Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Day That We Went To The Emerald City of China

A couple of months back, the Mister and I made one of our dreams come true. And we dragged my Mom along with us, poor bird. She was in town for a visit and we wanted to take her to Chattanooga to see the aquarium. Since we were going to be in Chattanooga all day, we took the opportunity to finally go to Deck's Glassware.



If you've never heard of it, don't be surprised. We hadn't either until a friend of the Mister laid the secret on him. She does catering and had gone there to get dishes for her catering jobs. We were especially interested because we collect old cafe china (aka "restaurant ware") - you know, the thick, heavy dishes that have been used in cafes and restaurants since forever? We love to collect the different patterns and pieces and use them as our daily dishes. They're beautiful workhorses. Up until now, we'd only been able to pick up a random piece here and there. Trying to find new patterns in thrift stores and yard sales had been pretty hard. When we heard that there was a warehouse of the stuff hidden within Chattanooga, it seemed like the stuff of legends! Could it possibly be true?

It took us a while to find the place, a very unassuming looking warehouse in a mixed-use neighborhood with one small sign and lone window across the front. When we walked in to the front of the store, I have to admit being disappointed because there were a couple of rooms of china, glasses and cute votives. You know.... nicer stuff in a very organized and clean space. Not that nice isn't good. It just wasn't quite the underground tomb of glee that we'd heard it might be and I love to root for treasures! When we found Mr. Deck smiling behind the counter, the Mister and I said at once, "We heard that you might have old cafe china?" and then well....

This happened! 


Yes, oh yes. He did indeed have cafe china. This is just a third of one room  - and the first of many huge rooms. Between the stifling July-in-the-South heat and the revelation that we had just stumbled into our wildest dreams, I almost stroked out. I checked my mouth to see if both sides still moved and thankfully they did so that I could manage to squeal out, "Ohmygoshhhhh DooooYouSeeeeee???"

The Mister was a mile ahead of me, shrieking. I could only find him by following the sound of his shrieks and the worrisome din of dishes being shuffled about way too quickly. From time to time, I could hear him say, "Oh Ho! You have got to see this one!" We darted around like rats who had just been released from a life-long trap into a world where the walls were made of nothing but cheese.  My Mom looked like she'd just seen the boogie man. There were teetering piles of dishes further than the eyes could see. There was dirt and dust and mud and puddles and spiderwebs and pigeons and dangerous, dark corners. It was perfect!








Okay, even after I've prattled on, you folks have no idea how much we were freaking out. The place was so big that honestly, you could stay there all day, every day for a week and never be able to look at every dish. They were stacked so tall and so tight that it was a very precarious act to look through them. We did our best though! It must have been a hundred and ten degrees in there and we had all broken out into rolling sweats but onward we trudged, making a pile of finds in the middle of the floor. My Mom is such a trooper. She doesn't collect cafe china but she knew how happy we were, so she wandered through the rooms, peeking in boxes and chuckling at our glee. She's an old-school collector so thankfully, she understood.



What was in those boxes? I don't even know! It was that kind of place. The kind of place where you feel so frenzied that you forget to look in boxes of unopened, deadstock china.








This was the Fiesta corner. Apparently, he used to have a lot more Fiesta but all that we could manage to see were a lot of white dishes and some newer colored teapots missing lids. Though, who's to say what's in those sealed boxes? Not me, that's for sure. Because I'd done lost my damned mind.



Deck's Glass also has other things besides cafe china. Pretty vintage pieces offered for a steal:



These cool old bird themed glass tumblers were just a buck each. 



We spent quite a bit of time talking to the owner Chester and learned that he had inherited the store and warehouse from his Dad who had passed on. The Senior Mr. Deck had started the business in the 1960's and started out by buying Homer Laughlin pieces from the factory to resell to restaurants, hospitals and pretty much any place that had the need for good, sturdy china. Thus, everything sitting in the warehouse has never been used - much of it is back-stock and has been sitting there for decades. He said that he has done a good deal of business with Mexican restaurants who favor cafe china, but with the plunge in the economy, he's just barely holding on now. And to me, that's not right.

Let me tell you all, he is such a nice man. He must have called me "Ma'am" about a hundred times. And he really knows his china too. Each piece that we bought was delicately wrapped up by him as he told us about each pattern. We left the warehouse feeling super stoked to have found it but at the same time, sad for the possible future of Deck's after such a long history. If you all know anyone who you think might be interested in the treasures that can be found at the store/warehouse, please share this post. We promised him that I'd blog about it and try to drum up more customers. I'd love for the word to get out into the vintage housewares loving community and the cafe china collectors alike.

We could just tell by our conversation with him that he was worried about the finances and the days to come - and though we would love to keep Deck's our little secret, we know that the only way to help it survive is to pass the word.  I also wish that we could have spent more time chatting with him. This is one of those places that we'd hate to see go by the wayside - a family owned business started by an entrepreneural father many decades ago, and now handed down to a son who is unfortunately battling today's economy.

