By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
I have found over the years that there are certain stores that have a strong “vibe,” perhaps one of whimsy, serendipity, or plain old fun. Boneyard Antiques opened on June 1, and every time I go in there, I want to chuckle. The owners, Andy and Wendy Yarbrough, along with their vendors, clearly love what they are doing, and it shows everywhere you look, both in what is available, as well as how it’s displayed. Let me give you an example. Do you remember the Coca-Cola product in the pink can that is known as Tab? It also happened to be the very first diet cola, and I didn’t think they made it any more. Well, for the grand opening, there were cans of Tab placed on the arms of the woven ‘60s lawn chairs set outside against the north wall that made one think it was a true summertime “blast from the past.” They were the kitschy decorating touch of Frank Crafts, of Frank’s Good stuff, and when I saw them, I laughed out loud and said, “Oh, what a hoot!”
For those of you who are local history buffs, Boneyard Antiques on the Square, which is located on the corner of Market and Jefferson in Athens, has been many things over the years. These include a funeral home, a Christian book store, and a women’s clothing store. Wendy took me on a tour of the place and all its nooks and crannies, which have been uncovered in the process of “revealing the Boneyard.” She showed me the elevator where the bodies had been taken up to the second floor for embalming, the window on the Jefferson Street side where they had been laid out for viewing, and the freezer area where they had been stored – essentially a morgue. Wendy and Andy learned from a woman that the two closets under the staircase going up to the second floor were “white and colored” restrooms during the era of Jim Crow. We agreed that it is always important to just “let the story be the story – the good, the bad and the ugly,” and now Boneyard is a place where history can be redeemed. The vendors are all committed to helping folks find exactly what they are looking for, and everyone has fun in the process.
So, how did Andy and Wendy come to enter in this adventure? As I sat at the old soda shop table for the interview, both of them were visibly moved by the desire to honor the memory and legacy of their respective grandparents, as well as to preserve the history of the building. This is no passing fancy; for the Yarbroughs, this is a passion that verges on being a calling. They had both loved their grandparents’ homes as kids, and keenly felt the items in those homes had stories that needed to be told. Wendy’s grandmother had been raised during the Depression, and “Mamaw’s crystal” had been passed down to each succeeding generation. “Mamaw had an outhouse until I was 12,” Wendy told me, and added that she had been greatly saddened by Mamaw’s passing. Wendy used to be fascinated by “going back in time” when she would visit, and strongly feels that “every piece has a story,” which she wants to help tell. She and Andy had decorated their own home with family pieces as well as ones they had found, and opening their own place has been a dream since they met in college at Alabama. Andy’s grandma was called “Mama Chickie,” and her place yielded all manner of old tractors. For Andy’s part, he loves to see tools have a new life, but has a personal “line in the sand,” which is, if the piece is still usable according to its original design, he does not want to see it be re-purposed. If it’s broken, no problem, have at it.
I asked them, “I have choices when it comes to finding all kinds of grand old stuff, so why should I come to you?” Andy went first. “We have a vision to embrace the past, and give people a chance to find eclectic pieces, antiques, and retro, and have fun while they are doing it. Wendy continued, “We also have artwork, jewelry which is designed to be ‘wearable art,’ candles, vintage clothing, re-purposed pieces, and all kinds of barn wood. We want to give people a chance to own a piece of history.” They both said that another one of their goals is to build a “Boneyard community.” By that they mean a place where people can come, find what they are looking for, and build relationships in the process. The Yarbroughs are committed to being fairly-priced and going the extra mile to help customers find what they are looking for. “We want to make old things available in new ways, and preserve history,” Wendy said. Andy ended our time by saying, “We have been working toward this all our life.” Come to Boneyard and experience what it is like to “re-think antiques.” You’ll find what you are after, have fun while you are looking, and leave knowing you have new friends.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner