Our destination after leaving Asheville was Erwin and Kingsport, Tennessee, to visit their antique shops and introduce them to the Busy Bee Trader. As we topped the mountain before reaching Erwin on Hwy 26 we ran into a big fog bank. Wally slowed to a crawl and we prayed we didn’t get rear-ended by any idiot drivers. After about five minutes we came through the fog into sunshine and the vista is beautiful in our Tennessee mountains!
We hopped off of the highway at the Erwin exit and everything was in bloom in this charming little town. The historic district was one main street with antique, gift and restaurants scattered down their three or flour blocks. After parking I gathered up my Busy Bees and took off walking, leaving Wally to wander around on his own.
I had been mailing Busy Bees to Valley Beautiful Antique Mall for the last few months as I knew they had been in business in Erwin for years, so I headed there first.
I introduced myself to Glenna Lewis, the store proprietor along with her nephew Joey Lewis. They have been in business for 25 years and specialize in over 5,000 pieces of locally-made Blue Ridge and Cash pottery. Frankie Lewis of Ernestville, Tenn., worked at the Blue Ridge Pottery in Erwin for 12 years beginning in 1945 through 1957 when it closed. One of the items she remembers painting was the ornaments on the Christmas Tree pattern.
The girls showed me around the shop and some of the pieces that were more unusual and collectible.
Now that you pottery collectors are drooling, make plans to go visit them! They probably have what you are looking for or can find it. Just be sure and keep your purse tucked under your arm and children under control unless you’re ready to pay for broken merchandise – this store is PACKED with breakables.
The next shop was the Choo Choo Cafe and Antiques next door so I made my introduction to the busy owner who was getting ready for lunch and snapped some pictures. They have a huge Christmas Village just as you go in the door. The large historic store is arranged in room settings around the perimeter with tables to dine, as well as a central dining area in the middle.
I met the first diners of the day, Blanca and Gene Miller and they said the food was great. “We love the reuben and the chicken sandwich,” said Blanca “and she has the best homemade cakes!”
Across the street from the Choo Choo Cafe was a Blue Ridge Pottery store but it was closed that day.
Next stop was Main Street Mall owned by John Hash. He also had some Blue Ridge pottery, a mix of furniture and antiques, lots of skillets and cast iron, kitchen collectibles, tools and men’s “stuff” and more. I would recommend sending the husband in here if he’s not into pottery.
The next shop I visited was on the side street and had items scattered on the sidewalk to lure you in. This shop has a hodgepodge of antiques, collectibles, good ole junk and hand crafted barnwood furniture and items made by store proprietor Mike Martinez.
Located next door to The Next Best Thing is the Variety Shop. I loved the tin ceilings in this old building. There is a big variety of good used furniture, antiques, glassware, pottery and more at Larry and Linda Edward’s store.
Our last stop was at the Plant Palace, located on N. Main Avenue in the old post office building. What a neat building for a store! I loved the plants and gifts displayed in the old post office box area.
As you can see, Erwin is definitely worth the time to visit. Everyone was so friendly and you can park and walk to all the shops, so add them to your travel plans when in the area! Next stop… Kingsport, Tennessee!