Vintage and antique hotspots along Route 20 in the Finger Lakes
Story and photos by Melody Burri
Let’s just get this right out in the open: I am an antique junkie.
And the hunt for all things old and beautiful is fast becoming my hands down, 24/7, go-to drug of choice.
To me, there are no sounds like creaking floors, tinkling china and muffled whispers. There are no sights like weathered wood, rusty metal and floor-to-ceiling treasures waiting to be discovered.
The dusky scent of vintage books, old cameras and hand-crafted tool boxes — count me in.
The rhythmic purr of antique pocket watches and satisfying clicks of padlock tumblers yielding to their soulmate keys — sign me up.
I realize that at this stage of my life, I’m supposed to be downsizing, simplifying, ridding my life of unnecessary “stuff.”
So why do I feel irresistibly drawn into every flea market, barn sale, roadside co-op and junk store in the state?
Why is my knee-jerk reaction always to brake hard and veer over the second I see that multi-colored “open” flag flapping in the breeze?
It’s simple — antiquing lets me connect with my past.
When I comb through dusty piles of who-knows-what to discover the toys, technology, decor and memorabilia from my childhood, it triggers tidal waves of memories.
In those moments I’m revisiting my parents and grandparents in our childhood home, swapping stories about our day.
The grin on my face and saucer-sized eyes make it impossible for me to play it cool and barter like a pro, but no matter. I’d be happy to purchase some of these touchstones, but it’s not essential. The true joy is in discovering and connecting with them, and getting to know the people who sell them.
Fortunately, as a writer, photographer and rabid van camper, I get to do a lot of traveling throughout the Finger Lakes and Adirondacks. Which gives me all the excuse I need to test drive every shop, mall, yard sale or out building with signs that bear the words “vintage,” “antique,” “flea” or “junk.”
Not all venues are equal, to be sure. Each has their niche, just as each collector has their passions. Mine are old locks and keys, vintage cameras, quilts, tools and toolboxes.
With that in mind, here are a few of my perennial favorite destinations along Routes 5 and 20 in the Finger Lakes, listed for arguably subjective reasons and in alphabetical order. Each is run by shopkeepers and store owners who clearly love what they’re doing and who do it well each and every time I return.
Carriage Factory Antiques, Stanley
Slow down on Route 20 as you approach Flint Creek in Stanley. If you’re doing more than 40 mph you may get flagged for speeding.
And you’ll likely miss the life-sized deer statue in front of the big red barn, home of Carriage Factory Antiques.
And you’ll definitely miss chewing the fat with longtime collector and dealer Charlie Foster.
The 70-year-old’s been at the red barn for the last 23 years, but his story started long before that.
It was 1987 when Charlie’s wife decided to replace a little drop leaf table she’d refinished for their kitchen.
“We set it out in front of the house with a tag on it and it sold within a couple of hours,” said Foster. “That was the beginning.”
Some 36 years later, business is still going strong.
“Some people don’t consider a lot of the things here as antiques,” he said. “We have an eclectic mix, a menagerie of things. We buy quantities and look for things that are interesting, that make people think, that have a little history to them.”
Over the years he’s bought a lot of estates and accumulated a lot of “stuff.” About 90% of that he has passed through Carriage Factory Antiques, he said.
A unique feature of this three-story, one-vendor operation is that similar items are all grouped together. So if a customer is looking for, say, wooden and metal boxes, they’re all in the same location instead of spread out in multiple locations.
“Customers used to come in looking for something specific,” said Foster. “Nowadays they come and discover different things they might be interested in. People will come in and spend a couple hours pondering on things, and if we display it correctly and we explain it correctly, we make a sale.”
In addition to standard antique shop fare, Foster’s got tons of hard-to-find hardware, wooden and metal boxes, and furniture of all styles.
“I have an eye for what creative people will want,” he said. “I like the odd and unusual — large cauldrons, airplane nose cones, lifesized deer — I don’t buy oak dressers and stuff like that.”
In his off time, Foster curates his private collections of Popeye memorabilia, vintage keys and memorabilia from Canandaigua and Geneva and the area. His store is open only on weekends.
