Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, February 14, 2020

‘Man-tiques’ sign pulls in otherwise reluctant buyers

The storefront window at Trestle Side Antiques in Ringgold, Georgia, beckons men to shop for “MAN-tiques.” - Photos by David Laprad

In an episode of the sitcom “Frasier,” Dr. Frasier Crane enthusiastically suggests he and his girlfriend go antiquing.

In reply, she scrunches up her face and says, “I am not one for whom ‘antique’ is a verb.”

The scene flips a common perception about antiquing, which is that women enjoy browsing shops filled with old things and men prefer to stay in the car.

This is certainly what John LeMay was seeing after he opened Trestle Side Antiques in Ringgold, Georgia. Even though he’d stocked his shelves with old guns, vintage tools and miniature cars and trucks, the wives were getting out of the car to look at his lamps, dishes and jewelry while the husbands were staying outside.

So, LeMay affixed the word “MAN-tiques” to his storefront window. Now the ratio of men and women customers at Trestle Side is split down the middle.

“Guys have told me they never would have gotten out of their car if they hadn’t seen that in the window,” LeMay says.

As an added lure, LeMay displays a few items he says he believes men will like on the sidewalk outside, including a vintage bicycle and an antique ship’s wheel.

If those items don’t do the trick, a glance to the left just inside the door will reveal a treasure trove of potential man cave decor. From vintage radios and barware to antique wrenches and hammers, the sizable collection of old goods is an invitation to explore.

“Antiques are for everybody. I know a lot of guys who like them,” LeMay adds. “I have two boys that come here with their grandpa to buy old coins. Another boy who’s into World War II stuff comes in from time to time.”

After stepping inside, men have a lot of ground to cover. Housed in a 160-year-old building on Nashville Street, Trestle Side consists of two long floors of old-fashioned knickknacks and bric-a-brac.

From what LeMay claims is a 400-year-old matchlock rifle to a whiskey flask disguised as a transistor radio, men can never know what they’ll find as they browse the displays.

Chief among the surprises is a shelf LeMay says was made from the grill of a 1920 Model A Ford.

Displayed on a nearby table is a vintage Gilson hand-cranked motor oil dispenser. Made in Eerie, Pennsylvania, and sporting a John Deere yellow and green coat, old-time auto mechanics used it to transfer motor oil from a drum to a car, LeMay explains.

Then there’s the Odd Fellows seal press, Civil War boot pistol and liquor meter LeMay found in Florida. “Women like to shop here because they can find stuff for the guy who’s hard to buy for,” LeMay says. “How many men have a liquor meter?”

Or, for that matter, a Sonora phonograph? LeMay cranks the vintage record player and drops the needle on a recording of “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover” by Art Mooney and his orchestra. The scratchy tune complements the store’s weathered furniture and cast-iron toys.

Some of LeMay’s goods come with a story at no extra charge, including the baseball allegedly autographed by Babe Ruth. Locked in a display case LeMay can see from his seat behind the counter at the back of the store, he says it could be one of the balls a woman used to strike out the former homerun king during a visit to Chattanooga in 1931.

Then again, LeMay admits the autograph has never been authenticated.

He’s certain, however, that some of his customers actually use some of the items they purchase at his store, including the old hammers, wrenches and screwdrivers. “Tools were made better back then,” he says. “Blacksmithing and wood crafting are making a comeback. I get a lot of guys looking for old sawblades and wood-making tools.”

The price of these and thousands of other items is negotiable. This is one of Trestle Side’s big draws for Scott Thomson, a semi-retiree from Chickamauga who enjoys scouring the Chattanooga area for good deals.

“When you buy something, you should always negotiate,” he says. “If the seller is motivated to sell, then there’s always room to bargain.”

Thomson is one of LeMay’s regulars. And he defies the notion that men who collect antiques are interested primarily in guns, tools and tackleboxes. Rather, he and his wife enjoy hunting for pickle castors from England, old crocks and vintage Fitz and Floyd ceramic pieces.

Even though Thomson is always searching for something specific, he keeps an open mind. “When you walk into a place like this, something will always catch your eye,” he notes.

The store caught the eye of LeMay’s wife, Andrea, when the former owner put it up for sale in 2013. Andrea could sense her husband was ready for a new challenge after working at Chattem for 24 years, so she suggested they purchase and run the store.

Although LeMay enjoys buying and selling old things, he wasn’t sold on his wife’s idea. Stepping through the door of the store for the first time and seeing the inventory only bolstered his uncertainty.

“It was all dishes and flowers and dinette sets,” LeMay recalls. “I put my head down and said, ‘I don’t know about this. If we buy it, I’d need to make some changes.’”

When the owner – a woman – asked him what kind of changes, LeMay said he’d have to bring in items that would appeal to men. The woman told him he’d never make it in Ringgold.

LeMay looked at his wife and said, “Sign those papers.”

“We had five years of her sales records, and we’ve outdone her every year,” he continues. “That’s not bad for us not making it because we put guy stuff in here.”

LeMay says a Ringgold native coined the name of the store, which is called “Trestle Side Antiques” after the train trestle that cuts through the heart of the town.

“When he was a kid, he’d call his mom to pick him up, and she’d ask, ‘Which side of town are you on – the restaurant side or the trestle side?’” LeMay says. “We thought that would be a good name.”

The “MAN-tiques” lettering on the front window, however, was purely LeMay’s idea. And it’s brought him more business than he – or the store’s previous owner – thought it would.

It’s also deterred a few potential buyers. “Women will walk by and say, ‘That’s all man stuff. I’m not going in there,’” LeMay bemoans. “But the window also says crafts and collectibles. So come on in. We have something for everyone.”

Trestle Side Antiques is located at 7839 Nashville St. in Ringgold and is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Learn more at www.trestlesideantiques and contact LeMay at 706 937-8600 or TrestleSideAntiques@gmail.com.