'Antique Alley' a hidden treasure

Dealers: Shops are scattered throughout the area, but Maryland Avenue has long been a destination for vintage items.


New York has Lafayette Street and the 26th Street flea Market. In London, Bond Street is famous for antique shopping. Philadelphia has an Antique Row.

But Annapolis, where history is woven into the fabric of the community, makes do with an antique scene scattered throughout the city and the area, rather than a central destination for those seeking interesting, unusual and high-quality period pieces.

Shops are clustered on Maryland Avenue, in West Annapolis, with several on West Street near Route 2 and along Ritchie Highway and Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard north into Severna Park. Several stand-alone shops occupy more out-of-the-way locations.

Dealers say their shops draw an eclectic mix of customers, from area residents to tourists. They're happy to ship purchases virtually anywhere in the country, from Pasadena, Md., to Pasadena, Calif.

"I think people expect historic towns to have great antiques," said Susan Law, an antiques dealer who has booths throughout Maryland, including one at Annapolis Antique & Consignment Shop (visible from U.S. 50) and one at Antiques to Go in Severna Park.

In downtown Annapolis, antiques dealers have long thrived on Maryland Avenue off State Circle. Although the street has more boutiques than antique shops, it maintains its reputation as first stop in antique shopping. The most established dealers, who have been in business for decades, are located on the street.

"Maryland Avenue has always been known as 'Antique Alley,'" said Joan Groat, owner of Joan's Gems on Maryland Avenue. "It attracts some tourists. But a lot of people don't find Maryland Avenue until they've visited two or three times."

Her store features furniture, jewelry, china, glass, silver, books, lighting and accessories. Some of Groat's pieces date back to the late 1700s, though most are from 1836 through 1900, she said. In her 18 years in the business, Groat has seen several antiques shops close because of high rent and other dealers retire. Now, the street includes boutiques, an Irish pub, a coffee shop, art galleries and interior decorators. But, she said, "It's still a great place to find wonderful antiques."

Antiques dealers are calling Annapolis Street in West Annapolis (across from the Naval Academy stadium on Rowe Boulevard) the "new Maryland Avenue."

More than a half-dozen antiques shops are on the street, which also features several boutiques and specialty shops.

"It's really developing into an antique destination," said Kathy Timm, owner of Furniture Shoppe, which opened in April on Annapolis Street in the space formerly occupied by Joy Street Antiques. "These businesses thrive on competition. Everyone has something different."

Timm, whose store includes pieces from a dozen dealers, features a variety - from hand-painted furniture and glass to classic mahogany. The styles range from shabby chic to traditional. In addition to furniture and vintage linens, the Furniture Shoppe has a collection of stained glass and architectural elements such as windows and doors.

"This isn't one of those uppity places where everything is from the 18th century," Timm said. "I like the variety."

Marilyn Snyder and her husband, Ron, who own Annapolis Antique Gallery and Ron Snyder Antiques, use two approaches in their stores side by side on West Street near Route 2.

Ron Snyder Antiques specializes in American Federal furniture dating from 1190 to 1810. "We're very particular - original seats and corners. An honest repair is one thing. A new seat is another," Marilyn Snyder sald.

The store also features Chippendale pieces, china, silver, paintings, lamps and mirrors. Everything predates the Industrial Revolution, Snyder said.

Unlike other antiques stores, the Snyders pride themselves not only on the quality of their collection but on the placement. "We don't have things cluttered. We show our pieces the way you would have them in your home," she said.

The store they manage next door, Annapolis Antique Gallery, which features more than 30 dealers, has a more eclectic approach. But, like Ron Snyder Antiques, the emphasis is on quality. "We guarantee everything we sell," she said. "Our sales are not final."

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