“I’m retired and I love the business, but I like to be with my family more,” he said. “I have other hobbies and I’m always busy doing something.”
• Key Features
Storied merchandise, humorous finds, vintage hardware, open weekends only
Carriage Factory Antiques
2348 Routes 5 and 20, Stanley
Friday, Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Not wheelchair accessible
McKay’s Antiques, Caledonia
An eclectic mix of everything from true antiques and collectibles to vintage and early primitives, McKay’s on Main Street in Caledonia is both a decorator’s and collector’s paradise.
From its angled parking and spacious raised boardwalk to its enticing signage and window displays, McKay’s is a charmer inside and out.
The circa 1890s building saw significant restoration efforts in 2010 when it was purchased by Army veteran Rick McKay, who upgraded the basement and upper floor for retail use. Today, about 25 seasoned vendors maintain three jam-packed floors of well-staged, multi-layered and richly textured displays.
“I try to keep quality stuff in here,” said McKay, now 70. “I also look for funny stuff, eclectic stuff with lots of range.”
Like many shop owners, he enjoys kibitzing with customers.
“I love the people,” said McKay. “I get a smile and it makes me happy.”
The shop’s walls are lined with framed art of all styles, select furniture, kitchenware, collectables, all things wood. Vendor Jeremy Rittenhouse, who also works part time behind the counter, said the store has “everything from looney tunes glasses to Soviet propaganda.”
“I’ve always liked old things,” he said. “I like interacting with customers. Almost everybody who comes in here is pleasant and interesting. And you’re constantly learning about things.”
When he’s not at the cash register, Rittenhouse can be found roaming the store, feeding his own collecting habit.
“I not only work here, I’m their best customer,” he quipped.
Plan some time to browse all three floors at McKay’s, because you’ll need it. And don’t be shy about making an offer if you feel it’s warranted. If the vendor is not in the building, Rittenhouse will make a call or two to float your number by the seller. That way everyone can leave smiling.
• Key Features
Helpful staff, flexible prices, lighting, art, decor, multiple vendors, right around the corner from Reflections from the Past Antiques
3113 Main St, Caledonia
Wednesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Not wheelchair accessible
Over the Moon Variety Shop, Avon
Dan McAndrew is building an empire on value, variety and relationships.
His sprawling 7,000-square-foot. strip mall storefront has quickly become a one-of-a-kind vintage and variety five and dime that boasts customers wearing everything from Louis Vuitton to Levi Strauss.
“I want to be known for having quality merchandise at an affordable price,” said McAndrew. “This is a place where you can find anything and you never know what you’re going to find.”
Piggy-backing on the success and longevity of the town’s über popular East Avon Flea Market, McAndrew launched Over the Moon last summer in Avon’s Main Street in what he describes as “an active plaza with unlimited parking, so I get plenty of traffic from other businesses.”
He sources merchandise from whole house buyouts and cleanouts, but McAndrew says he’s very particular in terms of the houses he selects.
“There has to be quality,” he said. “If stuff’s in terrible condition or if it’s all new and not resellable, I just pass on those houses and look for better opportunities.”
Like Carriage Factory Outlet, Over the Moon is a one-vendor operation. Which means merchandise is organized in easy-to-find categories, like vintage cookware, glassware, furniture pieces and sets, books, lighting, tools, technology, textiles, rugs, Christmas decor, framed art and collectibles.
And it moves FAST.
“That’s because I sell things below retail,” said McAndrew. “The only way to create turnover and keep it from piling to the ceiling is to keep it reasonable in price. People come here and furnish whole apartments, and I bundle things together and give a better price so I can move things along. I try to create a positive experience so they come back.”
And they do. It’s not just collectors and casual shoppers who are buying, it’s resellers as well.
“I like to leave room for other people to make money,” said McAndrew. “There’s a lot of people who sell online or have shops or booths and they have to go somewhere to find the stuff. My dragnet is big — I buy whole houses and get a lot of stuff at once.”