Here is a sneak peek at what we brought home from Deck's. I'll show them to you in greater detail tomorrow!



In the end, none of us got heat stroke and we spent a good couple of hours in the place. We would have loved to have had a full day to carefully sort through the dishes with a flashlight and a cool breeze on us - but the time that we did spend there has now become the stuff of china collecting Kitsch Family legend. Oh! And in the end, even my Mom found a score - a plate that matched the china that her own Mother handed down to her a long time ago. How do you like that? I like it a lot. Thanks Deck's!


Deck's Glassware is located at 4118 Dodds Avenue in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 
The phone number is (423) 867-9352

Please think of them first for your vintage dish and glassware needs. I know that Chester would appreciate it a lot - and we would too! If you love the thrill of a treasure hunt - or just a good deal - this is the place for you!

You can go here to see all of the goodies that we got!



Hello there, beautiful. Where have you been all of my life? 


Until next time,
x's and o's,
Eartha



43 comments:

Rita@thissortaoldlife said...

Is there anyway to order online/by mail?!? I cannot get to Tennessee, but I sure wish I could! What an amazing find.

Mollie D said...

I'm with Rita, he needs to go online! I pinned his info, maybe that will help...

Crystal in Texas said...

Super.Amazing! I am going to have to make a trip there. Son and DH are on the road right now moving his stuff up to Bayonne, NJ... it's going to happen! I've got to go see him, right?

amber said...

Ohmigod. Ohmigod. Ohmigod.

I am SO GOING!! This is the stuff of fantasy... I have friends in Chattanooga and Atlanta, I'll see who's up for a visit from me and a trip to Deck's! I was just lamenting to my mother on the phone not one hour ago that I NEED plates, and I have *zero* interest in what I'm seeing at box stores.

Hang on, Deck's, I'm comin'!

Katrina said...

What a find!! Next time I'm up there visiting my dad or passing through on the WLYS, I will most certainly be paying Deck's a visit.
I didn't realize they were called cafe plates. I've always referred to them as dinerware :)

KathMuse said...

My sole ambition in life is to go here and shop until I collapse! Love the cup and saucer you're holding in the last photo in particular.

~k

Rita Lane said...

What a treasure hunt.....so much booty!!!!!!!!!!!!!

KathMuse said...

In love! Want to go to right now! Particularly enamored with the cup and saucer you're holding in the last photo.

Wish I didn't live in MA.
~k

Y said...

The angels are singin'!!! Are you kidding me??!!!!! I'm near passed out just reading about Deck's!!! Have-to-GO-somehow! What were the prices on plates, bowls, platters and such? Heaven help me...I'm going to hyperventilate!!!!!!!!

Mod Betty / RetroRoadmap.com said...

ROAD TRIP!!!!!

Jen said...

WOW, that is so exciting! And you are right, cafe stuff is SO wonderful. Workhorse is dead right!

I'll have to pass this on for others—It's too bad he is not online! Even if he were on Twitter or Facebook and did a "plate of the day" or "plate set of the day" kind of thing. Even if the chosen ones did not sell, it's sure to drum up business!

Carole said...

What an absolute treasure trove! Glad you had such a wonderful time. I love that last design you have pictured here!

Wish I lived in TN. Anywhere in TN. I'd make the drive. lol

Dolly the Bird said...

I think I see a day trip in my near future! You know, I'm pretty sure I've been to Deck's. It would have been in the late '80s or early '90s with my grandmother.

AmyM said...

Yep. Online is the way to go! I live in San Francisco, with no plans to visit TN, but would love to support his business. Maybe he could find a college student in his community who could show him the in's and out's of Facebook, Etsy, eBay, social media, etc. A summer's worth of work with the right person could make a big difference in establishing an online presence.
Love Jen's "plate of the day" idea too!

Van said...

I'm obsessed with vintage dining ware, how I'd love to rummage there! I've hunted in spaces like that, drenched in sweat from the Florida heat. It can be so overwhelming you don't know where to start. Glad you guys survived and bought home loads of goodness. Just the inspiration I needed to read, gonna hunt a bunch tomorrow morning. :)

David Oryniak said...

Hey everybody- I just checked, the shop is not online, but he does have a FB page listed under Deck's Glassware. And let me tell you- there are a lot of pix up on FB!!! I was amazed when I read about this time capsule on this site, but when I saw the pix on Facebook, my jaw hit the ground! Check it out! And happy shopping.

Anonymous said...

Homina homina homina....ohhhh my! I lost my mind just looking. Save thositurne babies!!!

Chatty Crafty said...

Did you stop for some lunch at Bea's Restaurant down the street??? I hope you didn't miss the jewel while in the neighborhood.

I have been going to Decks for years. Great place! Chester is a super nice guy.

Lishyloo Vintage said...

this is insane! i actually gasped at that cup at the end. wow.

Lisa Kenny said...

