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Spotlight on Business: Vintage Stew

Capturing customers with a little of this, a little of that

The name Vintage Stew, colorfully scripted on the brick wall above an empty storefront in Deale, opened four years ago to numerous conversations about whom and what was moving in. Was it a new eatery serving stew?
    “Like a big ol’ pot of stew …” says owner Shelley Daniels. But not the kind you eat.
    “A mix of ingredients,” adds partner Barry Morrissey.
    What the partners have made in Vintage Stew is an eclectic, high-quality home décor and miscellanea shop full of pleasant surprises. Beneath that script, you enter a world that is artsy, instructional and, best of all, fun. Stylish varieties of furniture, artwork, glassware, jewelry, albums, posters, and other unexpected treasures are tastefully displayed.
    Daniels and Morrissey greet customers with a hearty invite to come in and enjoy. Conversations often follow. From the styling of mid-century modern furniture — or the design purpose of a dimple in small, cobalt saltcellars, they love to talk about the pieces they discover, sort and display.
    “We are always on the lookout for rare and unusual, quirky and cool,” Morrissey says.
    They love for others to come see their latest finds and share the hunt.
    The hobby began years ago as treasure hunting and grew to fill a storage container. As their interests blossomed to more serious “seeking,” as Daniels identifies it, a second unit filled. Their vision of a retail outlet began to take shape. In 2013, the time felt right. The quest for space near their home began in earnest.
    They envisioned, “a different type of shop emphasizing very nice home décor and a vintage flair,” Morrissey says. They had a sense that this would work and compliment the existing shops in the Vintage Loop of stores from Edgewater to Galesville, Deale to Friendship.
    Both Daniels and Morrissey say “eclectic tastes” are alive in South County.
    On a recent Saturday, two Peugeot bikes, whimsical seasonal outdoor articles and a long wood slat bench sat for sale outside the doors. Inside, cabinets offer crystal, pottery and art glass items; artwork bedecks the walls.
    A couple who browsed in the morning returned in the afternoon. A woman drawn to a Japanese silk kimono hanging from the ceiling chatted with Daniels about its use and history. A man with a nearby second home considered what to add to the Federal-style table he’d found there. A friend has added gold leaf enhancements to a cabinet she bought there.
    A Royal manual typewriter reminded another customer of college. A visitor from Michigan admired the wooden sculpture of a yak.
    Discovering merchandise that is varied and interesting sends Daniels and Morrissey to estate sales, auctions, downsizings and, as Daniels calls it, “pickins.” The traveling and transient population of the Washington metropolitan area creates a “good market,” for them to acquire items from all over the world. They also purchase direct from sellers, discussing worth and pricing.
    Vintage Stew is open Tuesday through Saturday. The other days, the pair are busy backstage at work they find equally satisfying, researching items on the internet. Daniels loves to learn the story of the objects they foster. Morrissey finds enjoyment when renewing pieces in his workshop. He strives to bring new life to furniture while holding the history intact. A favorite project is an 1890s’ reed pump organ creatively renewed into a functioning bar.
    Together they have created an environment that embodies the rare, unusual, and quirky and cool, as it welcomes people to “Come on in,” and be a part of the experience.

Vintage Stew, 655 Deale Rd., Deale: 443-607-6601;