It’s obvious this entrepreneur loves what he’s doing. McAndrew said he’s been going to garage sales since he was 2 years old and his passion for vintage and antique things has steadily grown since then.
“I have eclectic personal collections beyond belief,” he said. “It’s the thrill of the hunt that keeps me going. It’s fun to dig through boxes, it’s fun to go in the old barns, in the basements and the attics. You never know what you’re going to find.”
• Key Features
Variety, consistency, affordability, accessibility, fast turnover, bundling, East Avon Flea Market is nearby
Over the Moon Variety Shop
275 E. Main St., Avon
Friday to Monday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
One Potato Two, Bloomfield
There’s no point in pretending. I know I’ll never be able to “make a quick stop” at One Potato Two in Bloomfield. So I plan plenty of time to amble through 7,200 square feet and examine every inch of the densely populated displays artfully merchandised by some 50 vendors.
Yes, I have my favorites. But honestly, there’s not a sleeper in the bunch.
I can’t help but make time to chat with owner Carolyn Redmond and her friendly, helpful staff — many of them also vendors who can pinpoint specific items, on request, throughout the store.
Redmond bought the store, formerly Jan’s Early Attic, almost 20 years ago in 2004. She’s seen the circle of life unfold before her eyes as infants, once brought in by their shopping parents, are returning to browse on their own.
“Now they’re sending thank you cards because of something they purchased as young adults,” said Redmond. “It’s really great.”
The store’s layout is full of interesting nooks and crannies and seems to go on for miles. Multiple entrances allow for wheelchair access and easy load-in and pick up for larger items.
“It’s a mixture of old, new, repurposed, true antiques — everything from penny candies all the way up to oriental rugs,” said Redmond.
“I have very few people who leave empty-handed,” she said. “It’s like a mini department store. The atmosphere is pretty fun — we keep it light like that. And the people who work here are always able to help.”
In much the same way One Potato Two leans into staff-customer relationships, it also keeps things fresh with evolving decor.
“We’re constantly redoing things,” said Redmond. “I don’t sleep at night trying to figure out what the next room’s going to look like. I’ve knocked down walls and made things customer friendly by opening up the restroom for people. I love redoing stuff, and a lot of my dealers are the same.”
The store focuses on mainstream vintage pieces and antiques, but it carries its share of oddities. The strangest things they’ve sold so far have been a huge ram head and a huge fortune teller scale, along with “all sorts of huge, heavy things that take three or four men to move,” said Redmond. Items they sell regularly include unique lighting pieces, architectural elements, small furniture, jewelry and coins.
And unlike many antique and vintage shops, One Potato Two has seen a recent upsurge in younger clients and increased sales. That’s thanks, in part, to Redmond’s daughter who’s invigorated the store’s social media presence.
Although the store’s meat and potatoes come from longterm repeat customers, they still get new people stopping in after 19 years.
“I think it’s because we offer newness and have a creative side,” said Redmond.
• Key Features
50 dealers, friendly and knowledgeable staff, variety, accessibility, creativity, repeat customers
One Potato Two
6900 Route 5, Bloomfield
Open every day 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Reflections from the Past Antiques, Caledonia
When Barb VanKeuren and Frank Burdick use the word “antiques,” they mean it.
The longtime friends and co-owners of Reflections from the Past Antiques in Caledonia have painstakingly curated a well-rounded, well organized and beautifully staged showroom full of exceptional pieces.
“People say they like our shop because it’s a true antique shop,” said VanKeuren. “There aren’t a lot of newer things. We have a lot of furniture, lighting, housewares, fine jewelry, ephemera, postcards, oil paintings, lithograph prints, mirrors, books and collectibles like locks, knives, toys, railroad and glassware.”
Their inventory of showstopping vintage lamps and lampshades include oil, electric, electrified oil and aladdin lamps.
Burdick beams when he describes them.
“We don’t have vendors — we select what we purchase,” said VanKeuren. “We try to have furniture ready to go into your home. So we’re not a place where you buy something that has to be fixed up.”
