We’ve all seen the Facebook posts and Pinterest pins where someone has taken an old dresser headed for curbside pickup and turned it into a stunning work of art. A coat of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, some fancy new knobs and voila! Not everybody, however, is gifted in refurbishing old furniture. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a place that could do that for you? Since June, Riley’s Uniques has been changing the face of antique furniture, literally. A genuine “Flea Market Flip” style of doing business has allowed owner, John Ousley, to spend more time restoring furniture and being with his 3-year-old daughter, Riley.
“I started this business in honor of her,” Ousley says. “She is the light of my life and the store’s namesake.” Riley was born with Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) Tricuspid Atresia. “We designed the store logo in her honor and to recognize others born with heart defects,” explains Ousley. “The colors represent the CHD ribbon, slightly altered to make it Riley’s own. Even the apostrophe is a CHD ribbon!”
The Ousley family is known for turning negatives into positives. When John was laid off from Volvo, he looked at it as an opportunity to start a business. Along with Toby Bullion and Joe Monzo, Ousley became co-owner of Riley’s Uniques early in 2016. Each of the guys has his own floor space, so there’s always a nice assortment for customers. They also have a sister store in Roanoke, Joe’s Trading Post.
For those who prefer “window shopping” online, the store has a e-tailer presence on sites like Etsy, Craigslist and Facebook. Ousley also saves some things just for in-store patrons. “We want to keep that element of surprise. Things move pretty quickly around here,” he cautions. “Often customers see something interesting online, then come in and see something else they like more.”
Riley’s Uniques showcases new finds and unusual treasures on the sidewalk in front of the store at 1224 E. Main St. in Radford. “The Original Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey Barrel spikes a lot of interest. Anyone in the market for one has to sign on to a waiting list, plus pay a hefty shipping fee.”
When asked where he finds the good stuff, Ousley replies: “Estate sales, auctions and good old-fashioned pickin’.” When asked about some of his rarest finds, he replies: “I want to keep a lot, but I’d have no business that way.” He tries to forget about the really good stuff and keeps a mental catalog of selling prices for general valuing purposes.
The store has a “Paint to Order” option. For custom orders, they offer a plethora of color and finish options, as well as a wide variety of art-deco 1950s style stencils to create a unique look. Ousley is careful not to ruin a piece. “I only wish to add some character, not take away from the value. If a piece of walnut or wormy chestnut furniture comes through the door, I won’t touch it.”
Emily Kathleen Alberts is a Blacksburg-based freelance and science and technology writer who contributes regularly to New River Valley Magazine.