Unique Finds in Quaint Occoquan

Just a smidge over the Prince William County border in Virginia is Occoquan, a quaint historic town on the Occoquan River off exit 160 on Interstate 95. Its history goes back to the earliest settlers in Virginia who were attracted to the location for water-based commerce. And these days, Occoquan serves as a quiet spot for great shopping.

About four blocks of its main drag, known as Mill Street, are dotted with shop after shop of local art, crafts and antiques for unusually reasonable prices. Many store owners make their own wares or commission the help of other local talent, adding to the whole uniqueness factor present there. I found local, unframed art for under $100, original and restored antiques for under $1,000 and handmade jewelry by local designers for under $100.

This time of year is all about Christmas decorations, as the town makes a big deal over the annual holiday. Here are some of the gems along Mill Street:

Glory Be: This homey store made me feel like I was walking into my aunt's cottage in the woods. It was filled with all kinds of home decorations and small furniture pieces, mostly made of wood. I hesitate to call it country but it did have that kind of feel. Many of the items, including seasonal wreaths, are made by the store owner and people she knows. Glory Be, which is on two levels, had Christmas decorations for under $5, large wooden Santa figures for under $20, paintings for under $100, decorative plates for around $20 and a very interesting half table for around $200.

Occoquan Antiques: I'm usually intimidated by antiques stores: the high prices, my total ignorance of old pieces, a sometimes stuffy staff. But Occoquan Antiques, at the far end of Mill Street, was so not stuffy and the prices seemed reasonable. A group of shoppers kept saying the furniture pieces had to be reproductions but several signs throughout the store said they were all original pieces from the 1920s and 1930s that had been restored. I saw a 1930s mahogany secretary desk for $1,995, a 1930s wingback chair for $895 and a Martha Washington side chair for $175.

Artists' Undertaking Gallery: This is a long, narrow store filled with artwork by nearby artists, many pieces selling for around $100. Alice Webb, a mixed media collage artist based in Stafford, featured her small prints for $50 to $85. Jean Henry, a theorem painter, had several small prints for just under $100. David and Jane Ernst had a large selection of black-and-white and color photographs, some featuring local spots, for around $100.

Salt & Pepper Books: Not only do we love cookbooks for their practical purpose but also for their decorative function. And that's exactly what Salt & Pepper Books offered on its bookshelves. A bookstore devoted solely to cookbooks, you can get everything from advice on putting together picnics to beautiful coffee table books on French cooking. Who knew there were so many books devoted to food?

Hawthorne House: I'm a sucker for stationery and nice pens, and Hawthorne House is packed full of different note cards, greeting cards and stationery. Most of it is pretty traditional with brands like Crane and Vera Wang. The store also does personalized cards and stationery, as well as holiday cards.

Where off the beaten track do you like to shop?

By Tania Anderson |  December 6, 2007; 3:00 AM ET General Interest
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Occoquan is a great place to spend the day and to do a little shopping. I would recommend Ye Old Dominion Wine Shoppe there which has all kinds of great VA wine (and tastings!!).

Posted by: SEF | December 11, 2007 4:49 PM

Occoquan has become my favorite new place to shop.
Tastefully Yours, on Mill St. has wine tastings, gourmet food to take home,
and a real Italian style gelato stand..yummy.
Artists' Undertaking Gallery has the most beautiful glass jewelry I've ever seen by local artist David Barnes and reasonably priced artworks by several other local artists.

Posted by: KH | December 23, 2007 2:13 AM

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