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When you visit the Northern Neck, a stop at the Kilmarnock Antique Gallery should be high on your itinerary. It's almost like visiting a museum, except that if you find something you really like, you can take it home with you.


Like shopping in a museum

The Kilmarnock Antique Gallery is located in the heart of Kilmarnock, Virginia, on School Street.

  In 1995, Steve Bonner sold his wholesale business at 144 School Street, only to have the new owner sell out four months later, leaving Steve with an empty building. But like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the Kilmarnock Antique Gallery was born June 1, 1997.

 “We started with only five dealers. Today, the gallery has more than 100,” said Steve, who operates the gallery with his wife Lynn.

   The couple worked seven days a week to build the business, meeting and overcoming every obstacle in their path. One of the biggest challenges was down the road in Williamsburg - the Williamsburg Gallery opened its doors at about the same time, making it difficult to compete for dealers.

   But the hard work paid off, and today the Kilmarnock Antique Gallery is a must-stop on any visit to the Northern Neck. The one thing you immediately notice upon entering the gallery is the spacious displays of beautiful items, the impeccably-maintained surroundings - and the gallery owners, who are usually on hand to greet you.

   Steve and Lynn could probably operate the gallery as an absentee business, but they don't. Even though they don't own the items being sold throughout the gallery, they are on hand to make sure that any visit to the gallery is a pleasurable one. That policy pays off for everyone.

   “People love to come in and just look. We've had people come in looking for one thing and leave with another. Some people come when we open and stay until we close,” Steve said.

   Visitors are drawn to the Northern Neck by the water and by its relaxed charm. They are drawn to the Kilmarnock Antique Gallery because it just seems to symbolize what the region is about. Some visitors are serious antique shoppers, looking for that rare oyster plate, specific types of furniture, or silver. Others just like the atmosphere. Steve admits that in the beginning, he was much more the latter than the former.

   “Before we opened the gallery, I would shop for furniture and try to get the best price. I couldn't understand why someone would pay up to $1,000 for a 100-year old chest when the same money would buy a roomful of new furniture. But I soon learned to appreciate the quality, beauty and history of that 100-year old piece of furniture, which is far superior in workmanship to what is being made today,” he said.

   History and authenticity is also part of the appeal of antiques. Steve says there is true joy in finding a piece of signed cut glass, marking it as the real thing and adding to the value.

   The word about the Kilmarnock Antique Gallery has spread beyond the Northern Neck, and people will drive out of their way to pay a visit. Steve and Lynn always take the opportunity to promote their home area to visitors, touting local restaurants and suggesting other points of interest.

   “We're like a visitors center,” Steve said.

   It's clear that the Kilmarnock Antique Gallery didn't happen over night. It took years of faith, hard work and dedication. It's equally clear that for Steve and Lynn Bonner, it has been - and continues to be - a labor of love.

Visit Kilmarnock Antique Gallery's Web site.