Entering Dad's Primitive Workbench at 268 Front St. there's a feeling of familiarity-like walking into your grandma's attic where family treasures have been stored over the years.
The store even smells familiar. One morning recently the unmistakable odor of a pancake breakfast greeted customers as they entered the shop's front door.
"It's called 'buttered maple syrup,'" store owner Charlie Clay said, noting the realistic aroma was generated by one of a variety of scented candles that are sold in the shop.
But the candles are among the very few newly-made items to be found in the primitives store where the aisles are filled with everything from aged wooden tables, chairs, cabinets and old barn items to homemade dolls and a variety of kitchen utensils from the past.
"Primitives are basically time-worn pieces. We have many dating from the early 1900s," Clay explained. "That's what makes this shop unique. These are things that people have actually used in the past and most can still be used today."
One example is what he calls "barn primitives," like an old horse collar that may be turned into a frame for a mirror, or a feeding trough, workbench, or other older farm implements.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Dad’s Primitive Workbench owner Charlie Clay, left, shows a wooden bowl to customer Savannah Pennington.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Dad’s Primitive Workbench is located at 268 Front St. in Marietta.
"It's about taking something old and reusing or making something new out of it," Clay said. "That's the main thing for us. And the pieces we sell have been worn over time and aren't refinished or painted. They have a lot of character."
Parkersburg resident Savannah Pennington said she's one of the shop's regular customers.
"It's very unique," she said. "I'm decorating my home with primitives, and I don't like having 'cookie-cutter' items that you find in big box stores. I just really like old things and often think about who may have owned these items in the distant past."
Dad's Primitive Workbench hours:
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Closed Sunday and Monday.
Location: 268 Front St., Marietta.
Vendors displaying items at Dad's Primitive Workbench:
Crow Hill, Mineral Wells, W.Va.
Pickin' Thymes, Vincent.
RHU Woodworking, Marietta.
Mad Hen Primitives, Marietta.
Olde Farmhouse, McConnelsville.
1803 Sugarhouse, Cleveland.
Treasures and Memories, Vincent.
Judy Knapp, Mineral Wells, W.Va.
Cathy's Attic, Paden City, W.Va.
Whipporwill Hollow, Ripley, W.Va.
Olde Log Cabin, Cambridge.
Primitives in the Valley, Elizabeth, W.Va.
Olde Goat Primitives, Newcomerstown.
More information at www.facebook.com/dadsprimitiveworkbench
In addition Pennington said older cabinets, chairs and other furnishings were more solidly constructed than most of the new furniture found in retail stores today.
"I come here often to see what new things they've found," she said.
Clay isn't the only seller of primitives at the Front Street facility. More than 13 vendors, from locations as far north as Cleveland and south to the Ripley, W.Va., area, offer their wares at Dad's Primitive Workbench.
One of those vendors, April Maston of Mineral Wells, W.Va., has been in the primitives business for many years.
"I had a shop in my home for about nine years, and Charlie used to come in. That's how I met him," she said. "Later I moved to a location on Market Street in Parkersburg, but when Charlie opened his store in 2012 I moved all of my things there. It felt more like home to me, everything there is primitives, and Marietta is such a quaint town. But people come from all over to shop here. And we get a lot of foot traffic."
Clay describes himself and fellow vendors at the store as "pickers" who scour the countryside looking for just the right primitive items to sell at Dad's Primitive Workbench. So it's not surprising that one of his favorite television shows is the History Channel's "American Pickers."
"I met Mike (Wolfe) from the program at his store in Tennessee. He just happened to be there that day," Clay said. "We talked for more than an hour about picking and how to find the best places to pick. It was really inspirational for me."
He and Maston use nearly two-thirds of the shop space, while many of the other vendors maintain smaller "booth" areas throughout the store.
"But the store is arranged so that customers won't feel like they're moving from one vendor's area to another. It's more of a blended arrangement," Clay said.
He also maintains a booth at The Painted Cupboard in Williamstown, W.Va., and Maston keeps a booth in the Norwood Antiques Mall in Marietta.
"The business has been really good at the Front Street location, and I've enjoyed it," Maston added. "A lot of my old customers come in, sometimes just to talk. We're like family with our customers, sharing about items we've seen and where we've found them. We sell a lot to other dealers, too."
Finding primitives in barns, basements or other storage areas can become addictive, she said.
"We don't go looking for bargains on the Internet," Maston said. "And if we buy a primitive at a good price, we also sell it at a reasonable price to our customers."
Clay said the store's stock is always changing-especially the furniture pieces that sell soon after they're put on display.
"And if anyone has items they think we'd be interested in, they're welcome to come to us," he said. "We're always looking for old worn tables, chairs, and things that may be a bit rusty."
Clay, 30, opened Dad's Primitive Workbench in May 2012, naming the shop in honor of his father, Scott Clay, who died of cancer in 2008.
"He was a businessman, a taxidermist, and I learned a lot about operating a business from working with him," Clay said. "And since I've opened this shop my mom and sister, Tammy and Ashley Clay, have also been a huge help."
In addition to selling primitives, Clay said he also provides seasonal decorating services for local homes at Christmas and other seasons of the year. He said the decorating can be done outside or inside the home.
"We did about 10 houses during Christmas," he said. "People come in, tell us the budget they have to work with and what they want to do, and we do the rest with items they select from the store."
As for the future, Clay said there's been some very preliminary discussion about the possibility of opening a second area store. But for the immediate future Dad's Primitive Workbench will be the place to go.