A new business opened its doors in Bristol on February 25, and it is a destination worth spending a few hours on a quiet afternoon. Vendors' Village opened its doors in the former Hill's Department Store building on Volunteer Parkway; it was most recently occupied by Fred's Department Store. Vendors Village is owned by Paul Dailey of Elizabethton, Tn.
Today, I spoke with one of the booth owners, Sher Miller, about Bristol's newest venue for antiques and unique flea market items. Sher has lived around the country and the world, and ended up in Bristol because her husband is a Bristol native. She has an easy-going demeanor, and customers feel quite relaxed and free to wander the charming booths without any undue attention or bother. She is a former freelance writer with a column in the newspaper where she lived in Northern California.
From the time you come in the sparkling front doors, you know you are not in a hum-drum, musty flea market. This is a bright and cheerful adventure as you wander the different displays set up with things you may remember from your childhood. Each booth has a different ambience, reflecting the owners' personality. There are a few booth owners present in their area, but they are very passively friendly. You feel quite free to browse because they just smile at you and go back to what they were doing.
Visiting Vendors' Village is not just for those who love antiques as collectibles or decor but those who want to visit a museum of everyday items from years gone by. It is genuinely an enjoyable experience.
There are also charming non-antique items that you may not find anyplace else in Bristol. One booth, for instance, has precious handmade dresses for toddlers made out of a favorite team's logo fabric, tied at the shoulders with big grossgrain ribbons.
Today, there were several customers gathered around an old metal kitchen cabinet with a flour bin on one side, complete with a built-in sifter. Did your grandmother have one of these? If you are decorating a kitchen and looking for antique pieces that you can use, you will find them here.
Spread among the massive dining room suits and velvet covered chairs, there are tender old textiles and time-worn books and magazines. The overall feeling is not at all reminiscent of your grandmother's attic or cellar; no, this is Grandmother's parlor!
As a personal side note, I am a little more than acquainted with the world of antiques and flea markets, having grown up in the antique business with my parents. While I love the richness of old items with a history, I have always found antique shops a little dark and musty. (Sometimes, dark and musty has a charm of its own, but I never wanted to live in that environment.)
Vendors' Village is colorful, open, sunny, and fresh-smelling just like the homes where these treasures once lived back in the day.