These days, customers seem to crave things that are new. The demand for the latest computers, cars and cell phones is a testament to this phenomenon.
But there also seems to be a fascination with things reminiscent of another place and time. For those who seek the nostalgic touches of antique items and country-themed home furnishings, there is Down Home Country, a store located at 7 ½ Church Street in Allentown.
Irene Lynch, who owns the store with her husband Gregory, says the store is unique because its staff makes or customizes many of the products.
Lynch says some of the best-selling products in the store are the pieces of furniture that they custom paint and refinish.
“That’s why we’re different. We actually are still making things,” Lynch said.
Customers can look through catalogues and select unfinished pieces of furniture from about six stores in Lancaster. Lynch obtains the furniture and paints, ages and distresses it to the customers’ preferences. Stephanie Landau, who has worked at the store for four years, and Gregory also paint the furniture.
The store also offers custom floral arrangements and pillows that are crafted by Lynch’s mother, Barbara Black.
“We do a lot of custom things for people so they don’t have to search high and low. They can just come here and tell us what they want,” Lynch said.
Lynch also paints folk art that is sold in the store, often using real places, such as barns and houses for inspiration.
Lynch said Down Home Country is also only one of two stores in the state that feature the intricate framed stitchwork pieces of Ruth Martze, known as hand-sewn samplers. It takes Martze two weeks to complete three of the intricate pieces, Lynch said.
“It’s a labor of love for her,” she added.
The store also features antiques and primitives. Lynch travels to places such as Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Ohio looking for antiques and pottery to sell in the store.
“We’ll just kind of go off the beaten path and find the little shops there along the way,” Lynch said. She also said she also obtains antique items at auctions.
Lynch estimates the oldest antique items in her store date back to the early 1800s. The store features several pieces of antique furniture, including a chest from the early to mid 1800s, and a doll cradle, which Lynch estimates was made in the 1840s.
Lynch said she uses clues such as stamps and construction methods and materials to determine the time and place where some items were made. She can tell the doll cradle was crafted in the 1840s because its nails were made and hammered by hand.
In addition to original antique pieces, Lynch said the store offers reproductions created from old material.
Some of these pieces are made by the Amish, who purchase barns, disassemble them, and use the 100-year-old wood to create items such as furniture, she said.
Lynch said this enables customers to purchase products made from authentically old materials for a fraction of what they might pay for an original antique piece.
The store also offers a variety of home furnishings, including candles, quilts and country-style curtains.
Lynch said she makes an effort to support other small businesses when choosing which brands to carry. The store stocks products from companies such as Warm Glow, Pilgrim’s Primitives and Evan Scent, all of which got their starts as small, family-operated businesses, Lynch said.
She said the store also carries products from larger companies, such as curtains by Park Designs.
In addition, the store features gourmet foods, some of which were prepared from Lynch’s original recipes. Lynch, who recently participated in the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival, said she creates a new soup recipe every year.
On weekends in the fall, slow cookers are set up inside the store so that customers can sample the soups. The soup mixes only require the customer to add meat and water, said Lynch.
In addition to soup, the store features quiche mixes, coffees, jellies and dips.
From August 1-17, Down Home Country will celebrate its tenth anniversary by offering a 25 percent discount on all merchandise with the exception of Ruth Martze’s hand-sewn samplers, Lynch said. To receive the discount, Lynch asks that customers bring the coupons found in the store’s advertisement in this newspaper.
Customers can receive an additional 5 percent discount by bringing a friend to the store with them, she added.
Lynch seems passionate about the store and its products. She said her own bedroom is decorated with a primitive quilt and the same country-style curtains sold in the store.
She said she also loves the store’s older pottery and kitchen products, such as wooden bowls because they remind her of her grandmother, who used to have similar items in her home.
Down Home Country is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Irene Lynch also offers interior decorating services. She paints freehand to decorate master bathrooms and themed bedrooms. For more information about this or Down Home Country, call (609) 208-2992. Down Home Country is also in the process of developing a Web site which Lynch said will be operational in August. The address is downhomecountrynj.com.