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You can find pieces of the past in Carson Valley antique stores.
Photo: Shannon Litz (Brick House Antiques)
Karen Campbell has seen some odd purchases in the two-and-a-half years she’s owned Cheshire Antiques in Gardnerville. One customer bought an old cheese grater and a colander to use as outdoor tea-light holders. Another was in the market for books with only green dust jackets and covers. Although buying very different items, both customers were trying to achieve the same thing—using antiques to create a unique look for their home.
“If you have a vivid imagination, you can take anything and make something clever out of it,” says Martha Williams, who owns Antiques Plus and Dake House Emporium in Genoa. “And the only place you can find something like that is at a salvage center or antique store.”
A favorite pit stop in the 1850s for immigrants traveling West, Carson Valley has become a destination on the antique-shopping circuit. With many of the stores in Minden, Gardnerville, and Genoa housed in century-old buildings, antiquing here is an opportunity to experience the past as well as buy a piece of it.
Antiques Plus and Dake House Emporium
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Antiques Plus and Dake House Emporium occupies a gothic Victorian built in 1872 by Genoa’s first undertaker, C.W. Dake, who sold it to Pony Express rider T.P. Hawkins.
Williams, who grew up in Genoa, opened the store 27 years ago. It’s important to her that all of the antiques match the look and feel of the structure. “This is one of the oldest houses in the state, so everything in here must be in keeping with the history of the house,” she says.
At Antiques Plus you’ll find quantities of Victorian tableware, like pickle castors, castor sets, and vinegar and oil cruets. “The Victorians had something for everything—they were very proper,” Williams points out.
Perhaps one of those proper Victorian ladies is still around. Williams swears that a 19th-century oil painting of a vase of pink roses is possessed. Every time she tried to sell it, something strange happened. One time, the painting fell off the wall, knocking an electrical socket and causing sparks to fly. She finally took it off the market. “For some reason that painting wants to stay in this house,” Williams says. “I’m not going to tempt fate.”
Williams sells lots of primitives, industry lingo for old ranch furniture and equipment, such as milking stools and barn tables, which are now used in décor. Old skis, snowshoes, and farm tools hang on walls as art. Blistered cellar doors or windows frame kitchen cabinets. “Things that look rustic—that’s what people seem to be looking for now,” she says.
Cheshire Antiques occupies the former Carson Valley Mercantile, a two-story, 12,000-square-foot brick building dating to 1896. While Cheshire’s items run the gamut from a 1925 phonograph to a vintage wedding dress, the store also sells high-quality furniture. One of Campbell’s favorites is a round table constructed out of quarter-sawn oak. Made in the early 1900s, it extends 10 feet and has intricate griffins carved on its four legs. The asking price is $14,000. “You can’t find stuff made like this anymore,” Campbell says.
Antiques can set a home apart from one that is decorated with items from a box store, she says. “People use antiques in a lot of odd ways. They use dressers as buffets or china cabinets in the bedroom.”
A popular design trend called shabby chic or cottage employs timeworn vintage items, such as old tables with peeling paint. “I think of it as a romantic, feminine look,” Campbell says. “You take things from the outdoors, like rustic garden furniture, and bring them indoors.”
Brick House Antiques
Down the street from Cheshire is Brick House Antiques, which also carries large furniture-like pianos, dressers, and oak file cabinets. But owner Kim Cozad’s true love is antique clocks. She has 150 grandfather, cuckoo, and wall clocks in her store, a former family home and beauty salon built in the 1940s.
Cozad finds the clocks have a continued connection with their past. Some of the timepieces supposedly stopped working at the exact time their owners passed away. Even her on-site clock repairman can’t keep one from always stopping at 12:20. The clock’s heir told Cozad that’s when his grandfather died. “It’s as if someone is letting you know it’s his favorite clock—letting the family know they are around,” she imagines.
Cozad figures that is the best reason to incorporate antiques into your home. “They take you back to another time,” she says.
2242 Main St. Genoa
1423 Highway 395, Gardnerville
Brick House Antiques
1461 Highway 395, Gardnerville