It is said that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. For Mary Anne Hess and her sons, their business is the past, and as they’re proving, repetition is not always a bad thing.
This summer, the family opened Remember When, a shabby-chic retailer, providing shoppers with a look back into yesterday, offering furniture, garden decor, mirrors, collectibles, vintage toys, cameras and much more. Within the confines of a 4,500-foot area, including a workshop for touching up worn and weathered pieces, Remember When offers a wide range of items that were somewhere else yesterday and may not be there tomorrow.
“My family has always been big in collecting and recycling things we’d find,” recalled Mary Anne Hess. “When I was very young, I’d go with my grandmother to public sales, and I’d always come home with my own box of something. It didn’t matter what was in it. Our family was always collecting stuff. My dad was that way, too. We never threw things away.”
“But we weren’t hoarders,” added her son Brian Hess, who helps out with the shop, with a note of laughter. “As long as I can remember, I have been going to flea markets with my mother. Growing up, my brother Jeff and I became ‘pickers.’ We’d go to auctions and estate sales to find the good-quality, vintage furniture and collectibles.”
And now, the items are finding their way into the shop.
Roughly twice a month, Jeff Hess returns from auctions around the Frederick, Md., and southern Pennsylvania regions with a trailer full of new items.
“He brings it back here,” said Brian Hess, “and we go to work, repurposing and refinishing these things to put them on the floor. No two items are alike, though, so something you see here today might not be here tomorrow.”
From hard-to-find wrought-iron tables and chairs, and wooden fireplace mantles, to classic bunk beds and vintage wicker love seats, Remember When brings in a wide range of indoor and outdoor furniture.
“A lot of people nowadays are scrapping metal for money,” said Brian Hess. “Tables and chairs like the ones we can find are very hard to come by, especially in this area. Most of the iron furniture we get comes from the Frederick, Md., area. It’s just too expensive to buy around here.”
He noted that many people who visit auctions pass up on items that they may like, simply because they require too much attention and work. But in his workshop, Brian Hess puts in dozens of hours on individual pieces, such as a farm table, fashioned out of an old barn door. Some items date back quite some time, including a European bed frame and headboard that was traced back to the 1850’s.
“Most of these things are hard to come by,” said Brian Hess. “There are some rustic pieces, like old oak tabletops that we don’t want to paint over or take away from, so we’ll leave them the way they are.”
Classic cruiser bicycles, dating back to the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s, vintage cameras and decorative china are just some of the other things that Remember When has to offer.
A variety of showrooms feature a spectacle of yesterday’s treasures, including a toy room, highlighting Hot Wheels and matchbox cars, vintage marbles, toy trains and much more. Before long, Brian Hess plans to debut year-round Halloween and Christmas rooms with vintage holiday decorations.
For the significant others who might not get as much out of perusing the showrooms, there is even a “Man Cave,” where they can sit among classic car and music memorabilia, vintage metal signs and an old Pepsi dispenser, and enjoy a game.
With the showrooms constantly being updated, running the business can be tricky.
“Something you see here one day may be gone the next,” Brian Hess said. “It’s a constant work-in-progress. We’re always moving things around and switching things up. Sometimes, especially when we get larger pieces, a room you walked through could look completely different a week later. People have missed out on items that they wanted to come back and look at.”
But one thing that won’t change at Remember When is the quality of items that stock the shop, the Hesses assured.
“So much furniture is mass-produced anymore,” said Mary Anne Hess. “You can’t go out anywhere and find these classic styles. We take things in poor or worn condition and make it something special again. The variety is very eclectic. There’s so much from all over.”
“We put a lot of time into the work,” reiterated Brian Hess, “but our prices are still very fair. You can get a set of bunk beds or a nice farm table here for half the price you’d find them somewhere else.”
Despite the antiquated furniture, decor and toys that line the shop, Remember When has jumped into the new age of the social media scene since opening up on Memorial Day. Their Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/rememberwhen.shoppe, gives customers an exclusive sneak peek at the newest featured items available. A monthly e-newsletter is also available for customers who stop by. Later this year, Brian Hess plans to get the shop’s Web site up and running, too.
“It’s a lot of fun for us,” he said. “We’re sort of going along with the whole ‘green’ idea, recycling old furniture and reselling a lot of things that people would discard as junk before it was fixed up.”
Remember When is located at 34683 Horseshoe Drive in Selbyville, along Route 54, about 8 miles west of Coastal Highway. They are open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. For more information, call (302) 858-3217 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.