A Terrace Oaks treasure hunt
By Prioleau Alexander
Camille and Luna welcome customers. Image courtesy Terrace Oaks.
When most people hear the word “antique mall,” they think about fine furnishings, silver sets and cutlery, art and place settings — and Terrace Oaks Antique Mall certainly offers a wide assortment all of those items. But what might surprise many is that this store offers a cornucopia of charming retro items. The first time I visited, I was fascinated, and spent an hour just combing through all the unique offers.
What kind of things did I find so desirable? Classic political campaign buttons; a collection of South Carolina license plates, stretching back to 1953; a huge vinyl album collection; baseballs signed by Hall of Fame players; Popular Science magazines from the 1930s; military uniforms and paraphernalia; classic “picture” postcards; vintage jewelry… the list is endless.
Charleston native Camille Wish owns Terrace Oaks and is a ground-up success story. After graduating from Ashley Hall and the College of Charleston, she went into banking for a decade, but her love for antiques beckoned her into collecting and selling antiques as a hobby.
“My dad was a forestry major at Syracuse, and he passed along to me a love of fine wood,” says Camille. “When he’d travel he’d stop at antique stores to admire the furniture. Inevitably he’d pick up a few interesting items, and bring them home. As a result, I came to love not just fine wood but antique collectibles.”
On weekends, she would attend antique shows and scour estate sales, and buy the items that interested her. Eventually she had enough items to participate in the shows herself, and split her weekends between participating in selling shows and shopping for new things. Most of her items in those days she referred as “smalls,” meaning in general smaller than a breadbox. The shows where she did her selling included S.C., North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee.
In 1991, she left banking and pursued the job she loved full-time. In the years that followed she continued with her traveling lifestyle but also leased a spot at none other than Terrace Oaks.
In 2005, she bought Terrace Oaks from Linda Leatherwood.
“It was nerve-wracking,” she says, “but I crunched the numbers and it made sense in the long run — and I was ready to get off the road. That said, I did eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for several years.”
As many Mercury readers are aware, antiques — often now called brown furniture — have fallen on hard times. Generation X favors a more modern look, and many Baby Boomers have been forced to consign (or store) their antiques. There’s good news, however.
“Antiques are coming back into style with the millennials,” she reports. “I think they enjoy the authenticity of the furniture, and knowing there’s a story behind every one. And not only furniture, but silver sets and silverware. You’d be amazed at how many of our customers are under 30.”
Her first step after the purchase was to diversify the offerings. Terrace Oaks was primarily a furniture and decorative items store, and she sought to make it more eclectic. Her reasoning was that a wide variety of products rotating through the store would encourage more repeat visits from customers, seeking to ensure they didn’t miss out on something. She also instituted the policy that 90 percent of every vendor’s items had to be from 1960 or before.
Working alongside her is a staff of four: Linda Sproles has been with her 14 years and Grace Wish for 16 years. Her two more recent hires were Becky Frederick and Molly Spence, two of her classmates from Ashley Hall.
Terrace Oaks’ commitment to providing something for everyone has certainly paid off, as they’ve been voted Best Antique Shop by the Post and Courier three times in a row and currently hold that title.
I couldn’t leave the store without a few items for myself. I needed a license plate for the front of my car, so I chose a South Carolina plate from the year 1970, which bears the slogan “300 Years.” And of course, I also purchased a “Nixon Now” campaign button. Who wouldn’t?
Terrace Oaks is located on Maybank Highway; coming from downtown it is on the left just before reaching the Municipal Golf Course. For more information, email TerraceOaksaAntiques@gmail.com or visit their website at TerraceOaksAntiques.com.