A bit of everything at Brandywine View
By J. Chambless
Lisa Vonderstuck: 'I love to take the old and turn it into new. I like saving the past. It doesn't matter what it is – I will do my best to give it a new home.'
By John Chambless
Sitting in the midst of a room full of antiques and rehabbed items at Brandywine View Antiques, owner Lisa Vonderstuck couldn't help herself. “Oh, I just love my job!” she said, beaming. “I couldn't ask for anything better.”
In late August, Vonderstuck moved her eclectic, ever-changing collection of vintage items from a Victorian home on Route 1 to an 1807 home that's three miles closer to West Chester. The former business was perhaps best known to passers-by for its wraparound porch that was stacked with hundreds of railings, beams, trunks, chairs, cupboards and whatever else caught Vonderstuck's fancy. Inside, the rooms were, well, Victorian. Light was scarce and the hallways were narrow. Parking was a challenge when the neighboring Gables at Chadds Ford held events and people would fill up the lot at her store.
“My husband and I live in Chadds Ford and we've been driving past this place for years,” Vonderstuck said of the stately brick home that is on the National Register of Historic Homes. “I never thought this would be our property.”
It has been used as office space for many years, and the interior was “ugly 1980s commercial carpet and horrendous fluorescent lighting,” Vonderstuck said, but the 5,000-square-foot building sits on three acres, has great visibility and is actually larger than the former building. When it came up for sale, the couple pounced on the chance to move.
It was a quick transition, with all the store stock being moved in a rush. “It took 12 guys and four trucks, two and a half days to move it all,” she said. “I never want to move again. This is it.”
When customers arrive, they still get the customary “Hello! Three floors – have fun!” greeting, and the same semi-arrangement of the individual rooms. Everything is brighter and just a bit less cluttered, but still retains the air of discovery. Things aren't polished and positioned just so, and the mix of antique, and refurbished pieces is interesting. Vonderstuck knows just when the right bit of paint will give new appeal to an old thing, and when to leave well enough alone. The home has its original wood floors visible again, and the majestic central stairway looks much the way it did in the 1800s. Each room has its own distinct theme, but there are still plenty of surprises.
“I like country primitive – stuff that looks like it's been run over a few times on Route 1 and then brought into your house,” she said, smiling. “I love to take the old and turn it into new. I like saving the past. It doesn't matter what it is – I will do my best to give it a new home.”
Vonderstuck has been in business for 20 years, so she's beginning to see former customers downsizing their collections and she's picking up their antiques to sell again at Brandywine View.
In addition to the wares that she cleans up just enough to make them presentable without making them too pristine, Vonderstuck credited “an amazing group of artisans here. I used to paint furniture myself years ago, but I don't have the time to do it now. We have a great group of vendors in here that take the time to upcycle and resalvage, such as Savannah's House, House of Red, Robin's Nest, all local. What makes Brandywine View different is there is no 'I' here, but 'we,' and it takes a village to succeed. I would like this shop to be unique."
She enjoys building relationships with customers who come in first to just wander around, and then come to appreciate the store's warm, witty outlook on what can be a stuffy business. “I make people feel comfortable, I laugh with them, I listen to them,” Vonderstuck said. “You watch them grow, you watch their kids grow. These are not just customers, these are friends.”
Vonderstuck said she's “always had a passion for antiques. I'd always go into antique stores years ago. You can learn a lot. When you go into really nice, high-end stores, they're very detailed. I also learn from books and magazines. But I don't want to be a museum – that kind of high end. When people come in here with their kids, we tell them, 'Touch everything. It's fine. This stuff will make it another day.'”
During a walk-through, Vonderstuck pointed out the themed rooms – the Barn Room, which has barn wood walls and farm-related antiques; or the Period Room, “where everything is as old as possible” – but on the two upstairs floors, you'll find light-up marquee letters that would look great on a wall, or a well-worn cupboard that will add a bit of history to any home. There are reproduction signs to serve as home accents, a set of child-size antique chairs and a table that is overseen by a furry stuffed llama, displays of paints that allow customers to refinish their own antiques for a “shabby chic” look, as well as vintage jewelry, toys, knick-knacks, a few fossils, candles, some antique gingerbread trim, wooden boxes, a barrel full of old wooden rakes and a lot of other things that continually change as merchandise sells and gets replaced.
Then there's the boundless enthusiasm of Vonderstuck and her sister Linda, who greet visitors and get to know just what type of antique they're looking for. Chances are, there's somewhere in the three rambling floors of Brandywine View. They just have to dig a little.
Brandywine View Antiques (1244 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford) is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit www.brandywineview.com or call 610-388-6060.
To contact Staff Writer John
Chambless, email firstname.lastname@example.org.