Outside, it was a mid-spring day, sunny but crisp – with temperatures in the 40s. Outside, the breeze had a cool edge on it, but inside, the coffee was hot and an old friend was smiling at me from behind the counter. It was Dick Nurse, the resident male “spud” at One Potato Two – one of the most unique, antique boutiques I’ve ever visited.
One Potato Two is a 7,000-square-foot, 70 dealer antique emporium located on Routes 5 & 20 in East Bloomfield. I’ve known Dick Nurse (dba S & D Antiques & Collectables) since our childhood days in Chestnut Heights, Chili. So even if I hadn’t gone there on a writing assignment, it was still grand to see him again. While we awaited the arrival of owner Carolyn Redmond, a cooperative customer was kind enough to snap a photo of us two old Chili Boys (see page 61). Given the venue, I suppose you could refer to us as living antiques.
Dick went on to explain, “The dealers, which at any one time average about 70, pay rent either by the square foot, or rent a display case, or cases. Dealers are not required to work at the co-op, but are encouraged to stop in often. There are six of us working for Carolyn – five dealers and her middle daughter, who’s caught the antique bug as well. Since the store’s name is One Potato Two, we six collectively refer to ourselves as ‘spuds,’ and we kiddingly call Carolyn the Queen Tater, or just Tater. I’m a spud, just like the others, but I’m also the only male spud, so I get to do all the heavy lifting.”
He went on to add, “The shop has three main display areas known as the Canadaigua, Centerfield and Bloomfield Rooms, with two smaller showrooms sandwiched in between. As a dealer, I’ve been here for slightly more than 10 years. S & D Antiques has three spaces within the shop, and I signed on as a spud a little over one year ago.”
Something for Everyone
Taking my leave from Dick (who was busy cashing out a group of customers), I set about exploring on my own. With so many dealers in residence, the sheer scope and variety of items on display boggles the mind. Whether your interest lies with colored glass, cut leaded crystal, tin advertising signs, antique furniture or Hollywood memorabilia, you’re bound to find something to beautify your surroundings. Better still, as you enter the store you’re presented with an array of delicious gourmet treats, including all manner of jellies and jams, flasks of maple syrup, jars of champagne mustard, seasoned sea salts, Sansaba’s “Pecan Pie In-A-Jar” pie filling, custom baked cookies and chocolates in the shape of potato flowers. There’s one other item too. According to Dick, “It’s our biggest seller. In fact we have trouble just keeping it in stock!” What is it? Well, the photos of potato chip bags on these two pages should clear up that mystery.
I queried, “So customers buy the chips as a memento of their visit?” And Dick countered, “Some do, but if they open the bag and eat one, they usually buy more. The things taste terrific!”
About that time, Carolyn arrived and, after grabbing cups of coffee, I peppered her with questions, especially about the name of the business. “Growing up, my mom had a houseful of antiques, so I guess I was genetically drawn to the business myself.
“In the early ‘90s, I owned and operated a small gift shop called One Potato Two within a barn on my property. At one time the place had been a potato farm and I set up the shop in the potato sorting room – hence the name I chose. I loved it! I closed the doors to raise my family, but kept the DBA hoping to have another shop when my youngest stepped aboard the school bus.
“When that time arrived, I began looking for property to build on. In 2004, a terrific antique business with a 15-year history came on the market here on Routes 5 & 20. When I purchased the place, it was a 30-dealer cooperative. I’ve built that number up to 70-plus dealers, and I’m proud to say I have a small waiting list, too!”
While shaking my head I noted, “Carolyn, this place is crammed with more stuff than any antique shop I’ve ever visited!” Smiling, she replied, “I think that’s what sets us apart – the sheer variety of treasures we offer. We’re not just your grandmother’s antique shop. We offer an array of collectibles from the ’40s, ’50s – on up to present-day gifts. We have a growing clientele of young adults who shop here plus travelers, vacationers, couples, social groups, local businesses, even dealers from other antique stores. Just about everyone finds something they like at One Potato Two. Our younger customers, couples mostly, shop for individual accent pieces as opposed to being true collectors.”
The “Elevator Bar”
Carolyn and Dick were briefly called away to address some housekeeping chores, so I wandered about and snapped a few more photos. When I returned to the sales counter Dick remarked, “Rich, I’ve got another very interesting piece I think you’d like to see.” He was right. He showed me what appeared to be a simple split-top table, but it wasn’t. As he opened the hinged lids, a full bar, replete with spaces to hold 16 glasses and room for six bottles of liquor rose up from inside. Winking, he remarked, “It’s called an ‘elevator bar’ and was built sometime during Prohibition. Prominent citizens with reputations to protect could keep their liquor supply handy, but hidden, while serving ginger ale to any teetotalling visitors. It’s a unique find; I’ve never encountered another one.” Equipped with faux drawer fronts, the piece would look like a classic low boy to the casual observer. All I know is a gizmo like that would have come in handy when I was in college and forbidden to have liquor in my dorm room.
New Lamps from Old Things
Aside from my fascination with the elevator bar, the other items which garnered most of my attention were the stunning custom-made table lamps and a unique variety of glassware I’d never seen before. A husband and wife dealer team – Lynn and Chuck Birch – combine china from incomplete sets or orphaned pieces of vintage silverplate to fashion the fixtures. Carolyn commented, “Lynn loves beautiful antique china, and her husband Chuck is a jack-of-all-trades. After Lynn selects the pieces she thinks will go well together, Chuck bores a hole through the center of the components before stacking them onto a section of lamp rod. Once the socket, cord, harp and shade are in place, each lamp embodies the true spirit of creative repurposing, and the finished product is an elegant one-of-a-kind room accent. Like the potato chips, their lamps are some of our most popular items.” I posed yet another question, “Carolyn, the lamps are beautiful, and the other thing that fascinates me is that cabinet of glowing green glassware. What’s that stuff called?”
Almost before I finished asking Carolyn replied, “It’s called ‘Vasoline glass.’ My obviously quizzical expression prompted her to add, “Uranium is added during the glass making process and, if exposed to ultraviolet (black) light, the glass glows. The term ‘Vasoline glass’ dates from sometime in the ‘50s. And classic pieces – those manufactured prior to World War II – are highly sought after by collectors.”
After finishing my coffee, I bid Dick and Carolyn goodbye. I wanted to stick around, but the shop was about to close for the day. If you check out a map of Finger Lakes country, East Bloomfield and One Potato Two are located smack dab in the center of the region, within easy driving distance from almost anywhere. It’s not far away, but after you step inside – it is long ago. And if you do plan to visit, don’t expect to spend five minutes. Simply to cast your eyes across everything the store has to offer will take an hour – at minimum. So buy a bag of those yummy potato chips and prepare to be dazzled.
Want more information?
Visit onepotatotwo.com or call 585-657-7446.
Want to visit?
6900 State Route 5 And 20
Bloomfield, NY 14469
by Rich Finzer