Unique shops cater to thirst for neighborhood's past

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May. 28, 2008

Two antique shops in Lower Mills offer customers distinct shopping destinations: Streamline Antiques sells jewelry, vintage clothing, and household items from the 1930s on; and Dark Horse Antiques is a traditional, decorative antique furniture shop with items dating as far back as 1800s through 1950s.

Robert Ferrini, the owner of Dark Horse Antiques, opened his shop 15 years ago out of his interest in collecting old things.

"Everything that was old always interested me," Ferrini says.

It is a small, crowded corner store on Dorchester Avenue - the kind where there is something new to find on top, underneath or behind everything. Ferrini describes his store as an "eclectic mix of everything," from paintings, to dining room furniture, to old books and rugs.

"The antique business has changed a little bit in the last few years," he said. "An influx of things on eBay has changed the face of the antique business, the reproduction market has changed the face of the antique business, and style has also changed."

Ferrini said an "IKEA look," a clean cut style is popular now, but so is an interest to mix modern furniture with antiques. "You still see the quality in what's older," he said.

Glenn Maynard, Dark Horse Antique customer and friend of Ferrini, said he has come into his store for 15 years.

"It's an old-fashioned antique store," he said. "You come in here, it's fun, there are corners in here to poke around."

One piece he has bought over the years is a $450 brass and glass clock that dates back to late 1800s.

Fred McFadden, another customer calls himself a "big browser," but likes to come in to see what new old stuff Ferrini has in his shop. McFadden, from Milton, has bought a 1930s baby rocker for his niece, Asian end tables, and a watercolor painting dating back to 1920s or 30s.

"There's a good mix," he said "It's always got different stuff."

The enormous sign on the front of the shop is of a dark gray horse that goes along with the antique shop's name. The sign, originally white, was spotted in a salvage yard by a friend of Ferrini's. He heard that it once hung in front of an old bar called Pony Room, where Ups and Downs is now located in Neponset Circle.

The shop was given the name Dark Horse Antiques because it reflected the generally held notion that the shop was not going to last.

"We were going to call it White Horse, then we were going to call it Black Horse, and then everybody kept telling me that I was crazy for opening an antique store. So we named it 'Dark Horse,' which is 'the least likely to succeed,'" Ferrini said, "and we're 15 so far."

Ferrini said that he liked the location of the store, on the corner of Dorchester Avenue and Washington Street.

"I think it's a beautiful square - the architecture across the street is exceptional, these buildings are gorgeous. The trees are here, the river's here. It's just a nice neighborhood," he said. "I think it'll only get better."

Ferrini sees his store's proximity to Streamline Antiques as a plus.

"The more stores, the better, of this type in a neighborhood because it becomes a destination," Ferrini. "We all have different stuff. It's not like we're all selling Levi's."

Lynda Watson, owner of Streamline Antiques on Washington Street, two doors up from Dark Horse, also sees her fellow antique-lover as an advantage.

"It's a nice relationship there because he does very different stuff from me," she said of her 13 year-old store. "I do more what they call 'smalls' - glassware and jewelry and some vintage clothing."

If someone comes in looking to get something appraised or wants to sell an antique, they can usually go to one of the two shops.

Most of her wide range of what she calls "Deco to Disco" jewelry, glassware, clothing, and miscellaneous items come from people who approach her to sell.

Her merchandise ranges in prices from $5 to $1,200. "I do try to keep things reasonable," she said, "I have a lot of local customers that just come in for jewelry and may not have a whole lot of money."

Over the years, she has dealt with challenges of changes in styles and the economy. She insists on being "eclectic," and having a wide variety of items. Her store is made up of a front room with lots of jewelry and kitchenware, and a backroom with men's and women's vintage clothing.

"I'm doing more and more jewelry because it takes up less room and it seems to be the one constant through the years," said Watson. She specializes in Bakelite jewelry from the 1920s-1940s, as well as costume and sterling jewelry.

She said she keeps an eye out for historical Dorchester items, and will sometimes get in Dorchester pottery.

"I'm always on the lookout for Walter Baker stuff because there are a lot of people that are looking to collect," she said. She recently found prints of Walter Baker advertisements from a 1928 Ladies Home Journal.

 On June 7, from 10 to 11a.m., Ferrini and Watson will come together for the Friends of the Lower Mills Branch Library's Library Extravaganza to appraise items for a donation of $3 that will help fund various programs the branch runs throughout the year. Watson has done a number of informal appraisals, as well as one at a Stoughton Community Center. Ferrini, who also has not done many formal appraisals, said "it should be an interesting day, to see what comes in."

Streamline Antiques also has a website where customers can order items like jewelry, purses, and kitchenware online. Both shops are open Wednesday through Sunday 12 noon to 5 p.m. Ferrini can be reached at 617-298-1031 and Watson can be reached at 617-298-3326 or at Streamline Antique's website streamlineantiques.com.