How incredible! I can't wait to show this to my husband and my antique dealer buddy! Both of them are always picking up pieces for me when they see them, and this is definitely worth a road trip from Michigan! We eat on American made restaurant china every day, and I have an embarrassingly large collection already, but this is a dish pickers dream come true! Thanks for sharing! I hope Chester gets tons of business and has a good future because of you!
Lisa

Laura's Last Ditch--Vintage Kitchenwares said...

Wow. This is incredible! I'll be posting on my Facebook page.

Melissa said...

Holy crap! I've never seen so many dishes in all my life. Seriously, add up every dish I've ever seen in 29 years and I'm not even close to the amount in that first photo! I sure hope he can tough this out. What a cool store...hopefully I'll dream a little about it tonight...

Deb Mathenia said...

Sharing this -- maybe we can help this gent out? I know I would be in Hog's Heaven, if I could get there! I have pieces, too...a whole set would be awesome! Thank-you for posting this :)

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Omg! I had to call my husband and make him get up from his chair and interrupt "Big Brother," to show him this! He said, "You want to go there now, don't you?" He knows me well. But I'm up here in Jersey. Can't get away even for a nice piece of Buffalo china. I will check out that Facebook page.

Rebecca Gonzalez said...

OMG. That is so ridiculously cool!!!! I would have died myself. I can spend hours, days, weeks in places like that. If I lived anywhere close I would run down and support him. Great pictures, great find and well worth the sequels.

Rae - Say It Aint So said...

OH my GOD. Thats it. All my cups are vintage, now I need to replace all my crappy plastic plates! Deck's looks so amazing. It might be a little more pleasant to pick through in the fall. Now i just need to trick travis into going....

Kalamity Kelli said...

This came through my FB feed from Retro Renovations! I read it last night and then posted on my FB, twittier and if I can figure out how, I'm going to post it on my Hometalk page - Hope to send people his way! Fabulous dishes - wish I was there!!

Sara In AZ said...

We simply MUST go here when I finally make it back to TN!!!!!

Can't wait to see your finds......

Dana@Mid2Mod said...

I love restaurant ware too, so I nearly died when I saw your pictures. It breaks my heart that he's worried about going out of business. I'll pin the information too.

I just gave a huge set of Paul McCobb Jackson China to my daughter when I downsized. That stuff is indestructible!

cheshirecat666 said...

That cup with the green band and swirling Fall leaves...HELL.YES.

Pellibaby said...

Sad Utahn...would completely race over if U could. Please send my best wishes...

Kim said...

I have been in love with Homer Laughlin china for years. I have fiesta old & new, but was really excited to see the H.L. pattern you showed on your blog: the turquoise leaves with grey swirls. I have an 8 pc setting, but no bowls. My cups look different than yours too, less round. What a haul you got. Wish I lived close by. They need to get some online commerce going with that place. What treasures!

Anonymous said...

I went and "liked" his facebook page. I'm going to have to put shopping there on my bucket list! I love cafe china. I've got six salad plates of Oneida Classics "Autumn Orchard" and all of us love those plates. They are the first plates to get used. I bought them in a thrift shop so they were already old when I got them. We've used the heck out of them in the ten years I've had them and there's nary a chip, crack or discoloration in any of them. I'd love to find more.

Danielle @ 2 Little Superheroes said...

I wish I lived closer! I'm going to share on all my social media sites and hopefully help this guy out! We need more of these types of shops!

Oh yeah and I'm a new follower of yours now too!

Deneen@dreaming-n-color said...

Next time I am in Chattanooga I will check it out. Such a neat place! Thanks for sharing. Love your treasures!

Linda said...

They need to get connected with a photo shoot in Country Living Magazine. People would be coming from all over to buy their wares. Anyone have an in there?
Loved your blog. Keep up the good work!

Kelly said...

I'm so glad you posted this story. I live in Chattanooga and have always loved going to Decks. The last time I was there he opened the door to those rooms and I couldn't even speak! To someone like me that LOVES dishes, it was like Christmas.

Kirby Carespodi said...

First of all....how much do I love your name? Way too much. And I am in love with the China Man. I am going to call him and tell him that I collect both Syracuse and Shenango china, if he has some.

Claire @ A Little Claireification said...

Wow - that is amazing! What a find. I am in FL but I pinned this - hope they can stay in business!

Ellen Reed said...

omg.......smiles!

pj44870 said...

Wow what a lucky find. I was just about to get off of Facebook but just was looking through posts by Funky Junk Interiors that had come through my feed when I stopped on this and clicked the link. I am wanting to go here as soon as possible. After MapQuesting it, Deck's Glassware is a 3 hour drive from my place in Tazewell, TN. Can't wait to go!

Di Jinx said...

DAY TRIP!! Glad my honey likes old dishes as much as I do:)
Last photo my fave, looking forward to your full pic post. Thanks for sharing:) Di @ CookTheTV

Catherine Slye said...

HOLY MOTHER OF CHINA!!

Chattanooga is the place for me!