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....
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.
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,