BY CAROL VAUGHN, Shore First —
The Dogwood Branch, an upscale consignment shop at 4 North St. in Onancock, provides an enjoyable shopping experience for customers and also helps fund the many activities of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society, which has operated the shop for the past six years.
Now decorated for the holiday season and filled with unusual items perfect for gift giving (especially for that hard-to-buy-for person), the Dogwood Branch’s offerings include mainly home decor, furniture, artwork, jewelry, and the like — but no clothing.
Among the current offerings are creches, decoys, a large Victorian birdcage, and a fish carved of petrified wood.
Additionally, gift certificates are available.
“We’ve had everything from Mama Girls (artworks by a renowned local folk artist) to other local artists,” said historical society executive director Hilary Hartnett-Wilson.
According to Hartnett-Wilson, the shop’s name was derived from the “huge affinity” for dogwood trees of Agnes Ker, wife of John Ker, the owner of Ker Place, a stately home on Market Street that is now the historical society’s headquarters.
The dogwood motif is repeated throughout Ker Place, Hartnett-Wilson said.
The Dogwood Branch is run entirely by a small group of dedicated volunteers, including among others longtimers Cheryl Gresham (who does research and pricing), Terry Ewell, Maryann Resky, Lynne Calvert, Linda Dunton, Claudia Underwood, and Louise Firtell, a nonagenarian and former antiques dealer.
“It’s exciting. It’s different every day,” said Firtell.
“I’ve been volunteering for many, many, many years. I recommend it highly. It keeps you young; it keeps you busy,” she said, adding, “You’re working with women of all ages. The customers are from all walks of life, from all over the world. … It’s a real joy.”
“The good part about being a volunteer is that you get first dibs on what comes in,” said Hartnett-Wilson, adding, “You get to see so many interesting people. … There’s a cameraderie there.”
Meeting the people who wander into the store is a great benefit of volunteering.
“When people walk through the door, we generally ask them where they are from — and very often they are from other parts of the world. We had a family here from Wales,” Firtell said.
Hartnett-Wilson said additional volunteers are welcomed and could enable the shop to be open for more extended hours.
The hours at present are Monday, Thursday, and Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Volunteer docents at Ker Place also are needed.
If interested in volunteering (days and times are flexible), call the historical society at 757-787-8012.
The funds raised through sales at the Dogwood Branch go to pay for such worthy causes as historical society programs and speakers, exhibits, summer youth camps, and preservation of the society’s historic properties, which in addition to Ker Place include Hopkins & Bros. Store and Wise cemetery.
In addition to the opportunity to shop for unique items and the opportunity to volunteer for a worthwhile cause, the Dogwood Branch provides an outlet for people to sell on consignment their lovely but no-longer-needed items.
Monday is the best day to contact the shop about consigning items.
For information about consigning, email a list of items with photos to [email protected] or call 757-789-5368 (during shop hours) or 757-787-8012 to make an appointment for drop-off.
Calvert noted that, in addition to individual consignors, some local organizations have consignment accounts with the shop — providing a win-win whereby the organization as well as the historical society can raise funds.
“Any organization can start one (a consignment account),” Calvert said.