Burdick said he’s been selling for 20 years in co-ops at Simco in Canandaigua, Shops on West Ridge in Greece, and even McKays around the corner in Caledonia. VanKeuren’s been at it for about 15 years.
“I’ve always liked people and antiques and love when somebody’s looking for something and I can find it for them,” said VanKeuren. “It’s not a huge money maker, but it’s a lot of fun.”
The partners say they enjoy the selection process, and admit they have to be quite picky.
“We love finding beautiful things to sell to people,” said VanKeuren. “Some people don’t like going to auctions or household sales. I don’t mind doing that, and if I can find something at a good price and sell it, I enjoy that.”
They’re a formidable pair, both with a strong knowledge of antiques, familiarity with market value and an eye for excellence.
“We surround ourselves with things we love and hope other people love it too,” she said.
• Key Features
Pristine merchandise, artful displays, knowledgeable staff, right around the corner from McKay’s, wheelchair accessible
Reflections from the Past Antiques
3166 State St., Caledonia, NY 14423
Thursday to Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Yellow Barn Antiques and More, Bloomfield
It’s easy to drive past the big yellow barn near the corner of Route 20 and 20A in Bloomfield as it’s tucked back off the road.
You’d be missing out on one of the most fun parts of grass roots treasure seeking: scavenging.
Shopkeep Tim Garlock’s bright greeting from across a cluttered barn makes you feel like you’re Norm stepping into Cheers for a cold one.
Once inside, people are often surprised at what they find, Garlock said. Hardware, bottles, some family heirlooms, tools, automotive parts — it could be anything. Even a lifesize Santa Claus.
“I’ve always been a junk collector, and my partner does barn cleanouts and whatnot,” said Garlock, emphasizing that “we’re not prim and proper here.”
No kidding. If you don’t leave with rust and dust up to your elbows, you haven’t looked hard enough.
It’s easy to be happy when you’re “surrounded by junk,” Garlock said. And he almost always is both.
His partner in crime, owner Paul Singer, grew up on the farmstead in the 1970s and later returned in 2016 with his wife, Betty, to run the roughly 1,400-square-foot business.
“We’re like the Sanford and Son junk shop,” he said. “We bring it in and let you guys sort it out. We gather it up, stack it up and you sort it out. You never know what you’re going to find and we have no clue what the next person wants.”
The challenge for them isn’t selling their wares, Singer said.
“That almost takes care of itself for the most part,” he said. “The problem is finding it. If you find the proper stuff, you get good sales.
“We’ve got a lot of nice little antiques and collectibles, a lot of stuff to repurpose for people who are artists or craftspeople,” he said. “We want stuff to just go away and have a good life somewhere.”
To prove that point, when merch doesn’t sell, they pile it on a “take it home free” table.
I rarely drive by without pulling over. I love the adventure, the discovery, the “Cheers” vibe and the rust and dust that bear witness to the fun that’s been had.
• Key Features
Scavenger hunt, flexible pricing, barn atmosphere, great resource for creatives
Yellow Barn Antiques
6640 Buffalo Rd, Bloomfield
Open every day 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Not wheelchair accessible
• Cat’s in the Kitchen
367 West Ave., Canandaigua
• Crossroads Antiques of Lima
7348 E Main St., Lima
• East Avon Flea Market
1520 W Henrietta Road, Avon
• Fox Farm Antiques
4127 Telephone Road, Caledonia
• Geneva Antique Co-op
475 Exchange St, Geneva
• Mantiques and Oddities Etc
3170 Wheeler Station Road, East Bloomfield
• Ontario Mall Antiques
1740 Route 332, Farmington
• Peddler’s Antiques
6915 Routes 5 & 20, Bloomfield, NY 14469
•The Trading Post
110 W Main St, Avon
Melody Burri is a 67-year-old writer, photographer, lock and key collector and retired pastor. A collector for most of her life, she began focusing on touchstones from the past, particularly vintage cameras, keys and padlocks, in 2018. Learn more at melodyburri.com. To recommend other antique stores, co-ops or flea markets to spotlight in future publications, email firstname.lastname@example.org.