BERLIN – A little more than two decades ago Toni Stuart was in town visiting a friend who suggested lunch at King’s Pub. He’d recently left the U.S. Forest Service, where she was still employed, to sell real estate down here but the trip and the visit were purely social.
So impressed was Stuart by the town’s potential, she mentioned to him that when she retired she’d consider opening up an antique shop in Berlin, though at the time she had no intention of retiring in the near future.
“He called two weeks later and he said, ‘You’d better come down here and get your shop,’” she said. “I said, “I can’t run a shop, I’ve got a full time job.”
Stuart relented pretty quickly, however, and picked up the Pitts Street storefront and ran it with the help of her husband part time until she was ready to become a full time resident.
She got into the business because collecting antiques have always been a passion of hers. Making a living at it was a natural extension of that, given her predilection for travel; Stuart does a fair amount of it and as a result is able to purchase antiques all over Europe.
Since opening Stuarts’ Antiques has developed a reputation as purveyors of high-quality antiques and hard-to-find collectables. In that tradition she’s recently she’s turned her eye toward French oyster plates and Majolica pottery, both of which are easier to find in Europe than at home.
She’s also recently happened upon a cache of antique white gold and platinum diamond wedding bands and engagement rings, which she said caught her eye because of the quality of the hand-cut stones – all are VS1 – as well as the settings themselves.
Vintage jewelry has recently come into vogue and people seeking silver or gold estate jewelry could do worse to look into Stuart’s extensive collection, but the shop is also a good place to find new pieces purchased both here and abroad.
While the antique market has softened a bit, Stuart said she’s still doing well enough but that she’s also recognized the advantages of diversifying.
“You can’t just sell antiques now, you have to satisfy the public,” she said. “I carry less expensive things as well, I just try to have a mixture.”
Working in conjunction with a friend from Italy, for example, Stuart now imports men’s clothing from Italy. Men can purchase anything from ties to full light wool suits at less than half what the same suit might cost at a national department store or city boutique. While there are a number of suits in stock, Stuart said she can order any size and several colors for men to choose from.
Men aren’t the only new market Stuart is pursuing. She’s also begun carrying accessories to appeal to younger women. Stuarts’ Antiques stocks purses in the under $40 range and other less-expensive accessories as well.
“I’m trying to make sure I have a little something for everyone,” she said. “It’s not all just high end.”