By Dulcy B. Hooper
Photos by Richard Hooper
With its sprawling, jam-packed showroom occupying historic Aylor’s Mill in downtown Berryville, Hip and Humble is well positioned to do what it does best: “rescue history and find good homes” for antiques and architectural salvage. In the process, Hip and Humble owners Julie Ashby and Steve Scott are providing the mill with new life and with a purpose that is certainly both hip and humble.
“We work seven days a week,” said Ashby. “But it’s not really working—it’s just so much fun, and we never know what we are going to find.”
Hip and Humble was located in Strasburg for many years prior to Berryville. Before that, Ashby and Scott were in business together at Red School House Antiques, also in Berryville.
“We find, salvage and repurpose materials and other items to create new and unexpected things that are both useful and decorative,” said Ashby.
There are also antiques and items that don’t need much repurposing. Ashby and Scott say they can find value and purpose for most everything—even good-as-new juice cartons from the 1950s, neatly laid out side by side in a box that seems to have been made for just that purpose.
From floor to ceiling and wall to wall, the array of antiques and salvaged pieces is mind boggling. Interspersed throughout are more modern items—for instance, near a window overlooking the train tracks, tables display quirky bits and pieces of the past alongside a pair of elegant, modern barstools.
Among the hundreds of items that have been salvaged, reclaimed and repurposed are tables, doors and windows that have mostly been something other than what they appear to be now. There are cupboards with their own stories to tell, and Ashby and Scott are happy to elaborate. “This was in the Johnstown Flood,” said Scott, showing how high the floodwaters had risen when the cupboard had resided in Pennsylvania.
Near the front entrance, bolted to the walls, are window grates taken from the Berryville train station. “All hand wrought iron,” said Scott.
Overhead, a mammoth chandelier made from the blades of a metal windmill is artfully strung with lights. Perhaps not for sale: a couple of old pieces of luggage retrofitted with speakers from which—with surprising clarity—songs were playing from the ‘40s.
Ashby and Scott have the help of a number of individuals who serve as “scouts,” identifying barns and old buildings about to be taken down. With salvaged wood, the factory turns out tables, cupboards, media cabinets and center islands. Between the showroom and the factory, located a block or so away, Hip and Humble employs a staff of five who are demonstrating their respect for the “old art of knowing how to put things together with hand tools.”
According to Ashby and Scott, many of Hip and Humble’s regulars are designers and decorators. “They come in looking for their design clients,” said Scott. “Frequently, they are building new houses, but they come to us so that they can incorporate some old wood into those houses. We just finished a cupboard that is 10 feet tall and eight feet wide for one customer.”
Regulars have learned not to assume that a piece they like will necessarily be there the following weekend.
“One of our regular customers was here looking at a couple of chairs,” Ashby recalled. “She left without getting them but then called me when she was just a couple of miles down the road, saying she had had a change of heart. ‘They’re gone,’ I said. ‘They went out the door two minutes after you left.’ ”
After a similar experience, another customer brought in a sign that hangs on the wall near the front of the shop: “Ya snooze, ya lose.”
“If you come back next week, the showroom will be totally different,” Ashby confirmed. We did, and she was right: The showroom was totally different. ML
Hip and Humble is located in the historic Aylor’s Mill at 401 East Main Street in Berryville, Virginia. They are open to the public on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and can be reached at 540-327-5669.