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Member Monday: Lake James Antique Mall


By Tina M. Wolfe

Amid rapid-fire change and anxiety-inducing unknowns, there is something oddly comforting meandering through the aisles of Dixie Matthew's 30K-square-foot Lake James Antique Mall, located just off I-40 at exit 90. 

Set up in individually designed booths, 38 passionate vendors artfully display their antiques and vintage collectables. Each booth invites guests on a wistful trek through yesteryear to the comforts and smells of grandma's kitchen or event summer days working in grandpa's garage. Travel a few booths down and experience the art of reinvention as 100-year-old objects take on new life and perhaps even a new use. There is a creative air flowing through the warehouse that is respectful of the past yet equally hopeful of the future. 

The antiques industry has held strong because it has adapted well to change. It serves a wide demographic from high-end collectors to young millennials looking for affordable trends, says Matthews. Now in her sixth year at this location, her vision for the empty warehouse space has been realized with a waiting list of vendors. An avid shopper for decades, she understands the emotional pull of the hunt and the satisfaction of the find. She also understands the needs of the shopper and how to merchandise the mall to create an optimal experience for the customer. “If people don’t enjoy coming in, It’s not good. Whether they are looking to spend $5 or $5K, I treat them the same,” she said. “Customer service is everything.”

A picture containing streetDescription automatically generatedMatthews manages her business with equal parts passion and practicality. Despite her extensive experience and business skill set, she is delightfully approachable with a Southern kindness in both her eyes and her smile. She knows her customer base, is very discerning of her vendors to ensure they have solid sales track records, offer authentic antiques and vintage items, and that their price points are in line with the local market. She also understands the importance of location in any retail operation. Her Nebo location gives her the space and high visibility without the high rent of other competing markets such as Asheville and Hendersonville. Good news to her customers, who she says always ask her how she can offer such great prices.

“Everything costs money and you have to factor that into your business model, from marketing to site selection,” she said. “I keep a list customer requests. It is so important to help the clients find things even if we don’t have them. If we don’t help each other, no one survives.” She continues that this allows her to partner with other area businesses and recommend them. Whether it’s a contractor, a place to have lunch, or a fabric store, promoting other businesses is just “good ole Southern Hospitality.”

“I love it when they come back and share their experiences. It makes me feel great,” she added.

The vendors come from far and wide including Charleston, SC, Virginia, Florida, and locally. Each vendor is an independent business and Dixie manages the inventory and sales for each. She takes that responsibility very seriously and considers it a blessing to be able to provide space to others.  “It allows people of all ages to have a business and not have it consume all of their time,” she said. Her youngest vendor is 17 years old, while her oldest is 84 years young.

The space is light and bright with wide aisles to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers.  Treasure hunters will find everything from vintage linens and kitchenware, dinosaur fossils, gold & diamond jewelry, antique glassware, vintage tools, furniture, signs, cast iron cookware, Fenton glass, and upcycled décor items for every design style. She makes a point to walk through daily to make a mental inventory and much of the merchandise is grouped for easy shopping.

This was a blissful escape from the digital, overstimulating world of bits, bytes, and deadlines. There is something redemptive about the treasured items of the past that represent physical memories, personal interactions, and a world outside of a computer screen. I have treasured pieces that belonged to my grandmother in my house, and I use them regularly. It’s a meaningful pearl in what can sometimes be an automated expanse of my day. Likewise, my husband takes great pride in using his father’s antique tools to create something new or fix something.

The value of these historical items is proven out in the popularity of shows like, Antique Roadshow, American Pickers, and Flea Market Flips. Antiques and vintage collectibles have both economic and emotional value that cannot get lost in the digital abyss. We can hold them, tell stories to our children about them, and pass them on. Even if you aren’t a collector, there are so many items that make gift-giving a delight! Finding a unique or upcycled vintage or antique present is much more personal than your typical tie or bottle of perfume. Does your friend love vintage costume jewelry? Do they love music? Then vinyl is the way to go. How about an industrial railroad lamp as a housewarming gift or a set of vintage barware?

In today’s trending design world, mixing vintage and antique with modern elements is the way to go. They actually provide design services and have a furniture store on the lower level with both new and used pieces. Dixie’s design consultant, Heather White will help customers with small projects or designing whole rooms. Dixie's husband Bo Matthews has a booth as well.

Originally from Florida, Dixie and Bo have made McDowell their home for the last 28 years. Along with the treasures inside the Antique Mall, they cherish the friends they’ve made over the years through their business and their personal activities.

Dixie credits the relationships she has made for part of her success. It was longtime friends Joe Hall and Van Boyd who called her when their warehouse became available and knew with Dixie’s experience and business savvy, an Antique Mall was the perfect fit. “In a small town, you have to be able to work with other businesses,” she added. Relationships open the door to creative ways to thrive for everyone. “Know your community,” she advises. “You don’t have to be in the same kind of business to help one another. Connect with everyone,” she said. “You never know how you can help someone.”
Visit them at 2420 Harmony Grove Road in Nebo, NC or on their Facebook Page. They can be reached at 828.803.3777 or Give them a review on Trip Advisor