Vintage Vignette - Oct/Nov 2017
What many believe is the finest antique store on the coast is also a place where customers feel like they're right at home.
- story and photos by Karen Fineran
Countryside Antiques, 151 Highway 90, Waveland; 228-467-2338; www.csantiques.com, or find them on Facebook. Open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sundays “by chance” or by appointment.
A woman who was obviously a long-time friend and customer of Mike and Tom immediately struck up a conversation with me about the small jewel-like contents of the glass counter in front of us. Recognizing that I was not a regular visitor to the gallery, she animatedly pointed out to me each of the delicate items that she thought was a particularly good deal.
“This one,” she stated confidently, pointing to a glittering platinum and sapphire ring. “And these here,” gesturing to a pair of dangling gold and diamond earrings, “these are both really fine pieces, and an amazing deal. I’ve bought all of my jewelry here for the last twenty years,” she confided with satisfaction.
“This place has the absolute best prices on jewelry and objects d’art that I’ve ever found anywhere – and believe me, I’ve looked around!”
As I wandered over the next hour through the expansive space of the gallery, with its aisles of glass showcases and nooks of porcelain treasures, I chatted with several other customers. It became clear to me that, to the antique enthusiasts of the Gulf Coast, Mike Mayo and Tom Cottom are more than just store owners.
“Tom and Mike are charming guys . . . incredibly knowledgeable about antiques . . . helped us get our houses back together after Katrina . . . Mike and Tom are the best.”
Antique connoisseurs Tom Cottom and Mike Mayo moved to this area from New Orleans nearly forty years ago, buying the building at 51 Highway 90 in Waveland in June 1978 and establishing Countryside Antiques.
Steeped in heirlooms and history, and surrounded by azaleas, the gallery has become a fixture in Bay/Waveland. It shows off Tom and Mike’s hand-selected and constantly changing collection of European antiques from the 17th to 20th centuries.
Countryside specializes in items from France and England, and most of the antiques date prior to 1900. The varied collection includes furniture, silver, oil paintings, art glass, Majolica (finely painted pottery from the 19th century), English Delftware, Staffordshire porcelain, cut glassware, Persian carpets, jewelry, cast iron planters, and miscellaneous decorative objects.
Lauded by many as the go-to shop for European antiques on the Gulf Coast, the store’s stellar reputation seemed to me well deserved. Among row after row of well-lit glass showcases and hand-carved wooden furniture, I came across lovely vignettes of whimsical porcelain dogs and other creatures, French armchairs, crystal chandeliers and sconces, brilliantly illustrated 18th century books, brightly colored plateware, imposing mirrors, gilt-framed oil paintings, intricate woven carpets, crystal serving pieces, unusual lamps, and sterling silver urns. The owners have even converted the traditional screened porch of the residence into a separate showroom for more rustic pottery, furniture and décor items.
One factor that makes Countryside Antiques stand out among the many other furniture stores and boutique shops in Bay St. Louis is that the owners’ passion is antiques, and antiques are all that they sell. You won’t need to sift through new items and reproduction vintage pieces in order to find the true antiques.
There, you will find many examples of the European furnishings typically found in old Mississippi and Louisiana estates and plantation homes. These antiques harken back to the history of our Gulf Coast, reminding us of who we are and where we have been.
Over the last forty years, Mike and Tom have earned their reputation for quality and knowledge in the antique trade. Shopping at random for antiques can be a tough proposition for those who lack a professional eye. It’s difficult to know what’s reasonable, what’s authentic, and what’s mostly creatively marketed smoke and mirrors (read: junk). The help of knowledgeable curators like Mike and Tom, who work with their customers on a personal level to help them appoint their homes, can make all the difference.
Tom and Mike’s clientele come primarily from the South. There are the devoted locals who scour the shop on a regular basis, and there are the loyal New Orleanians who make a special point to stop and browse every time they are in the area. Clients from Memphis, Houston or Atlanta will call Countryside on a regular basis, to ask Mike and Tom about particular items that they are seeking.
“Many of our clients are discerning collectors, dealers and designers. Some of them are private collectors, and some of them are in the design trade and buying for their own clients. When they need something, they give us a call first, because they know that we are likely to have the particular item that they’re looking for,” explains Tom.
Tom and Mike travel to Europe every year to hunt down their bargains at markets and from estates. By doing their own buying, they eliminate upcharges from middlemen, and pass those savings on to their customers. They also sometimes take their shop on the road with them, especially in the Southern states, traveling to well-known antique shows and events such as the Original Round Top Antiques Fair in Round Top, Texas (the “Big Red Barn”).
Antiques give individuality to even the newest of homes (or offices), and impart a sense of history and refinement. “When you buy antiques, you end up with something unique and original, and it’s usually much better quality – and still, it’s often less expensive – than similar objects that are new. And we have such a variety of pieces here, I think that we probably have something for everyone’s taste and budget,” noted Mike.
The store receives new shipments of antiques from England, France and Belgium on a regular basis, so if you check back frequently to see what they have, you stand a good chance of finding the right treasures to enhance your home for years to come.
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