Karen Apostolico has always had an appreciation for yesterday’s treasures. After retiring to Millsboro from Wilmington four years ago, she has finally brought her passion to fruition, having opened Caroline’s Cottage in early June. The old house-turned-shop, located downtown, on Main Street, combines an artistic mix of vintage and contemporary pieces, including clothes, furniture, art, jewelry, ceramics and much more.
“We provide vintage finds, antiques and good junk,” said Apostolico, noting the store’s slogan on a chalkboard greeting. “It has really been a fantastic summer so far. We have really good support, not only from the vacationers coming to the beach, as you’d expect, but from the local people here, as well.” Already, she has seen repeat business from pleased customers who can’t seem to get enough at Caroline’s Cottage.
Opened this summer on June 3, the cottage was a way for Apostolico to turn cherished items from decades past into more modern, ornamental objects to adorn any room in the home.
“These aren’t pristine antiques,” she said, “but we give people an idea of what they can do with the things they have on hand. We have a lot of refinished pieces. A lot of people look for things that not only look nice, but are functional, yet others may be looking for something more decorative.” It also allows Apostolico to feature her own photograph-inspired acrylic paintings in the shop.
With five rooms featuring all types of items, and influence from a number of different decorators and collectors, there are multiple themes that can be seen when assessing the products available at Caroline’s Cottage.
“I have a few neighbors who collect antiques,” Apostolico said, “and I wanted to feature these items. It’s a lot of fun. We share ideas with each other, and they bring their own special look. It ends up being kind of an eclectic feel throughout the shop. Everything you see is not just one person’s idea. It’s really been a great experience.”
The furniture, shelves, floors and walls are lined with items from auctions and estate sales, though some things come from close to home.
“We bring in things from wherever we can find them,” Apostolico said. “Sometimes, they are things that are buried in our own attics and garages.”
Perhaps one of the things that have kept repeat business coming through the door is the affordable prices on the items at Caroline’s Cottage.
“I think one of our biggest draws people come back for are the prices,” she said. “In this economy, people need to be able to pick things up at affordable prices. A lot of the items we have here are newer. We also get dealers from out-of-state because of the tax-free shopping offered here in Delaware. A woman from Connecticut was in here just the other day and purchased a lot of items. I have one customer who comes in at least once a week. People are coming from Bethany. It’s been really great.”
Another appealing aspect of the cottage is the warm feel customers receive once inside.
“There’s definitely a comfortable feel here in this old house,” Apostolico added. “Customers will come in and walk around a few times, but others may take a seat and sit and chat for a while. The store is welcoming, and that’s really good to know. We’re seeing the number of our clientele grow each day.”
When customers set foot in Caroline’s Cottage for the first time, she explained, they aren’t usually looking for something in particular.
“Their ideas are all over the place,” she said. “Most of the time, they just come in and walk around and check out each room. Sometimes, they are looking for something specific, and we’ll try to cater to them.”
If a particular style or item is not at Caroline’s Cottage, visitors can sign a Wish Book.
“If we don’t have what they’re looking for,” Apostolico said, “we’ll contact them and have them come back when we have something like it. It’s another great way to stay in touch with our client base.”
Named after Apostolico’s mother, Caroline’s Cottage provides Apostolico with a place to appreciate a passion handed down to her.
“My mother loved vintage things,” she said, “and I got that from her. Some things are hard to part with. I have stuff at home that will stay there for a while, but it’s all part of the business.”
Unless you’re driving up Route 1 and are willing to contend with the summer shoppers in Rehoboth, she noted, you won’t find too many places like Caroline’s Cottage.
“One of the things about this store is that there’s not a lot of places like it to shop,” she said. “We’ve got something for everyone, and I’m trying to bring in more local artists here. People come in looking to get some shopping done for the holidays, finding gifts for others, or something for themselves.”
Later this fall, Apostolico hopes to bring small events to the cottage, including artist nights, which may feature local crafters from the area.
The saying “Here today, gone tomorrow” holds true at Caroline’s Cottage, so shoppers are encouraged to stop by early and often.
“Everybody is out picking all the time,” Apostolico said. “We constantly have new items on display. Each room has something different, and people have different ideas.”
Currently, Caroline’s Cottage is open from Tuesdays through Sundays, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. The shop is located at 317 Main Street in Millsboro, beside the police department. For more information, call (302) 934-1719.