MARIETTA - In opening his own primitives and antiques store on Front Street in Marietta, Charlie Clay is realizing a longtime dream and carrying on a tradition that started when he was a child, creating projects in his father's workshop.
Clay, 28, of Marietta, will open Dad's Primitive Workbench at 268 Front St. in early May. It is named in honor of his late father, Scott, who died of cancer in 2008.
"There's really no shop around that's like what I want to do," Clay said. "Everything you need for your home, we'll probably have it."
Photo by Ashley Rittenhouse
Tonya Robey, owner of Mad Hen Primitives on Front Street in Marietta, straightens items in her store. She is discontinuing the business at the end of April and Marietta resident Charlie Clay will open Dad’s Primitive Workbench in its place in early May.
Tonya Robey currently owns the building at 268 Front St. and the business it houses, Mad Hen Primitives. After having been in business in Marietta for 12 years, Robey said she is moving on to another opportunity and her parents, who made the store's products, are retiring.
"We're still going to do local craft shows and I do have a website still for the rug-hooking part of it," Robey said.
Although he has worked for Blockbuster since the age of 17, Clay has always had a passion for primitives, which he said was fueled by Robey and her parents when they asked him to participate in a craft show when he was 13.
"I looked at them as the celebrities in the primitive world," Clay said. "From there we formed a friendship and really now, I consider them family."
Since then, Clay has regularly participated in craft shows and the largest antique shows in the United States, with the help of his mother, Tammy, and sister, Ashley. He has also been vending at The Painted Cupboard in Williamstown and Norwood Antique Mall in Marietta, under the name Dad's Primitive Workbench.
Although primitives will still be sold in the store, they will be sold by 10 individual vendors who will rent booth space. Clay will also have space in the store for his items. For now, he said, all the spaces are filled.
"I've handpicked every item in there, or every vendor in there," he said. "There are three local (vendors) and the rest of them are from out of town, so they're vendors people haven't seen before."
The products, he said, will vary from furniture to candles and 80 percent of it will be handmade. He acquires many of his items when he goes "picking," scouring garages, sheds, antique stores and other places for unique items.
Mineral Wells resident April Maston, owner of Crow Hill Primitives, is among those who will have a booth in the store. She moved her business from her home to Goldfinger Antique Mall on Market Street in Parkersburg in August.
"A lot of people I hear every day say, 'I miss your shop at your house' and this will be the closest thing to my shop I had," Maston said of her space in Clay's store.
Maston noted that she strives to make her products reasonably priced for customers. Clay said product pricing was an important factor in choosing the vendors.
"I like a good deal and I want the customers to be able to get a good deal," he said.
Clay said he also wants customers to feel at home in his store. He plans to always have a candle burning and music playing, and will encourage folks to sit for a while on a couch or chair.
Although exact hours of operation have not yet been established, Clay said he intends to stay open past 5 p.m. at least a day or two a week.
"I know Fridays we'll be there until 7 or 8 (p.m.) so if someone who is just off work at 5 (p.m.) wants to come find a treasure, you can do that," he said.
Clay said he also hopes to hold special programs and events, like a "make and take craft night," during which customers will be taught how to make their own craft and will be able to take it home.