Somerset Choice helps to preserve Teackle mansion

Jetta Reynolds, a winner on TV’s “The Price Is Right” program and a volunteer at Somerset Choice Antiques, encourages the public to “come on down” to the shop Princess Anne, where, she said, “the price is right.” Volunteers Kristin Keeler, right, and shop manager Sharon Upton, seated, hold samples of the featured inventory.

There’s all kinds of interesting inventory and personalities at Somerset Choice Antiques here, but who would ever have guessed that the lady seated behind the counter was a big winner on TV’s game show, “The Price Is Right?”

Retired Wicomico County educator Jetta Reynolds really knows what it’s like to be surrounded with bling and the thrill of getting a treasure, because she won a car on the show in 1986.

Now she’s volunteering at the shop on Somerset Avenue to raise money to support the upkeep of the historic Teackle Mansion in town.

In the former Henry Henderson Texaco station that opened in 1957, and closed years ago, a team of volunteers work six days a week to support the Somerset County Historical Society’s efforts to preserve Teackle mansion, (built in 1801) just a few blocks.

And it takes money, and a lot of it, to keep the Somerset County and town landmark going.

“Money raised by this group covers the annual insurance bill on the mansion. That’s about $17,000,” said Sharon Upton, shop manager. “Money from the store makes up about 90 percent of the yearly $42,000 operating budget for the mansion.”

In addition to the shop contribution, Upton said the mansion itself is evolving to help defray expenses. “We say ‘the mansion needs to get a job’ so that it can generate income, too. Right now were are moving into renting the mansion for social and civic events,” she said.

To develop and increase foot traffic, Upton strives to acquire a diverse inventory, from almost $1,000 handmade rugs, to jewelry, kitchen ware, vintage clothing, books and glassware. And “The Price Is Right” and Upton sees to it the stuff sells or goes.

According to Upton, Linda Alder is credited with starting the shop project.

“Years ago, Kay and Tom Bennett started the gift shop in a tiny room at the mansion with about 20 items,” said Alder, who has volunteered the past nine years, and I was helping them.

“Charlotte Sharf, who owned Barefoot Baby on the main street, invited us to join her in her shop for more exposure. She has always supported Teackle Mansion projects,” Alder said.

Nine moves later, the group was offered space in the former service station by owner Cathy Washburn, director of Main Street. Washburn got rid of the weeds growing inside, put on a new roof and restored it. She let the group operate at the site rent-free.

Linda Bohan said she has volunteered the past eight years because she’s retired from the health care field and loves antiques. She is the group’s “linen lady,” a specialist in the restoration and cleaning of vintage linens and laces.

Lorriane Henry joined two years at the shop and brings a unique skill to the volunteer group. “I’m a mental health therapist working at Salisbury University’s nursing department, teaching their psychiatric nursing course,” she said. “I paint the furniture here, ‘repurposing,’ and doing ‘shabby chic’ work. What I do has brought in a younger crowd, a different kind of clientele. I collect early 1800s items, but I like to get things that need to be repaired and painted. I have so much fun doing this for the Society.”

“Sharon really brings out the best in each of us,” Alder said. “If it wasn’t for her I don’t know if we’d have this shop, really.”

Some of the volunteers at Somerset Choice Antiques in Princess Anne show some of the diverse inventory. From left to right, Dawn Neville, Lorraine Henry, Linda Bohan, Tom Smith with clock, Anthony Dalli Cartillo, Sharon Upton, shop manager, and Linda Alder.

Dawn Neville, a retired Wicomico County educator for 35 years, has volunteered the past four years.

Anthony and Tom have volunteered half an hour a week for the past six years. “I buy a lot of eBay and the prices in the shop a former airline worker and retail salesman with Sears Roebuck Co., and Verizon. Volunteering here gives me a ‘sense of community,” Tom Smith said. “This is really a fun place to work.”

The shop, which started out as Somerset Antiques, Gifts and Books, prides itself on a friendly staff and neat inventory.

“The draw is that shoppers tell us every time they come in the find something fresh and new,” Upton said. “It’s also a center for goodwill ambassadors. People do tell us they really like meeting our volunteers and we like meeting people, too. People here are working here because they want to, not because they have too, and it’s something we all enjoy. That makes a difference in the staff-customer relationship.”

“What has really surprised me,” Alder said,” is the number of people who aren’t local come in and tell us they really love the layout of this little town, and that it’s so sweet, so cozy. And they love the friendliness of the volunteers because often we introduce newcomers to the community.”

Because there is no phone at Teackle Mansion, the staff fields calls relating to town and local history and even genealogy.

“One lady was able to get in the DAR because of information she got from locals, and writer’s call here too, wanting research information,” Henry said.

“The Society doesn’t have a genealogy research data base, and it doesn’t have a resource library or staff, so we try to make connections for people needing information, part of our outreach mission,” Upton said.

“It’s hard to believe, but we’ve been around for nine years and I still hear people tell us that they didn’t know we were here,” Upton said.

Exactly what is the top seller at the shop with its eclectic  inventory is difficult to determine, Upton said. “We have decoys, nautical art prints, World War II artifacts, furniture, books, glassware and brass things so it’s hard to pinpoint one thing. I’d say 90 percent of our inventory is on consignment and 10 percent is donated to the Society,” Upton explained. Many of our 200 consignors are from Wicomico and Worcester counties and the lower counties of Delaware. I had to become very particular about items we take, from the Elvis bobblehead to art glass. You have to items that appeal to a lot of people,  and that means traditional antiques, linens, vintage items, fun items, as well as kitsch things too. Architectural antiques — shutters, doors, windows, and repurposed items are big seller. We even sold a mortician’s folding ‘cooling table or bed’. A local guy consigned it and it was here three years.

“We thought it was a folding traveling doctor’s examination bed until a funeral director from Indiana was in the shop and said, ‘Girl’s, I’ve got bad news for you, this is a cooling bed for cadavers,’ ” Neville said.

“Someone brought it for $75 to use as a buffet table at a Halloween party. It was a happy day when that sold, everybody here was dancing,” Upton said with laughter. “It was a slow seller but a great conversation piece for the customers.”

The volunteers are also shoppers.

Alder collects small or tiny original art landscapes. For Upton, her field of interest is collecting small vintage globes and period document boxes.

Bohan collects sterling silver, and vintage lines and laces.

Henry specializes in signed pieces of costume jewelry.

For Smith, it’s glassware, especially crystal items. Dalli Cartillo, a former country club comptroller, it’s about  adding to his 50-clock collection. “I love volunteering here. Meeting people and learning about collectibles,” he said.

Sales here benefit the Society and the community We have consignors who count on the sale of their things to make a living,” Henry said. “This is what we are all about, thing is a community-centered place.”

Now the shop itself needs a boost in income. Last week, just 20 minutes after Washburn signed the deed giving the building to the Society, the large plate glass window, part of the shop’s northern wall, crashed into the parking lot. To get it fixed is $1,000.

Somerset Choice Antiques is open Monday through Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The shop will welcome visitors during the Princess Anne Historic House Tour, Saturday, Dec. 2, from 10:30 to 5.

 

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