York Road show: antiquing in Cockeysville

The antique mahogany dining tables are just magnificent. But then, so are the jukeboxes, Wedgwood tea sets, handcrafted pottery, art objects and vintage handbags. The problem isn't finding the perfect item, it's choosing among the treasures in the antiques district in Cockeysville.

Antiques district? In Cockeysville? Yes, you read that right. Whether you're interested in old furniture, old toys, old records or old rugs, Cockeysville has them and more. If you haven't paid a visit to Cockeysville in a while, you'll be surprised to see how much antiquing there is to do.

Residents from the areas around this northern Baltimore County community have been finding antiques in a few shops along York Road in Cockeysville for at least three decades. But recently, large numbers of visitors from outside the neighborhood have been discovering the area, too. The lure is a number of new vendors - about a half-dozen in the last year or so - which have joined the established dealers to create a strong concentration of shops in a small corridor.

Ruth Ann Brindley owns two multidealer shops in the district, Abundant Treasures and Brindley & Co. Antiques. She has been in the business for more than 30 years and is pleased to see the influx of new vendors.

"More high-quality dealers and merchandise have come in recently," she says. "I think there's more interest in antiques right now. With the television program 'Antiques Roadshow,' people are more aware that antiques are a good value. You get more of a history and a mystery with them. There is more respect for the business and the people. It's a lot of work to find good-quality antiques."

With the growth in Cockeysville's antiques district, it may become harder yet for the dealers to find quality antiques, but it's easier than ever for customers to shop for those they do find. Almost all of the district's shops are open Thursday through Sunday, and many are open earlier in the week or by appointment.

The district, which is roughly bordered by Hillside Avenue to the south and Wight Avenue to the north, is not a match for the Frederick County town of New Market, which calls itself the Antiques Capital of Maryland, but it's still a real find. We recently spent a day in Cockeysville and found the choices for antiques and collectibles were astounding.

We started at the southern end of the district, visiting the two shops on the southbound side of the road first. The Polka-dotted Zebra (10717 York Road, 410-683-7200) was our first stop. Billed as featuring "cool stuff, art and antiques," it didn't disappoint. This small shop - one of the newer ones - has a selection of everything, from antique cookware to modern frames and funky paving stones. I found a great lidded pottery jar for only $6 that I gladly took home.

The next stop was Cuomo's Antiques & Interiors (10759 York Road, 410-628-0422). This shop, which has another branch on Howard Street in downtown Baltimore, has been part of the antiques district for 11 years. It's a beautiful place, filled with furniture, porcelain, silver and more. We loved an inlaid wood chest and the china services especially.

Crossing the street and heading north, we noticed the Ashland Cafe (10810 York Road, 410-666-3838) and decided to drop in. After all, you need fuel to go antiquing.

Open very early every morning, the Ashland Cafe is a cheery yet unpretentious spot for breakfast. After a cup of coffee there, we browsed in Abundant Treasures Antiques (10818 York Road, 410-666-9797), a 10-dealer shop that offers a bit of everything. Just beyond we found Brindley & Co. Antiques (10828 York Road, 410-666-7790), Ruth Ann Brindley's multidealer shop featuring wicker, textiles, mahogany and a bit of everything else. The antique wicker baby furniture and the Victorian gowns were favorites here.

Up the road a bit is John Barney's Antiques (10832 York Road, 410-666-5066), specializing in traditional mahogany dining rooms and accessories. This shop looks like a setting for a historic home, with graceful dining sets as far as you can see. Although the $5,000 price tag on the table we loved was too rich for us, the furnishings seemed well worth their price.

Next door we found more elegant items at the Pack Rat (10834 York Road, 410-683-4812), which features fine antique and reproduction furniture, mirrors, fireplace accessories, Kirk-Stieff silver, oyster plates and more. The silver services were incredible, and would be a perfect match for that mahogany table we loved.

Music in the air, specifically jukebox music, stopped us in our tracks and we had to go investigate. We found Jumpin' Jim's Musical Jukeboxes (10840 York Road, 410-666-5575), a funky collection of antique and new jukeboxes, pinball machines and records. Yes, real records. "Despite the rumors, vinyl is not final," proclaims proprietor Joe Bloodgood. "We have music back to the 1940s and even have the current Top-40 hits on 45s - with picture sleeves."

