Tweedle Dee: A Wonderland of Antiques
New antique shop in Fair Haven features Muddy-Puddles ‘Camp for Grown-ups’
It's not Alice's wonderland, but for antiques enthusiasts, a trip down the rabbit hole into a fantasy 'tiquing world at Tweedle Dee Antiques & Such can be a dream venture come true.
Owned by Fair Haven resident Laura Kent, the shop opened its doors in mid-August at 810 River Road, Fair Haven.
The 1,500-square-foot rented space formerly housed The Berry Patch and Barefoot Bride, and although additions were done during the 1960s, the building dates from the 1800s, ideal for an antique shop.
“My customers tell me the shop is more like a home — cozy, warm and inviting — so I am thrilled with that,” said Kent.
Kent grew up locally, eventually settling in Fair Haven. The choice of her hometown for Tweedle Dee was a “no-brainer” for Kent, she said, as she owned an art gallery in the building next door during her college years.
Fair Haven's atmosphere also made the choice a natural.
“Fair Haven is the perfect town for an antiques shop, with all the fabulous older homes, colonial and Victorian architecture," Kent said. "The folks in this town realize the treasures these buildings are, and they are wise enough not to tear them all down and replace them with McMansions. It’s small-town living at its best.
Kent shared the inspiration for her shop.
“I started part time while I was still working in Manhattan in the textile and design fields," she said. "After a short stint with the Yankees as a long distance designer, I decided to make the antiques world a full time career. So far, so good."
Yet Kent proved to be a font of information, describing several pieces in in the shop in detail without once pausing to glance at a price tag, or examine the object.
“I started collecting at age 4," she said. "I grew up in my grandmother’s huge, early Victorian home, with my great-grandmother as my best pal. I learned a lot from them and also from my parents who were collectors of sorts. My mom's uncle was a world-famous art historian, so I guess it was in my genetic plan to love this stuff and do a lot of research to learn more about it.”
The collector feels right at home at Tweedle Dee, due to its familiar Victorian design. The spacious, themed rooms feature items strategically displayed so patrons need not worry about disturbing or breaking a piece when looking at it.
“My kind of antiques business is very laid back, casual and fun," Kent said. "No high-pressure sales staff, no ‘Gotta get this last dollar,’ just my customers and myself enjoying the antiques and vintage things that make a house a home."
The front room of Tweedle Dee, known as the "tap room," is cozy and inviting, filled with furniture nestled by a working fireplace, as well as military memorabilia and artwork.
Off to the side of the store is the porch, or "cottage chic" area, which Kent noted is a draw for young girls who seemed drawn to the light, airy atmosphere. The space is home to a wide array of vintage clutches and purses, hand-painted porcelain, wicker, clothing, shoetrees and other items.
The name for the shop was thought up by the couple’s daughter, Autumn, a New York City executive, who suggested it because she said the store is like a trip with Alice, in Wonderland, and visitors never know what will be around the next corner.
Tweedle Dee is unique also in the respect it is a free-standing antique shop, not housed with several other dealers.
“I am the only dealer here," Kent said. "Being a one-person shop means there is no competition with other dealers to ‘make the rent,’ so it makes for a more relaxed and comfortable atmosphere. I have the freedom to set up as I wish and carry whatever pleases me. I have a quirky eye and I mix things that are 100 years apart in age, but it all seems to work.”
Kent’s “eye,” and her experience in the world of baseball doesn’t go unnoticed in her shop’s sports section, bursting with vintage baseball cards, Brooklyn Dodgers souvenirs, and signed balls, as well as sports programs, tickets, programs, “pulp” magazines, yearbooks and other memorabilia.
Despite a sluggish economy, sales at Tweedle Dee are brisk, she said, and there was a fair amount of foot traffic on a recent, rainy weekday.
“I think this shop is the right kind of place for this economy," Kent said. "Sales have surpassed my business plan. We have something for every age, gender and pocketbook, and customers are all over the place in age, interest and gender. Youngsters are shopping right next to the senior citizens and the young marrieds. It’s great!”
Kent couldn’t pinpoint any top sellers in her shop, but she does stock pieces that are in demand right now.
“Antiques has its trends,” Kent said. “Right now ephemera is hot, as are desks, trunks, vintage linens, vintage clothing and accessories from the 60s-80s, and almost anything from early Victorian to turn-of-the-last-century, especially furniture.”
The shop has an abundance of “hot” items, not only in the linens and handbags housed in the "porch" area, but lining the walls of the “library.” Shelves house antique, vintage, classic and first-edition books, as well as periodicals. Tucked away in a back corner is photographia such as tintypes, carte de visite, and cabinet cards.
Tweedle Dee isn’t just about antiquing. Grown-ups can kick back and revisit the nostalgia of youth at Muddy-Puddles at the rear of the establishment.
According to Kent, the “Camp for Grown-ups” packs all the memorabilia of days-gone-by: Vintage board games, sports items, dolls, magazines albums — all the stuff with which baby boomers grew up. But, it doesn’t end there. It is called called a “camp" for a reason. The space also hosts crafting and events for reasonable fees.
“Muddy-Puddles actually has been in the back of my mind for about 20 years," Kent said. "I love the learning part of this business, as well as hands-on learning, such as crafts, painting, needle arts, and other areas."
The opportunity to have a workshop, classroom, and clubhouse all in one was too good for her to resist and Muddy-Puddles was born. On the agenda is a beginner’s origami workshop this Saturday from 1 to 2:30 p.m., and “Appraisal Afternoon” with appraisals primarily by Hower assisted by Kent will be Sept. 12 from 1 to 4 p.m.
Objects in Tweedle Dee and it's Muddy-Puddles section are priced as low as under $10 for items such as ephemera, sewing notions and antique buttons. The upper end of the price range is $3,000 for vintage oils and lithographs in original frames by such artists as Picasso, Velasco, and Currier and Ives.
Coming from a retail background, Kent does most of the pricing, and doesn’t price by “What the book says,” but says she instead adds a small percentage mark-up based on what she paid for an item.
“When I get a good buy, my price reflects that and the customers benefit," she said. "Consequently, I have a lot of dealers who shop me, as well as designers and celebrities."
Devoted to her endeavor, the laid-back Kent has scouted and acquired more than 90 percent of the shop’s inventory at auctions or from dealers. She also has a few “pickers” who bring in things, and occasionally a “walk-in” offers pieces. A story about one of her personal “finds” is fit for “Antiques Roadshow.”
“When I was brand new to the business, I went to a garage sale and found a piece of Tiffany favrile for 25 cents," she said. "I had no idea what it was, but I thought it was pretty. I gave it to my daughter one Christmas a while ago, but it’s still in my home."
Kent has been able to fulfill unique requests from desperate patrons.
“A gentleman came in looking for early 1800s hand-forged, square nails for a project his son was doing," she said. "He had been everywhere looking, and someone suggested he try my shop because it is full of ‘crazy, old stuff.’ He couldn't believe I had them, and has been a customer ever since."
Consistently busy with the new business, Kent noted that lately the most rewarding — and perhaps challenging — part of her day is bedtime, when she’s able to sneak in four to five hours of sleep. Then, it’s back to doing what she loves to do at Tweedle Dee and Muddy-Puddles.
Tweedle Dee is open Tuesday-Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and the hours for Muddy-Puddles vary according to the event scheduled. The store doesn’t have a Web site yet, but you can call at 732-977-6306 or email at email@example.com.