Redbriar Antiques & Greenbriar Antique Merchants

October 5, 2014 in Editorials

Add Redbriar Antiques and Greenbriar Antique Merchants to your Bucket List

By Maxine B. Jones, Ocoee Tennessee

If you have a bucket list, you must write in the antique district of East Ridge, Tenn., as one of your fall excursions. This shopping area located directly behind the Cracker Barrel on Slater Road is everything but strip mall shopping. It’s filled with shops and galleries and merchants of every antique, decor, garden and collectible shop you’d dream of finding.

This month, I’m going to entice you to drive to this Chattanooga area location and look for the two newest shops that have opened this year. They are called Redbriar Antiques, located in the far left corner of this antique square and just across from the side of Sugar Plum Antiques, and Greenbriar Antique Merchants, located directly behind the Cracker Barrel. (Look for their red and green store colors as well.) You’re going to fall in love with both of these stores, and I’m sure your updated bucket list will have them written in every month, if not more often.

Owners, Luke Stewart and Steve Watts became business partners about five years ago. Their two stores are a reflection of both of these gentlemen. Their goals and expectations, their love for antiques and vintage, and their passion for things that have been a part of them all their lives. Steve told me he purchased his first antique when he was 11. His grandfather had been called the ‘junk man’ who peddled and collected old things everywhere he went. He was a friend to Howard Finster, and collected art much the way Finster did. However, Finster used his collectibles to create folk art.

Finster, native to Georgia., designed Paradise Gardens on his land, a folk art sculpture garden with 46,000 pieces of art. He became well known in ‘80s when his art appeared on album covers for bands such as R.E.M. and Talking Heads. Steve greatly admired Howard Finster’s art and ability to create. Steve said, “Howard taught me to wood burn and today, I still collect anything that I find that Howard Finster created.”

Steve loves large pieces of furniture and especially those that might have a home in a castle and may even be considered gaudy by some. “I like the shiniest that shines, the oldest of the old, and the glossier the better.” He told me he liked to take his shoes off and walk where no one had been, and if he sees no one wants something, he wants to buy it and put it where it will shine!

Luke Stewart is part of a third generation of antique collectors and enthusiasts. Not only did his mother and grandmother collect beautiful antiques and pottery, they lived with it, and that was what he grew up feeling comfortable with and loving in his own surroundings.

I love the romance of antiques”, Luke said, “It’s part of who I am. I love pottery, we all have collected it; I collect every piece of Hull I find.” Luke looks for mid-century antiques and loves the unusual and buys what others might not love or buy. Others might find some of his treasures a little gaudy, or certainly not what they would have ever thought about being in a store or taking home themselves. Both Luke and Steve share that desire to buy what’s different, but they told me their taste is mostly opposite of each other. However, they can see something and know that it’s exactly what the other partner would want to take home or purchase for the store.

They started with booths several years ago, and noted what they liked in the many stores during their travels, and what they didn’t think would work as well. When they opened Greenbriar Antique Merchants in the spring and Redbriar Antiques in July, their goals were to find the best dealers/merchants and to do so, they interviewed each person that requested a booth. They found out exactly what they liked, the kind of merchandise they looked for and sold, and how much they knew about what they collected and had for sale.

They had certain goals they expected, and they expected nothing from their dealers they didn’t give of themselves. They want the best dealers, and they want to be the best owners – providing their dealers with help, whether it’s to unload their mercandise, or help stage their booth. They want all their dealers to get along with each other and to help each other if needed. They are the first to share new ideas they find or see that work.

Luke said that the dealers are not supposed to try to fill their booths with things for everyone that comes in the two stores. Instead he said, “that job is ours, we choose our dealers because they each have different tastes and visions of what they like. We want them to focus on finding what makes them feel good and bring their own taste and style to the store.”

When you walk in to each store, you’ll find they are both different, even in the entrances. You’ll find there are antiques, vintage, collectibles, yard art, gardening art, fine furniture – some painted, others reflect great early periods of different woods. There are not-so-old things, blending with the antique or primitive. There are booths that make you dream of Paris, while others make you feel like New York has come to Tennessee, and other vignettes take you back a few years in Georgia, Alabama, or Tennessee. There’s local art and collectible art, repurposed selections, signage, and the list goes on. Each booth is prepared to have furniture pieces ready to replace when a piece sells and must have a couple in their booth at all times. They consistently change out and revamp their booths, keeping a warm flow and examples of classic elegance to French cottage, contemporary tom and more.

Steve and Luke sometimes take their dealers to breakfast to share ideas and just to treat them and let them know how much they are appreciated. They have store parties for their dealers, and to let their customers know they appreciate them. They love for their dealers to be there and help greet and thank the customers when they have open house parties, and ask that they offer special sales or discounts to their customers. They feel they have the best customers and the best dealers as well, and believe that you should tell them often.

I love the quotes they use and found them to be very fitting for their stores. Steve’s quote he called look for ‘fresh fish” and said, “Nothing sets around long enough to spoil.” Luke shared, “Not one person’s point of view does a good mall make.” He said, “that is why they share good ideas when they learn instead of sitting on them”.

You can be sure when you visit these two eclectic shops and find something you like, you better buy it now. I have already experience going back to find only “fresh fish” as Steve called it. That is what their inside merchants love to see. It keeps them in the looking and searching mode, to find more and different.

Steve and Luke invite you to visit them and bring your Christmas wish and shopping list with you. Let them and their dealers decorate that next space or add more warmth and love to the one you enjoy.

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