ANTIQUING Shop Local, Discover History

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

Story by Emma Young | Photos by Linda Hughes

Prince William Living Antique_MemoriesAntiques8

Antique clocks on display at Memories Antiques in Manassas.

Antiquing in Prince William can encourage shoppers to connect with the community as they discover local businesses and history. “People enjoy the rich history that Prince William County has to offer. Hundreds of years of generational antiques still survive in the area,” stated Bill Pishock, owner and manager of Two Guys Antiques and Collectibles, a multi-dealer antique shop in Dumfries. Nancy Joyner, an antique doll dealer and owner of Second Chance, operating out of Pishock’s shop, added, “Antiques are our history and are handed down from generation to generation.”

For those who like to combine owning a piece of history with saving a few dollars, there’s another advantage to antiquing here. “The rent is a little bit lower [in Prince William]so you can afford to give your clients better prices,” said Jacqueline Fernandez, an employee at Memories Antiques in Manassas.

Reasons to go antiquing vary as much as what’s offered from shop to shop. Antiquers cite motivations such as the thrill of the hunt, preserving history, finding bargains and owning something one-of-a-kind.

Debra Morman, a dealer operating out of Two Guys Antiques, said she loves “the excitement. The rush you get when you find something very rare and the price is dirt cheap. It’s a rush like nothing else.”

In general, to qualify as a true antique, an item must date back more than 100 years. Older items that don’t fit that definition are considered vintage or collectible. Labels aside, you never know what treasures you’ll come across when you go antiquing.Like that 8-foot fiberglass hammerhead shark you’ve always wanted.

“It looked like a real hammerhead. I thought it was interesting and it made me smile. It took me almost a full day to figure out how to suspend the shark from the store ceiling,” recounted Pishock of a piece he picked up from a carnival memorabilia collector. “It was just going to be one of those novelty pieces,” he said. It sold the day he put it up.

Prince William Living Antique_MemoriesAntiques3

George Fernandez, owner of Memories Antiques, said that often collectors prefer to see items in person rather than shop online.

Hunting for History

Often the finds resonate on a more personal level. “I’ve found some holiday items that I remember as a child and love finding things like that. It gives you that blast-from-the-past feeling,” said Montclair resident Susan Stacy.

“The whole concept of antiques for me boils down to one thing: I love holding something that is from the mid-1800s and thinking about the women who loved it first,” said Dumfries resident Elizabeth Pezely of her antiquing hobby.

Marcia Baynes, a Prince William County Public Schools teacher and Montclair resident, uses locally-gathered antiques to illustrate history in her classroom. For a recent unit on the Roaring ’20s and the Harlem Renaissance, she brought in period suitcases full of vintage clothing, a Victrola and Duke Ellington records. Using these props, Baynes simulated The Cotton Club, a famous New York hot spot during the jazz age. She said antiques are also important to her, in part, “for the lessons they teach me.”

Chris Campbell and Greg Stutts, co-owners of Vintage2aT Antiques and Collectibles in Two Guys Antiques, appreciate the personal stories behind the items they sell. “One of the items we sold soon after we started selling vintage clothing was a 1950s tulle-skirted party dress with sequins,” the two recounted via email. On the dress was a note reading, “Worn to Ike’s first birthday party in the White House.” That would be Ike as in President Eisenhower.

To find these pieces of history, antiquers must be willing to visit multiple stores, always on the lookout for their next treasure. Annie McKrill, owner of Prior Possessions in Two Guys Antiques, explained this is part of the draw. “[I love] the thrill of the hunt. And also [it’s] thrilling to know that you are aware of something that is not familiar to others,” she said.

Prince William Living 10.14_Antiquing_PinkHouseExterior2

Pink House Antiques in Manassas lives up to its moniker.

“The hunt is like an addiction. You always go and look for things,” agreed Gudi Bignotti, owner of Occoquan Antiques.

Antiquing Like a Pro

Before starting your treasure hunt, study up on advice from experienced antique hunters in Prince William. “Browse often,” Baynes recommended, “even if you have nothing in particular in mind. Let the treasures find you.”

Manassas resident and interior decorator Frances Halpern echoed this. “Go in with an open mind,” Halpern advised. “Do a quick browse around the store and make a mental note of a few pieces that stand out. Then start over and really examine the shelves looking in the nooks and crannies. That is where you find treasures.”

Her own treasures include a Waterford decanter she found in a local shop that exactly matched one her toddler had smashed years earlier. She recommended forgetting about value and to “go with what pleases you.” Along those same lines, Woodbridge resident Donna Cartwright, an avid antiquer, suggested, “Buy what you like and what you enjoy.”

When seeking true antiques or starting a collection, though, some basic knowledge though can be very useful. “There are people selling replicas [as authentic],” warned Fernandez. “[Novices should] make sure they are buying what they think they’re buying, especially if they want to start collecting. Learn as much as possible.”

“Study up on things,” recommended Cartwright. “You can get taken, so be knowledgeable.” Books and websites focused on specific types of antiques can be a good place to start, but experience and familiarity matter a great deal. When starting out, rely on others. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” Pishock encouraged. “Your trusted antique dealer will never lead you in the wrong direction. They are always glad to help you expand your knowledge and passion for antiques.”

