Oxford antique stores sell unique items in challenging tech times

Bailey Thompson
Oxford Stories

Oxford antique stores hold many treasures that you have to see in person to appreciate, but they face challenges competing with online shopping and websites like Ebay and Etsy.

Sugar Magnolia is located at 1919 University Ave. Owned by Molly Harwell who started the business 13 years ago with her sisters, it holds two stories of antiques and items.

“My grandmother lived in Holly Springs and collected antiques,” she said. “Eventually she began to sell her things out of her house. She’s the reason my sisters and I embarked on this journey.”

Sugar Magnolia rents booth spaces to others who sell their items. They pay monthly rent and receive a commission for every item sold. Vendors send items they’d like to add to their booths via email to Harwell and her team, and she decides whether their pieces should be displayed.

“It’s unfortunate, but some things just aren’t up to par,” she said. “This is how I support my family. It’s important.”

The mother of four uses her business to put her kids through school.

“It’s strange,” she said. “This new generation of technology relies heavily on websites like Etsy and Amazon to shop for home decor. This affects our economy. I try my best to support all local businesses because I owe it to their families.”

Some families make money through Sugar Magnolia. Harwell rents a booth that sells vinyl shirts to a local coach and school teacher. This is one of the most popular items in her store. During football season, an overflow of orders come in, and this allows the coach and school teacher to earn extra income for their family.

Sugar Magnolia is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

“Opening this business was incredible, scary, and nerve-wracking, but so rewarding all at the same time,” she said.

Harwell and her team encourage people to dig deeper into the world of antiques and be more open-minded about shopping local.

The Mustard Seed Antique Mall is located at 1901-A Jackson Ave. W. Originally located on University Avenue, owner Kimberly Bumgardner moved it across town.

“Along with other antique stores, we rent out booths to vendors,” she said. “We’re very picky with who we rent out to because we are looking for more than ‘garage sale’ type items and more antique or unique items to display for customers.”

Manager David Smith applied for his job as a college student in need of an income. He has grown to understand his employer’s passion for antiques.

“This was my first college job… and eventually I became close with my coworkers and ended up making great friends through Mustard Seed,” he said.

The Mustard Seed has a variety of antiques ranging from clothing, furniture, and jewelry to fun handmade paintings and signs. The store is filled with fun, antique furniture, such as cowhide designs, mirrors of all kinds, bar carts, and coffee tables that could fit any room.

There is a section of the store known as the man cave. Bumgardner and her husband created this section so husbands could sit and watch television while their wives shopped. With a leather lounge chair, foot stool, and entertainment, the area is inviting.

“The man cave is definitely a big hit,” Smith said, “but my favorite section is definitely furniture. I set up most of my house with the furniture that vendors bring in. The vendors bring new stuff in weekly, so we always have a great selection to choose from.”  

Some customers who shop here like seeing the furniture, clothes, headboards, signs, etc. in person versus online.

The Mustard Seed is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and will open on Sundays for special occasions (home football games, home baseball games, or special events). 

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