In Harpers Ferry, vintage is funky, affordable

HARPERS FERRY – What better way to celebrate the opening of a unique new business than with a unique gathering?

The Gilded Flea: Antiques & Mathoms held an open house/open jam on June 7, attracting dozens of musicians, business leaders, curious Panhandle residents and out-of-town visitors.

Krista and Dwayne Brooke own Harpers Ferry’s new Gilded Flea: Antiques & Mathoms. “Mathom” in the store’s name is a term coined by “Lord of the Rings” author JRR Tolkien, who used it to describe an unusual object that’s given as a present and then often passed along to others as a gift.

As the workday wrapped up, the one-time funeral home at 970 Washington St. came alive for the official debut of Harpers Ferry’s new vintage store.

Dwayne and Krista Brooke, graphic designers who met at Shepherd University, are the brains behind the Gilded Flea.

Thanks to Dwayne’s background as a musician, the business’s five-hour grand opening event attracted a mix of outstanding musicians who took turns performing on the shop’s outdoor patio.

Some of the musicians were bandmates of Dwayne, a guitarist, singer and songwriter. He founded the acclaimed acoustic gypsy jazz group The Woodshedders, which has been wowing audiences in D.C. and across the region since 2003.

Also a woodworker, Dwayne created some of the unique offerings for sale at Gilded Flea, including one-of-a-kind pieces made from reclaimed wood, repurposed furniture components and other architectural salvage.

One of his creations is a low, country-style coffee table made with the sturdy legs of an antique rope bed and well-worn barn wood from Loudoun County that bears not just the expected knots but also marks left behind by a horse that gnawed on it.

Another unique piece starts with a 1960s metal saw cabinet. It’s transformed into a kitchen island thanks to corbels salvaged from a Victorian home in D.C. and a hand-made butcher block.

The Gilded Flea also has vintage framed art, cookie jars and other dishes, tin lunch boxes, pop culture memorabilia, a huge selection of LPs, books, men’s Fedoras, tables, couches, a tin pie safe and more.

The Brookes have friends in Strasburg, Va., who run a similar vintage store there. “They have great stuff, pieces with such great character that are reasonably priced, too,” Krista explains. “We wanted to create something like that in Harpers Ferry to give shoppers an alternative to buying new.”

Krista, a West Virginia native who grew up in Pocahontas and Boone counties, moved to the Eastern Panhandle for college. She is the visual communications and marketing manager for the National Art Education Association based in Reston, Va.

Dwayne has lived in Harpers Ferry from age 9 when his parents relocated from Gaithersburg, Md. In addition to his work in wood and as a Woodshedder, he also takes on graphic and website design projects.

The pair opened the Gilded Flea in April and say they’re pleased with the response from the community. They’ve already made connections with other business owners, including Judith Platz at ReFinements of Shepherdstown, Deb Tucker of Bistro 112 in Shepherdstown and Valerie Rinker next door at Beyond the Lens Photography.

Rinker says she’s been delighted to find cool new props to purchase at the Brookes’ shop; when her photography subjects comment on them, she encourages them to visit Gilded Flea.

The Gilded Flea’s open house included not only music, but refreshments and door prizes. It’s clear the couple’s relaxed, welcoming approach extends beyond their open house to the way they approach business every day.

“We’re having so much fun,” Dwayne said. “Everyone’s been so enthusiastic. We’re looking forward to adding something new and fun to the community.

“Right away, it’s been something people are really excited about.”

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