Where: Griffin's Antiques, 34 E. Mellen St., Phoebus area of Hampton
Fab find: 1930s peach glass mirror, $300
On a recent Friday afternoon, Phoebus foot traffic streamed into Rick Griffin's antique shop on Mellen Street, stepping around his two ladders and treading carefully through the tightly packed shop.At the time, Griffin was adding the final crystals to his giant Georgian chandelier, one of the many antique lighting fixtures that dangle over his showroom. He is still working to wire electricity to the lights, but the building's original moldings and decorative ceilings add an impressive element to the fine art and antique shop.
Longtime Phoebus residents will remember 34 E. Mellen St. as Benthall's Market, a mainstay in the community for nearly 100 years before it closed in 1998. Now, towering plaster statues of Cicero and Calliope, the Greek goddess of eloquence, replace the canned goods of Benthall's grocery store.
So it seems fitting that Griffin, who has owned antique shops in Norfolk and Miami, chose to open his main showroom in Phoebus because of the community.
"Phoebus is a rare enclave where the neighbors still know one another," he says. "And I did so well with my booth at Return Engagements (a store also on Mellen Street) that I decided to open a larger location here."
The shopping tends to be on a higher price scale than surrounding stores, but Griffin also houses a few pieces not many people can get their hands on. Resting behind a hung carpet (which Griffin uses as a barrier between his formal showroom and his storage area), sits a 6-by-4-foot Ansel Adams photograph taken in the 1940s. That went to one of Griffin's Washington, D.C., customers for about $7,000.
As your eye moves around the room, you'll also spot a geometrically patterned Milano chaise and scattered pieces of an Old Paris porcelain service from the 1930s. In Miami, Griffin says he focused on mid-century modern pieces from the 1950s and '60s, and he carries some of those items in Phoebus, as well. But here, he focuses on that traditional Virginia style, furniture from the early 20th century. His price point, which ranges from the tens to the tens of thousands, focuses more on the established collector.
But the true gem at Griffin's Antiques is Griffin, himself, whose razor-sharp memory recalls every item in his possession.
"Just ask," he says, walking past rows of seemingly unorganized piles of chairs, benches and tables.
Shop Stops is an occasional feature about new stores on the Peninsula. Savvy Shopper Nicole Paitsel can be reached at 247-4737 or firstname.lastname@example.org.