Maximus: Not Your Grandma’s Attic! Old Saybrook
by RONA MANN/photos by Stephanie Sittnick
Remember your high school Latin? Maximus: Translation? Greatest or largest.
Well then, it seems somewhat of a dichotomy when one enters Maximus on Main Street in Old Saybrook, and the first thing they see quite often is rather “minimus,” that being the owner’s tiny Pomeranian dog, “Ponti,” snuggly ensconced in a sweater that reads: “What happens at the dog park, stays at the dog park.” Attitude. Ponti’s got it, and so does Maximus, but the positive and very professional attitude within those four walls is one that applies to decorating, collecting, or just purchasing something wonderful for fun at a great price.
Owner, Erica Donnelly recounts the opening of Maximus ten years ago. “I was just 20 at the time,” she says, “and I wanted to rent a space somewhere. I had always collected, and my Dad dabbled in antiques, so I grew up around it.” She started looking at different space to rent, but suddenly thought, “What the heck. I’m young. I’ll try it on my own, and if it doesn’t work out…”
Her voice trails off because clearly it has worked out…and very, very well. Today more than ten years since Donnelly made that decision, Maximus is a major force on Main Street in Old Saybrook and a very popular place for shoppers of all stripes who stop by frequently to see what’s new in what’s old.
First and foremost, Maximus is not some dark, dusty antique shop. It doesn’t smell like your grandma’s attic or worse yet, someone’s basement. The space is quite large, 4500 square feet to be exact, housing an entire collection of small shops under one roof. “It’s a multi-vendor antique and home decor store,” echoes Donnelly, who rents out space to other vendors, but is quick to caution, “I am very, very picky about whom I choose to have come in here. I look for items that are high quality, fairly priced, and visually appealing. Items that people are looking for today…vintage that’s ‘in.'”
Ever cognizant of keeping up with the trends in home decorating and having many customers who are actively engaged in interior design on a professional basis, Erica is aware that vintage is very trendy now, especially “painted stuff.” While much of the merchandise at Maximus is “Mid-Century modern” in Donnelly’s words, she also affirms that “we try to keep a wide variety of styles and periods to keep it interesting.”
And “interesting” is an understatement! Moving about the large store from stall to stall, one is nearly overwhelmed with the wide variety of furniture, jewelry, clothing, and retro handbags. There are vintage brooches and rings, cufflinks and cameos, old watches, crucifixes, Celtic crosses that have a history dating from 400 A.D., collectible turquoise, and even antique pocket watches.
Further down along the rows the fortunate visitor might find old kitchen utensils, cast iron frying pans like “they used to make,” English pewter, complete sets of dishes and crystal, and assorted bric-a-brac, signs, and ornamental home design.
You’ll never know what you’re going to find at Maximus, so the wise shopper with a keen eye for home decor, antiques, and the desire to score a great “buy” knows to shop the store frequently. On this day some of the items captivating customers are a wonderful repurposed oak child’s desk and chair, hand painted oriental screens, and Bell Jar retro drinking glasses, just becoming popular again in bars which recognize the trend and actively make that bow to vintage.
If there isn’t enough inside those marvelous four walls, just step outside the back door of Maximus and walk about the sunny Courtyard, an area filled with garden accessories, Adirondack chairs, and other porch and outdoor furniture and companion pieces. Nothing is thrown about or junked into one area. The furniture is grouped as it would be within one’s own patio or yard.
Back inside once again you might stop awhile at a nook chockablock with old books for the bibliophile, indulge yourself in some ceramic teapots, pause and wonder what use you could find for the old, distressed cabinets…furniture that’s built more sturdy and with more care than many pieces today…and hey, look over there! Who knew Vera Bradley even designed ballpoint pens?
You need to check out every stall carefully because hidden treasures abound throughout. Some of the vendors even have sales from time to time, and 40%, even 50% off signs represent an added “find.” You only have to look everywhere and at everything!
Love folk art? There’s an entire stall filled with signs, dolls, and gift items with that naive styles so characteristic of the genre. The pieces are all at once utilitarian, decorative, and very appealing.
Antiques have always held a certain cache for collectors, while the last five years have brought about a return to all things vintage. The reason may just be a simple one: memories. The things you find within the four walls and 4500 square feet that is Maximus evoke memories of childhood, of happy times, of a much loved relative, of a chair you remember from the living room or a dish similar to the ones used at the Thanksgivings of long ago. It’s really a very personal thing, which is why Erica Donnelly may be young, but she’s got an enviable knowledge of, and real appreciation for the past and those things that helped to make it special. And she’s surrounded herself and her customers with the opportunity to take the time to delve into those memories and perhaps own a piece of the past. That’s what made Maximus a success for the past ten years and a welcome stop on Main Street in Old Saybrook.
As you prepare to leave Maximus, vowing to return in a few days to again see what’s new that’s old, bid little Ponti goodbye. He’ll still be sitting just inside the door with that same look on his face…reflecting a little bit of boredom, a whole lot of attitude, yet darned grateful to be where he is. We hope you’ll share that feeling. Because you’ve found the most unique and ever-changing store on Main Street…Maximus: most definitely not your grandma’s attic!
Maximus and Ponti are located right in the heart of Old Saybrook at 143 Main Street
(860) 388-9658 www.maximus-antiques.com
Check back frequently this summer for Tenth Anniversary Specials!