After 20 years in business, Tuckernuck Antiques prepares for a fresh start

Michael Cummo

The bad news: One of the few remaining antique stores on the Island — and perhaps the most eclectic — is possibly closing its doors. The good news: Almost everything is 50 percent off through the end of the month.

“I’m trying to clear out all of the inventory,” says owner Abby Armstrong. “I’m not sure if I’ll close the store, but after 20 years, I’m ready to make a fresh start.”

For two decades, Tuckernuck Antiques in Oak Bluffs has been a great resource for those in search of unique items and Island souvenirs, and a haven for those interested in browsing their museum-like assortment of fun and fascinating things. It’s long been a spot worth seeking out, despite being somewhat tucked away on Tuckernuck Avenue, slightly off the beaten path of Circuit Avenue.

“It’s been great,” says Ms. Armstrong, who also works as an accountant. “There are a lot of fun parts to it.” Part of the fun has been collecting antiques and memorabilia from remote places in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Ms. Armstrong has also really enjoyed getting to know the loyal customers — both Islanders and visitors — who return every summer when the doors reopen for the season in May. Off-Island visitors have frequently had large items shipped back home. Not surprising, since the the prices are reasonable and the Tuckernuck inventory includes many one-of-a-kind and collectible items.

Where else are you likely to find a six-foot-long vintage Budweiser wall display hanging on a wall next to a stunning drop-style 18th century French cut-glass chandelier? A zither sitting on top of an old shop’s wheel table. Or a vintage Barbie doll case on a shelf with a number of antique apothecary bottles. Tuckernuck Antiques is as special as the finds inside.

Ms. Armstrong specializes in Vineyard memorabilia. There’s a case full of rare items like very old Vineyard books, ferry schedules, and a brick marked with its location: Gay Head. One section of the store is dedicated to Vineyard-abilia, including dozens of old maps, vintage Fair posters, loads of postcards, full sets of past issues of the Vineyard Gazette and Town Meeting reports. Some more unique finds include an authentic Chappy Ferry sign and a selection of Martha’s Vineyard Dairy milk bottles.

From there, Ms. Armstrong’s taste varies wildly. She has an eye for the esoteric — things like a set of colorful dentist’s demonstration tooth models, original pinup calendars, an antique bird cage.

The shop also carries both gently used and antique furniture, and a lot of interesting small storage pieces with multiple drawers. There’s an abundance of framed prints and original works of art, many featuring maritime scenes. Small items include old tins and bottles, a few dolls, salt and pepper shakers, and amusing little figurines.

There are also numerous nautical artifacts, including an old dive helmet, a ship’s compass, rope-wrapped Japanese glass balls, and a large-scale model boat kit. You’ll also find all kinds of antique tools and building supplies, like square nails, doorknobs, plumbing fixtures, and other interesting hardware, should you be in that market.

Often found working in the shop is Pete Bradshaw, who stocks a large selection of used fishing gear as well as costume jewelry and some interesting ocean-themed pieces, like a 2½-foot-tall lighthouse model, some lifesize bird figurines, and what is perhaps the most striking item in the store: a 10-foot-long wall-mounted sunfish replica.

Other eye-catching oversize pieces (perfect for adorning a restaurant or hotel lobby) include a huge working pocket watch–style clock and an actual traffic light. Either of these can now be purchased at half-price, for under $200.

For those not in the market for antiques, the store also carries a few retro pieces like some decorative pillows with a 1950s pattern and a couple of kitschy combination lamp/clock/old-style phones.

It’s well worth a visit for a trip down memory lane. And at half off, anyone can take home a piece of history for a reasonable cost. Prices range from $5 to around $1,000.

Tuckernuck Antiques, 79 Tuckernuck Avenue, Oak Bluffs. Open Thursday through Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm; 508-684-8664,