Bloodgood will sell you the records, or the whole jukebox, or just rent you a jukebox for an evening. For $700 and up, we could own a full jukebox of our own. We were tempted, but decided to move on to other stores.

Hunt Valley Antiques (10844 York Road, 410-628-6869) was our next stop. This shop offers cabinet-made furniture and china primarily. The proprietor also offers replacement china pieces and a silver matching service, so this is a great stop if you've lost one of Grandmother's plates or forks.

Bentley's Antiques Show Mart (10854 York Road, 410-667-9184) has three floors of dealers, with literally a bit of everything, from pottery to pinewood. Antique toys and some bronzes caught our eye, but the cabinet full of candy bars that made us realize we needed to take a lunch break.

We decided to treat ourselves for lunch, so we drove 10 minutes north to the Milton Inn in Sparks (14833 York Road, 410-771-4366). This 240-year-old fieldstone building is one of the area's most romantic dining spots, and with its graceful rooms filled with vintage porcelain and hunting prints, it was perfect setting for a meal during a day of antiquing.

The inn features a three-course prix-fixe luncheon menu for $16, along with daily specials. While the crab cake special was disappointing (too small and too fishy), the crisp salads and creme brulee were perfect. Refreshed in body and spirit, we set out again.

We started back at the Alley Shoppes (10862 York Road, 410-683-0421), a multifloor building that's home to 18 dealers. Formica tables, Fiestaware, formal china - you name it, you can find it here.

Head north a bit and you'll find treasures of a different sort. Khalje Oriental Rug Gallery (10866 York Road, 410-667-9433) offers hand-spun wool Oriental rugs in stunning designs, both new and antique at prices from $35 to $35,000. The rugs would be a perfect complement to your antique furniture.

An antique runner, in such outstanding condition we thought it was new, was too costly for us at $19,000, but the semi-antique 60-year-old Sumak rug in purples and reds for $1,400 was quite reasonable, we thought.

Although they don't have antiques, the Shawan Shoppes (10866B York Road, 410-628-0773) do have fine crafts and decorative accessories. A hand-painted pew at $790 caught our eye, along with some handmade candles for under $2. Next door, we found more treasure at A Consignment With Refinement etc.(10868 York Road, 410-628-7283). Emma, the official greeter (a year-old pound poodle), was more than happy to see us, and we were thrilled with the bargains.

The shop features ladies' and men's designer clothing and accessories at bargain prices and also had some riding boots and equestrian apparel for sale. But as nice as the clothes were - and many were brand new - it was the collection of vintage hats, gloves and handbags hanging from the rafters that got our attention. We resisted because we didn't really need them, but a couple of pieces almost came home.

Nearing the end of the day and feeling a bit tired, we made our way to the northernmost shops in the district. Tucked into a little corner building named Tyrie Antique Village (11008-11010 York Road) were three shops that were well worth a visit. Whimsical Delights (410-527-1422) offers country and Victorian antiques, redware, handmade pottery and a country store. There are a number of pieces of Irish pine and English china that the owner, Diane Elaine Hanson, brought back from a recent trip to the British Isles.

"The hunt is the fun of it," she says, "that and the stories behind the pieces."

I was torn between a 1920s green Wedgwood luncheon set for $550 and a Davenport platter for $395, but took home a French-style pot instead for only $10.

The aptly named Corner Cottage (410-527-9535) features shabby-chic items - affordable country and primitive furnishings and decorative objects. A green framed mirror for under $20 caught our eye here, along with a great painted door cabinet.

The last shop here was the most interesting we'd seen all day. Amy's Stuff (410-785-0965) features architectural items such as doors and cornices, but it also offers some unique antique architectural art assemblages. The owner, Amy Facinoli, creates these abstract figures from found architectural objects (such as part of a door, a fence or a mantel) and barbed wire.

"I'm a visionary artist," she explains. "I make most of my stuff from what I see in it. A lot of my pieces come from Baltimore City."

The assemblages would be equally comfortable in a contemporary home or in a country house, and are so popular they'll be featured in a bathroom in the forthcoming Symphony Decorators' Show House.

It was time to go home after leaving Amy's Stuff. It had been a long day, and our senses were saturated. We probably missed something in our travels, but we'd certainly proved one thing - there's no shortage of things to see and buy in Cockeysville's vibrant and growing antiques district.