Antique mall brings mercantile back to life |

Antique mall brings mercantile back to life

by Lisa Gavon
Special to The R-C
Rich and Karen Campbell inside their antique emporium Cheshire Antiques.
Lisa Gavon

She held the image of the land where she was born in her heart. Her long ago memory was of lush green hills dotted with vintage shops that were filled with charm and beauty. It brought that special sparkle to her eyes, and inspired Karen Campbell to create some magic right here in Gardnerville.

She left her rural home in England with her parents and brother when she was only two years old. There counties are known as “shires”

Actually from Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire, she thought that rather cumbersome and sought another name for the enchanting village of antiques she and her husband Richard were looking to create.

They decided upon Cheshire Antiques, a beguiling name for the delightful community of vendors of the vintage that they have gathered together under one roof.

It had an unexpected beginning. Driving by the large brick building the day before one of their daughter’s wedding celebrations, they noticed a small “For Lease” sign in the window. They had no time then to explore the possibility.

The day after all their guests and family had gone home, they found the sign was still there. They both thought they should at least go and look. Their intuition held strong, and they dove right in.

It was a huge effort to get the building in order and the antique mall running. For years, they never had a day off, but their vision is not only manifest, but quite remarkable. Their efforts have been rewarded.

As a child, Karen’s family ended up in Shell Beach, right next to Pismo in California. She and Richard went to the same elementary school, and she even remembers watching him play basketball all the way back in third grade. Karen developed a fascination with history, stories of past events, and period objects. Most significantly, she loved “looking for treasures.” She adored picking up sea shells and sea glass and creating her first serious collection.

Reintroduced in high school, Richard and Karen dated for a year before they eloped. Getting married in Clovis, they honeymooned in Yosemite.

They lived in Grass Valley for the first five years of their marriage, where Richard worked for a cable television company. Their oldest daughter was born there. A job transfer brought them to Lake Tahoe where their second daughter was born.

They spent 22 years in Tahoe, first at the top of Kingsbury, and then in Christmas Valley. Karen ran her own childcare and preschool so she could be at home for them. She also worked at the legendary art gallery then known as Paper and Gold in the back of Caesar’s Casino.

On the side, she rented booths in a few other antique malls at the Lake and in Placerville. When Richard accepted a position in Carson Valley, she opened Stick and Stump Antiques right down the street from their current location.

Over the years they have crafted a wonderful system for success. Everyone is a part of making it happen. They have welcomed good people who share their high standards, and focus on truly quality antiques. This is what keeps their business as strong as ever. It is an exciting time in the antique world, with a nationwide interest that makes for a huge potential.

Richard and Karen are a balanced team. Richard is more technical and Karen smiles and says “He likes to do all the things I don’t like to do!” They both are constantly studying and learning more. In the antique world, you are in nonstop training.

The 12,000 square foot brick building was built by Danish immigrant Arendt Jensen and originally used as a general store. The south side was acquired in 1919 to be used as a Masonic Lodge. The Masons lost it during the Depression, but were able to buy it back several decades ago.

In the early 1900s the building housed the Carson Valley Mercantile: the central business in Gardnerville. Everyone bought their essentials there until it closed in the mid-70s. The building itself is steeped in Carson Valley history, with many other businesses located there over the years.

One side was the home of Napa Auto Parts, and the other Penguin Plumbing until the plumbing business took over both sides. This was just before Richard and Karen started Cheshire in 2005. The building itself has just changed owners, but that has not altered anything in relation to the continued operation of the antique mall.

It is an adventure in and of itself to be inside, and they pride themselves on displaying items both unique and authentic. The space is filled with Victoriana, Native American pieces, smalls, art, jewelry, art glass, pottery, and unusual and unexpected historical objects and furniture.

They are open from 10 to 5:30 every day and can be reached at 775-782-9117. You will find the vendors genuine, friendly, and knowledgable. They only do two sales a year. The next one is their “Black Friday” event on Friday and Saturday Nov. 29 and 30. Our family loves to wander in this vintage wonderland, bringing home our own newly made memories. It will kindle your imagination and deepen your appreciation for “the way things were.”