Looking for something old or something new?
Like many antique aficionados, Tammy Megill likes to take something old and give it a new purpose.
Her business, Lantern 44, on Hartly Road, transformed a decrepit, long-closed bar into a bright, welcoming antique and country deco store.
Megill, who lives near Marydel, isn’t new to the retail business, but the experience of owning her own business is making her life nowadays something unexpected.
“Doing all of this yourself when you can’t rely on a bunch of other people is the challenging part,” she said. In fact, Megill runs the store with only one helper, Debora Ryan of Hartly.
Ryan admits it’s kind of neat to bring something new to this corner of western Kent County.
“I like it because it’s close to my home, and I’m getting out and meeting new people and people I know in the community,” she said. “I like supporting my community -- and I get to learn a little bit about antiques.”
Local folks, local crafts
Lantern 44 is home to about 30 different consignees and craft vendors who sell their homemade wares or newly found treasures under Megill’s roof.
“We’ve got antiques, new products, hand-painted items, woodcraft, clothing and candles, Longaberger baskets, glassware and even lanterns,” she said.
The latter are Megill’s favorite, of course, and are the reason for the store’s name.
“Lanterns are my big things,” she said. Combining an image of the old-fashioned lighting instrument with Hartly Road’s former designation as County Road 44 just seemed the natural thing to do, she said.
And while she enjoys antiques -- she and husband Mike, the owner of Marydel’s M&D Plumbing, always are on the lookout for something new in the way of old things.
Megill said she enjoys working with the people who just drop by.
“I’m learning so much,” she said. “People come in and give me so many details about some of our items. I have three repeat customers who’ll come in, pull something off a shelf and tell a story about it. I love that kind of relationship. I’ve built so many friendships and acquaintances and it’s great to just see people coming in.”
Megill wanted neighboring crafters to be part of her enterprise.
“A lot of our vendors are local people, from Hartly, Smyrna, Marydel, and Dover. We’ve created a little family here where everyone knows everyone else.
Megill also hears stories about her store when it was a local watering hole, a bar known as “The Oasis.”
“The building as put up in the 1940s, we know that,” she said. “I’ve met one gentleman who said it used to be in his family. We’ve gotten stories about the bar. It was a pretty sketchy place. While we were working on it, a state trooper came by and asked what we were working on.
“He said, ‘Please don’t tell me it’s going to be a bar. I used to get calls here every night to break up fights.’”
Even during the renovations, people came in from Hartly and Marydel, thinking the couple was reviving The Oasis.
They might have been a little disappointed by Megill’s reply.
“I told them if they want to come in and get a cup of coffee, they’re more than welcome,” she said.
Something unique in western Kent
When The Oasis finally shut its doors about a decade ago, the building quickly started to fall apart.
Megill had a barn motif in mind for the renovations, but while that ultimately did not come to pass, she still thinks the building has a comfortable country atmosphere.
Some of the walls are corrugated metal like that used on farms, but most are covered in a warm, yellow pine Megill stained herself and which was installed in patterns she designed.
“I really wanted a barn-type feeling,” she admits. “Most barns are painted red, and so our outside walls are red, too.”
Old doors and crates have been repurposed into shelving and the front desk was built from lumber cut at the nearby Swartzentruber sawmill.
“I’ve been to a lot of antique shops and I wanted this place to have a homey feeling,” she said. “Some look like a warehouse or an old farmhouse, but I wanted us to be unique.
“I think I’ve accomplished that.”