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Stray Dog Antiques Etc. is making its mark in Williamsburg

  • Stray Dog Antiques, Etc. in Williamsburg.
  • Hilary Sloin, owner of Stray Dog Antiques, Etc., in her Williamsburg shop Wednesday.
  • This Eastlake-style settee is among the items offered at Stray Dog Antiques Etc. in Williamsburg.
  • Stray Dog's selection includes 19th-century brass and copper ware.
  • 1950's ceramic lamp at Stray Dog Antiques, Etc. in Williamsburg.
  • A 17th-century pine high boy for sale recently at Stray Dog Antiques Etc. in Williamsburg

Stray Dog Antiques Etc. at 35 Main St. specializes in vintage pieces, including some in need of TLC — repair and “refreshing” by Hilary Sloin, the store’s buyer. It also carries newer furniture that’s handmade by local artisans. The business, which opened in April, pitches itself as pairing a New York aesthetic with an appreciation for New England country antiques.

“The store is really known for its lamps and furniture,” Sloin said. Items available recently have ranged from a 17th-century pine highboy to 19th-century brass kettles to an Eastlake Style settee. The layout of the 1,300-square-foot space is designed to make it easy for customers to browse.

“This doesn’t even feel like a job because I am just having too much fun,” said Sloin, a former editor, on a recent Sunday afternoon. She was sitting in the back of the shop on a newly acquired Victorian couch, with her Jack Russell terrier, Pluto, close by.

“It is exciting to see all of these items, to think about how they survived through the years, and to hear the stories that are often connected to them,” she said.

Sloin, a self-taught furniture restorer, spends much of her time at the shop fixing up items she’s acquired from various sources. “That is probably my favorite part of the business,” she said.

Treasure hunt

Stray Dog Antiques Etc. is owned by Jan Behr of Northampton. She and Sloin are longtime friends.

“I take care of the business end, the taxes, insurance, bookkeeping, and Hilary does all of the buying and selling and taking care of the store,” Behr said. “We talked a lot about it before actually opening the store, and we still consult on everything. It works out perfectly.”

Behr, who works full time in Hartford, Conn., as director of services at a group home for people with disabilities, often stops in on weekends.

“I think she has done a great job with the store,” Behr said of Sloin. “It has a warm and cozy feeling, and because she always has an eye out for fresh inventory, it is like an adventure coming in and finding all these new treasures.”

Sloin, who lives in Ashfield, got into the antique business after a 25-year career working as an editor for a New York publishing company. A lifelong admirer of antiques, she says she began buying and selling items online, eventually building up enough inventory to support a retail store.

“I still buy and sell a lot of merchandise on the Internet. If I didn’t, we wouldn’t be able to stay in business,” Sloin said.

Behr says the store is building a base of customers from throughout New England.

“Being able to get to know a variety of people, to hear their stories and their family histories, all through these wonderful items, is one of the many perks of the business,” Sloin said. “It is such a personal kind of job.”

She said the location was once the site of a thrift store, which has led to occasional confusion.

“Some people still come in expecting this to be a thrift shop, so when they see a piece of furniture with a $450 price tag, they turn around and walk out,” Sloin said. “Then there are people that come in from Boston or New York and they cannot believe how cheap things are.”

Stray Dog offers items in a range of prices, Behr says. “It is nice to have a balance of high-end items as well as very affordable items.”

Selling and buying

Sloin attends auctions, estate sales and private sales to look for merchandise. Stray Dog Antiques Etc. also occasionally buys directly from people who bring their antiques and collectibles to the store.

“I actually have to turn a lot of stuff away because it is just not right for the shop,” Sloin said. “Then there are times when you can just tell that some of the stuff is fenced. I will ask people a lot of questions about an item and it is always a red flag when they say things like they just found it, or they don’t remember where they got it.”

Sloin says that the ups and downs of running a specialty store can be “nerve-racking.”

“I can go for three days with no sales at all and then someone will come in and drop thousands,” she said. “So far, last month was our best month since we opened.”

The store, which is located in a small mall on Route 9, is identified by a sign bearing its logo — a stylized silhouette of a dog.

Sloin said the name Stray Dog Antiques was inspired by her dog Zen, who died two years ago.

“You know, I really think that antiques are just like stray dogs, they need to be taken home and cared for,” she said.

Stray Dog Antiques Etc. is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Its website is straydogantiquesetc.com.

On Jan. 1 it will hold a storewide 20 percent off sale.

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