By Kelly Chase / Photography by Heidi Kirn
Antiquing is like a never-ending treasure hunt. Dyed-in-the-wool preservationists search for home parts. Collectors peruse markets to complete a set. Even those who are new to the hobby can have fun picking through items, waiting for a spark. The hunt is as personal as it is unpredictable. New England has no shortage of antique stores where pros and newbies alike can see, sift, and snag. We visit one particularly plentiful pocket in southeastern Maine and discover three distinct stores that are chock-full of possibilities.
502 Post Road, Wells, Maine
Inside R. Jorgensen Antiques in Wells, Maine, a pair of Chippendale chairs has a story. “I’ve had a lot of Chippendale chairs, but these are fantastic; they are 250 years old,” says owner Ric Jorgensen, almost in disbelief. The chairs hail from England, date back to 1765, and were most likely used around a dining room table. Jorgensen spins one around, showing the limited wear and tear. “Typically, the better a piece is, the better condition I find it in because it was revered from the beginning and passed down from generation to generation,” he says.
The store is a quiet time capsule tucked away from the busyness of Route 1. Jorgensen’s collection is extensive yet selective and includes European and American antiques created before 1840. “That means pre-Industrial Revolution,” he says. “This stuff was all made by hand by people who care about quality.” In the second half of the 19th century, machines and factories took over a large portion of furniture production, and the number of handmade items dwindled.
As the saying goes, “They just don’t make ’em like they used to.” Hard not to agree when staring at a mahogany sideboard adorned with delicate shell handles and a pattern of grapevines, each tiny curve carved by someone with a steady hand. In the back of his store, Jorgensen remarks on the subtle sparkle of a tiger maple strip in a desk crafted in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, over a century ago. “These items can never be made again,” Jorgensen says.
1 Trackside Drive, Kennebunk, Maine
Ten miles up the road, Old House Parts in Kennebunk seems like the other end of the spectrum after the polished mahogany of R. Jorgensen Antiques. But there’s plenty of history here, too. Clawfoot and regular soaking tubs greet visitors outside, thousands of wooden doors line the aisles like library books, and intricately carved mantels interlock like jigsaw pieces. The 11,000-square-foot freight warehouse is stocked with architectural salvage dating back to the 18th century.
Owner Mike Thompson has been around antiques for close to two decades. As someone with a knack for restoration, he enjoys finding and working with pieces built with care. “When you catch the antiques bug, it’s hard to look at buying something new again,” he says. “Antiques were made with a quality of craftsmanship that is really difficult to find now.”
Preservationists are attracted to Old House Parts, obviously; however, the location appeals to more than just old home enthusiasts. Architects, designers, builders, artists, and homeowners are frequent visitors. “It’s always been a diverse clientele and that’s what helps us do well as a business,” says Thompson. “We have the daily customer searching for an old part, but our biggest sales are actually for new construction. We can supply all of a project’s doors or hardware.”
Just because the store is massive doesn’t mean Thompson overlooks smaller-scale needs. “Artisans use us as a supply house for creative materials,” he says. Homeowners stroll through to pick up hardware for repurposing furniture or browse the large collection of appliances. With two stories of inventory, the warehouse can be both overwhelming and inspiring, and it’s certainly a place for imagining the possibilities.
89 Western Avenue, Kennebunk, Maine
Nearby on Route 9 in Kennebunk, Antiques on Nine has a mix of new and old items. Beverly Bangs owned an antiques store in Atlanta, Georgia, before purchasing the Maine location in 1996. She used her expertise and good taste to fill the 11,000-square-foot barn with English, French, and American antiques.
“In the beginning it was all antiques,” says Desiree Kennedy, who works at Antiques on Nine. “[Bangs] would travel overseas and ship things back, so she had, and still has, a lot of European pieces.”
In recent years, Bangs has expanded her inventory to include reproduction furniture, contemporary home accessories, and gift items created by local artisans. Brands like Dash & Albert, Pine Cone Hill, and Michaelian Home are arranged around repurposed hutches, benches, and kitchen tables. While the antique furniture is simply waxed and retouched, other found items receive a dose of color through expertly applied chalk paint.
In the back of the store, Bangs’ son, James, is hard at work painting an old chest. The worn wood is getting a coat of sage green. “Fresh paint on an old piece can give it new life. And these items aren’t antiques. They are found at markets—in good shape but in need of some color,” explains Kennedy.
Throughout the store, breezy, colorful vignettes tie the eclectic inventory together. “We bring in new items weekly and rearrange daily,” says Kennedy. “Customers can stop in and get new ideas and maybe see a piece of furniture they missed on a previous visit.