Thanks for the suggestions!

  10. Fun post! My husband and I love window-shopping at antique barns. We have a beautiful, unretouched large tobacco cart (about 5 feet long, 4 feet across) that we're trying to sell. If you have any interest, email me and I can send you pictures. We live in Williamsburg, VA. suemchenry @


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