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December 13, 2005 > Welcome to grandma's place - Mary Margaret

Welcome to grandma's place - Mary Margaret

Is it a style, or more a state of mind? The concept of Mary Margaret's in Niles can be thought of as both since, as co-owner Sandi Morgan says, "Walking into our store is like visiting grandma's house." Morgan along with her sister, Joni Lyons joined Mary Margaret "Peggy" Weber when their lease was up in another location. Weber, who had retired from the Sunnyvale Police Department, opened the store in October, 2004 and needed help. They discovered that all three had similar ideas about the future of the shop and each brought a unique talent to the business. The trio "reopened" the store in March of this year, decorating in a "light and shabby" motif.

Weber characterizes the look as "relaxed and romantic," incorporating antiques and more into what is referred to as shabby chic(r). She notes, "Mary Margaret's has dresses from the 1800's and items from the '40's and '50's.' Lyons adds that the look is light, a "cottage style" called "white paint." This approach gathers almost any item for repainting or recycling. The piece just needs to look old and loved with signs of wear-and-tear. Nothing really needs to match - and it shouldn't - yet the overall effect is charming and comfortable.

While each partner maintains their own identity and stock, complimentary tastes blend so well that it is virtually impossible for shoppers to know that they are viewing the results of three different buyer preferences. The overall theme is of comfortable and casual furniture and accessories. There is a soothing sense of home that emanates from the slightly worn look and smells of shop. And Mary Margaret's is well located as a local address since Lyons and Weber both live in Fremont. Morgan says that although she now lives in San Bruno and commutes to work, she loves the area and knows it well. "My mother used to live on Linda Drive in Niles and my kids got married in her yard. Niles is like home; I love to come here to work."

"We consider ourselves 'shabby chic' and kitsch," says Morgan. "We sell memories." Although there are some fine pieces in the store and shoppers can find something in almost any price range, most of the items are seen as "comfortable" and "livable." Morgan points to a small tin of mints for about $3 and then notes other items that sell for $2,000. At Mary Margaret's browsers will find vintage sewing accoutrements, linens, memories from '50's kitchens and items of the '20's and '30's. Customers entering Mary Margaret's often happily exclaim, "Oh, my mother - or grandmother - used to have that!" Morgan says they sell "Things that make you go 'ooooh,' that's what we sell."

Visitors to Mary Margaret's can literally come every day and see new items. All three proprietors design the store, rearranging and stocking merchandise. Morgan says that Peggy is an oil and watercolor painter, an "awesome artist" who lends her talents to the store while she, laughingly dubbed the "Jewelry Queen" of the business, and Joni grew up with a mother who "dealt in vintage linens in Niles; we grew up eating and sleeping antiques all of our lives." Joni adds she started in the antique business 15 years ago with her husband - the others call her the 'guru' - and notes that linens are her special love. "We started in a small space and our business grew and grew; we learned what people wanted." She says that people "buy memories." After a hiatus in Sutter Creek, they returned to Niles. She says that the relationship with Weber "just happened" and it has worked out very well for all of them.

Each partner works a week in rotation at the store but they are flexible since, as Morgan says, "We work here because we love it - this is love, not obligation." She adds, "We love to talk with people who come in to browse." Although the store is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, you can usually find the three partners inside, arranging and cleaning for the coming week. A book sits by the counter for those who know what they want, but cannot find it that day in the store. Morgan notes that although they will do their best to fill these requests, if another store in Niles may have the item, they will call to find out if it is in their inventory. Their philosophy is that each store can help each other and "a good tide will lift all boats."

Much anticipated "road trips" will occupy some time in the winter for the partners. Each has their favorite places to visit and love to go on buying sorties. Sandi says, "My husband and I went on a 7-day sabbatical this summer and rented a U-Haul traveling from here to Kansas, buying as we went. My sister has done the huge flea market called the 'World's Longest Yard Sale along Highway 127, stretching through Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. Peggy is newer to this, but learning really quick!" Mary Margaret's is admitted to be a "girly store" by all three partners although there a few items that they classify as "mantiques." Although the store is heavily romantic and feminine, they can find items for men through their "men on the side." They happily admit that their husbands are very supportive and "we couldn't do without them and their help in the store."

Mary Margaret's handles estate sales and now offers a home decorating service for local residents, an opportunity for personal advice on home dˇcor. For those who have been dissatisfied with the feel of a room or its dˇcor, Mary Margaret's has the answer. Their "fresh eye" approach gives another opinion of how home furnishings are arranged and a chance to move a few things here and there to create the elusive perfect look.

For those familiar with the Niles circuit of stores, another look at Mary Margaret's is in order to see the new look and enjoy the bright and cheerful dˇcor and friendly greetings of Peggy, Joni and Sandi. Newcomers to the Niles scene are welcome and although "mantiques" may be hard to find at this shop (but certainly not in Niles), the nostalgic feeling of home is a winner for men too.

Mary Margaret's Antiques
37729 Niles Blvd., Fremont (Niles)
(510) 745-1812
Wednesday - Saturday
11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sunday
1 p.m. - 5 p.m.

 
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