Essex Saybrook Antiques Village

by RONA MANN / photos by J.Lilly

You’ve gotta give credit to Bill Temple…he’s a neatnik, according to his wife Janet. A self-styled clean freak. Whatever name you care to heap upon him, the fact remains Bill Temple is uber-tidy; and what a plus that is for his wife, for their business, Essex Saybrook Antiques Village, and for all their many customers.

People tend to associate antiques with dusty attics, moldy basements, and trunks and cartons full of unpleasant smells. Not so if Bill Temple’s around! Visit the Essex Saybrook Antiques Village; and the only whiff you might get is from the bowl of Tootsie Rolls Bill maintains on the counter, as much for his own pleasure as for the pleasure of his customers. “Bill cleans this place every day,” says Janet. “He dusts everything, cleans the restrooms, sweeps, wipes…we’re very lucky.”

But Essex Saybrook Antiques Village is more than just a clean place; it’s a jumping off point that grabs each visitor by the hand and heart and guides them gently into the past.  For some it’s a treasure hunt, for others it’s a history lesson. But for everyone it’s a very exciting experience, whether one is there merely to look, to learn, or to avidly collect not only objects, but memories.

Janet Temple always knew she would have a space like this someday. “As a little kid I always played ‘store.’  For years I would begin sentences with, ‘When I get my store’… I even bought the counter eight years before I bought the store because I loved it and knew I would use it one day. I also bought signs that said ‘Antique Shop’ before I bought the store. So it was just inevitable.”

Before the store, Temple, a New Jersey native, worked as a nurse, living the past 22 years in Old Saybrook, a town she absolutely adores. “It’s a great place to live because our local government is top notch,” she praises. Janet has always collected, and for the past 30 years participated in an antiques co-op.  She worked at Antiques Village before buying it from the owner just a year and a half ago and adding a staff of seven knowledgeable people. She proclaims the shop, “A fun place to walk around. You’ll find every era represented in this building. I don’t pretend to know a lot, but I know a little about everything. That may be a dangerous thing, but I do my research carefully.”

Chances are good that when you visit Essex Saybrook Antiques Village you will not begin this journey alone, for at the front door you will be greeted by “Frankie,” an eight year old affable dachshund who happily welcomes visitors and often accompanies them on their journey throughout the store. Frankie frequently cocks his head expectantly, hoping you’ll acknowledge him, as he appears to understand every single word directed his way.

This shop is an astounding 6000 square foot representation of our history, chockablock with one-of-a-kind pieces particular and special to their era, inhabiting a unique time and way of life. It reminds us that things change, but also that it matters because things change.

Everywhere one looks there is a display; and within those displays, hundreds of stories, connecting us to the past through them. And while the jury’s still out on what is or isn’t an antique, it does not seem to bother the customers and loyal repeat customers who flock to Essex Saybrook Antiques Village weekly or monthly to see that everything old is new again. While many people define an antique as an object 100 years or older, that is not necessarily the way it is thought of today. Items less than 100 years old are often called collectibles, but Janet Temple will also tell you it is a generational thing. “An antique to a young person today might mean 1970, while for others of us it’s 18th or 19th century items.”

Whether you elect to call it an antique or a collectible, you cannot help but find it at Essex Saybrook Antiques Village where individual dealers rent space amid the hundreds of treasures collected and displayed by the Temples. Janet Temple is discerning of whom she allows to occupy space, making sure items are authentic, clean, and displayed properly; and she actively works to have something at every price point saying, “Not everyone can afford to spend $500. in a day. That’s why we have items for $15 and $20., so nearly everyone can find something they’ll treasure that’s also affordable.”

Just inside the front door a bi-plane hangs overhead, immediately thrusting the visitor back to an era just prior to the first World War. Military artifacts are not unique to the Antiques Village as a walk through will yield uniforms, hats, medals, equipment, books, and more. Bill Temple specializes in buying and selling military antiques from both World Wars, Vietnam, and items gleaned not only from the United States, but also German and Japanese collectibles.

There are displays of high end nautical goods, Hummels, old typewriters in working condition, teddy bears of every vintage, photographs, phonographs, and vinyl records.  Turn a corner with Frankie by your side, and you’ll see an authentic G.I. Joe Army Jeep, old license plates, vintage signs advertising gasoline, cigarettes, and foods, Royal Ascot cups and saucers, clowns, and perhaps even a 12 piece place setting of fine Noritake china.

Stetson hats?  They’re here, along with chandeliers, clocks, butter paddles, and a rolltop desk and armoire, so well made and in such excellent condition that they defy description.

Would an authentic Atlantic Oil gas pump be just what you need in your office or media room?  It’s here at Essex Saybrook Antiques Village along with metal cigar boxes, toys, bells, Queen Anne art deco sideboards, sterling…well, you’ll just have to make that journey into the past to see what’s in store for you.

Whether you view it a treasure hunt, a history lesson, or a collector’s dream, Essex Saybrook Antiques Village is a wonderful adventure. A glorious place to spend a few minutes or a few hours delving into the past, conjuring up the stories, stirring personal memories, and making the acquaintance of a charming little dog, ever ready to join you on the journey. And at the front counter, the one that was purchased eight years before the business, is a woman who never gave up her dream of playing store. Except now she’s doing it for real and taking you along with her, into the past where everything old is new again. And thanks to husband Bill, unfailingly clean.

“Don’t throw the past away

You might need it some rainy day

Dreams can come true again

When everything old is new again”

                                                     …Peter Allen

Essex Saybrook Antiques Village, 954 Middlesex Turnpike (Rt. 154), Old Saybrook Interested in buying or renting space?  (860) 388-0689

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