On Black Friday, millions of Americans stormed through the doors of the large retail chain stores from coast-to-coast, and picked up PlayStation-3's, laptops, desktops, plasma TV's, shirts, dresses and pants.
While people were shopping in chain stores, there were no big crowds in the Boneyfiddle district of Portsmouth. Three people in this store, two in that store, and people window shopping, was about all one could find under the title “hustle and bustle.”
In Mr. Binn's Antiques, at 604 Second St., Bill and Laura McKinney were sitting in chairs entertaining friends, while their daughter, Lissa McKinney, sat behind the counter.
“This store got its name because Mr. Binns, Wylie Binns, really was here in the 1930's,” Lissa McKinney said.
Bill and Laura have had the store 27 years with some unique merchandise.
“We carry a full line of antique jewelry from Victorian to the 1920's,” Lissa said. “That's something you don't find at the malls.”
Wall shelves were covered with old books. A big selection of tools, including handmade cast-metal planes, are near the front of the store.
“My brother and my dad both are into antique tools,” Lissa said. “But the amazing thing is that people still come in and buy these tools and use them because they know they're probably not going to break.”
Laura McKinney said there is more appreciation for the Boneyfiddle area from people who don't live here.
“So many people from out of town come in and tell us how much they enjoy the murals and the river, and they want to ask about the old buildings down here,” she said.
Another one-of-a-kind Christmas gift is next door, at 602 Second St., in a place called “Tootsies.”
In one display case, folks will see the craftsmanship of a line of depression glass.
Owner Thelma Hurley is proud of a wooden, wicker-type chair and the friend who gave it to her.
“This is a chair made in 1904. When you see old photos, people often sat in chairs like this, and this was given to me by my good friend Mid Rader,” said Hurley. “Mid is 101 now and was the first Miss Portsmouth, back in 1925, and she gave me this chair and said, ‘Here, go make some money with it.' ”
Another item that demands attention is a hutch-cabinet with circular screens near the bottom.
“That hutch is from 1880, and at the bottom is a pie safe,” Hurley said.
She said when people baked back then, they would remove their pies and other baked items from the stove and put them in the pie safe. The screen kept the flies out and let the air in to cool the pies.
“Folks don't take the time to bake like that anymore,” Hurley said.
Old wooden sleds, wrapped in Christmas ribbons, flanked each side of the entrance-way to “Ghosts in the Attic” at 543 Second St.
Jack Noel was sitting on a bench inside the store, and his wife, Linda, was behind a counter, where she has been working for the last 18 years.
“Seven of us have booths in here, and we take turns manning the store,” Linda Noel said.
Shoppers can spend hours pouring over the Portsmouth post cards and the Portsmouth milk bottles, and beyond that, there is a potpourri of unique gift ideas including cups and saucers, jewelry, American coins, toys, Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls, and furniture.
“We have furniture, but we're all getting a little too old to lug it around anymore,” Linda said.
The sign in the window at 537 Second St. reads “Remember When ...”, and Doug Besco is nearly overrun with merchandise.
“I retired and at first had a booth at one of the stores, then came here,” Besco said. “I love helping people find the things they're looking for.”
Glassware is a popular item at Remember When, but it is not your normal glassware, he said.
“A lot of people in their '30s come in here and they're looking for cartoon glass featuring the characters they grew up with, like maybe The Smurfs. Well, I have it,” Besco said.
His other glassware includes Portsmouth River Days, restaurant glasses, Pepsi holiday glasses and Portsmouth Trojans 1950's glassware.
“The key is finding your niche, and building on your expertise,” Besco said. “And mine is glassware and pottery.”
Glenda Simmering at Perfect Expressions, 544 Second Street, has mostly handmade items in her store.
The scents from candles fill the air.
. On a late Friday afternoon, Glenda was ironing an outfit while tending a store in which she hand-made about 65 percent of the things in the store, including the shelves bearing the treasures. “I'm not normally ironing while I work, but I have to sing tonight in Wheelersburg,” said Simmering. “And since God gave me the talent, I'd better use it.” Simmering operates “Perfect Expressions, at 544 Second Street. The scents from candles fill the air, including scents that take you back to holidays of the past. “I make all of my own candles,” Simmering said. “And this is a slate I'm painting from a photo a customer brought me.”
The shelves are lined with dolls, stuffed bears, and, yes, flowers. “I do all the floral arrangements, and these hand-painted signs too,” Simmering said.
If there are sports fans on your shopping list, one need only look at the custom-created glass blocks that light up, bearing the insignia's of Notre Dame and Ohio State. “I had a lady place an order for these,” said Simmering. “This is what I have always called bathroom glass. No one can see through it.”
Christi Wymer has brought something new to Second Street. In a store called Different Daisey's, at 515 Second, one can purchase health food and natural body care products. “We offer earth-friendly cleaning supplies for people with allergies, and soon our back room will be a gallery for artists and students,” Wymer said.
There are stores with lighted beer signs, furniture, used appliances, statuary, collectibles and antique photos. And, just like the gift ideas you find there, it's for sure, you won't find this shopping area duplicated anywhere else.
So when you've worn out your feet from standing in long lines and walking half a mile across a mall parking lot, take a load off in Boneyfiddle in downtown Portsmouth. Treasures still exist, you just have to know where to look.
FRANK LEWIS can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232.