Knowledge is important to a bargain hunter like Lucinda Law of Montclair. She focuses on yard sales and thrift stores to find and rescue antique treasures. “Take your time and your smartphone,” Law recommended. “EBay is a great place to look up comparable values.”

For yard sale shopping, Law noted the two best approaches: The “early bird” and the “clean-up shopper.” She explained that the former “swoops in before the sale is in full swing to grab all the best stuff. … The clean-up shopper rolls in at the end, when everyone is fatigued…and looking at the mess on their lawn and planning how much will end up being carted off.”

“Always make an offer at the end of the day. Likely any offer will be accepted,” she advised. “[In general,] make it a habit to always ask, ‘Is this your best price?’”

Antique hunting at yard sales and thrift stores can often mean the piece may need some sprucing up. If you choose to go the do-it-yourself route, David Rickard, operations manager at Woodbridge-based D&R Restorations and Upholstery, has some advice: “Start with a small inexpensive project first. Learn and understand the materials you will be working with. You can always talk to a local restorer, look around for schools or classes, or join local antique historical clubs and local woodworking clubs.” Websites such as Pinterest and YouTube are also full of tutorials for refurbishing vintage finds.

Prince William Living 10.14_Antiquing_TwoGuys_Merchandise8

Treasures abound in Two Guys Antiques and Collectibles, a multidealer antique shop in Dumfries.

Internet is Bringing Competition, Opportunity

While the Internet can be a handy guide for updating worn pieces, it also makes it increasingly difficult to find true antique bargains at yard sales and thrift stores. “More and more valuables are being posted on websites, such as, where treasures are likely to command something closer to their true value,” said Law. “The terrific finds are getting harder and harder to find in local stores because of the expert pickers and sorters.” She explained that many of these experts rely on the Internet to ascertain the value of items and sell them at top dollar.

Sometimes this heightened product awareness can be helpful to shop owners. The owners of Two Guys Antiques and Collectibles use their Facebook page to engage customers, who look for often-humorous vintage photos of the area along with announcements of new finds.

In the case of Bignotti, she chose to go where her customers were—online. She closed her brick-and-mortar store in May, making the move to being Internet-only. “[A] free-standing store depends on the weather and parking,” said Bignotti. She is now free to sell to customers throughout the world, any time of day and with less overhead.

Acknowledging that more people are shopping online, John Brown chose a hybrid sales approach for Pink House Antiques in Manassas, advertising his wares online while also maintaining a storefront. “My  ads have drawn many people from inside the Beltway and beyond,” he noted.

Still, many antique collectors report that there can be a benefit to walking into a store to see what you will be buying. “A lot of people go online for convenience, but [the product]might not be what you expected,” said George Fernandez, owner of Memories Antiques in Manassas. “The true collector would rather touch the piece and see the piece in person.”

“I wasn’t happy with what I was getting with the Internet,” seconded Cartwright. “I like to be able to touch it and really look at it, not just in a few photos.”

Changing Face of Antiquing

The advent of the Internet is just one of the forces behind the ever-changing face of antiquing. “I have seen the small antique shop thrive in Prince William County in the 1970s, fade out to large antique malls in the 1980s and ‘90s, and [a resurgence of ]the small antique specialty shop in the 2000s,” said Pishock.

McKrill fondly recalled operating out of a now-defunct antique mall. “[It was] quite a good, lucrative business for a few years. … At first there were many locations, privately-owned, most with allocations for up to 20 different dealers, selling an eclectic mixed bag of antiques and collectibles,” she said.

“I miss those large antique warehouses because any mom-and-pop [could]open a stall. Every dealer has unique takes and tends to pick accordingly,” said Law.

“I think the day of the huge antique mall is over because the buyer is more discriminating now. They’re interested in [true]antiques,” Pishock hypothesized.

“There are also the difficulties of renting space in someone else’s establishment as you are at the mercy of their business acumen. The first shop we rented space in here in Prince William County eventually closed because of the questionable business practices by the distant owner,” recounted Campbell and Stutts.

Brown sees an upside to the changes. “As more brick and mortar stores close, the remaining survivors become stronger with a better chance of survival and profitability,” he noted.

“The future for Prince William County antique shops is a bright one,” said Pishock. “I foresee a trend toward smaller, multi-dealer shops with specialty antique dealers—a furniture dealer, jewelry dealer, porcelain dealer, etc.—all versed from A-to-Z in their field.”

So it is that even in this age of online shopping and mass-produced, affordable goods, the appeal of antique and vintage shopping continues. “With furniture, it is the quality of construction and craftsmanship,” said Pishock. “The understanding that the lumber in an antique chest of drawers was hand-selected by the cabinet maker, hand-hewn, hand dovetailed, hand-finished, and is a one-of-a-kind item. You would not find that in the assembly line production of today.”

Campbell and Stutts summed up the sentiment: “Quality never goes out of style.”

Visit the business directory at  and search “vintage” for a list of area antique dealers and stores featuring vintage finds.


Emma Young is a stay-at-home mother and freelance writer residing in Dumfries. She can be reached at


Leave A Reply