CHILHOWIE, Va. — When Robin Rush and her husband, Bill Rush, closed their small retail business seven years ago, they decided to hang on to the store sign — just in case they ever opened another location.

“It must have been in the back of our minds because it was no time before we found a larger space to start over,” said Robin.

For the past 16 months, the couple has operated Hodge Podge on Main in Chilhowie, a collection of vintage items spread out over a 4,500-square-foot space. And, like a shining star, the sign that they refused to discard hangs outside the Main Street business.

“We basically moved from one side of Main Street to the other,” said Robin, explaining that their former business, which operated under the same name, was located in a small building with little room to expand.

“Compared to that building, this space is huge, and we’re on our way to filling up each room. We have done better each month.”

The store features 60 vendors, 30 of whom operate booths of vintage items. The remaining are individuals who bring in items to consign.

The business is attracting many customers from the Washington County area and Bristol who come to browse the not-so-ordinary treasures.

The list of items is as varied as the customers Robin meets.

At the store, you’ll find vintage signs, tools, clothing, toys, furniture, knives, glassware and even the kitchen sink.

“People are crazy about these old oil cans,” said Robin during a tour of the building. “Some are empty, and some still have motor oil in them. Maybe people use them to decorate man caves.”

You’ll also find new items like handmade clothing for American Girl dolls, local artwork, hand-sewn quilts and curtains, handmade wreaths, signs and some jewelry.

In the back of the store are shelves of Willow Creek foods — Amish-made jams, jellies and salsa — and a freezer that holds frozen foods.

“We carry black bean salsa and peach salsa. I had never heard of peach salsa, but it’s delicious. We have barbecue sauce, spinach dips and apple butter. We sell out of the apple butter quickly,” she said.

Strolling through the 12 display rooms, Robin said she’s proud of the variety of items she carries.

“I’ve seen people bring me items I never would have thought would sell. And sometimes the items that I think are good sellers don’t move quickly.

“In this business, you don’t know what’s going to sell. If you did, you’d be a millionaire because you’d carry just those items,” she said, laughing.

“Some of the vendors really know how to work a booth. If things don’t sell, they switch them out. One booth owner had her Valentine’s Day merchandise out the day after Christmas.

“A school teacher and her husband make these wooden primitive decor [pieces]. He cuts them out, and she paints them.

“People love to come inside this booth and look around,” said Robin, as she pointed out old-fashioned phones and typewriters, painted furniture and vintage clothing. “You can find just about anything in here.”

“This booth carries a lot of old toys and vintage Barbies.

“This one belongs to a guy who I would describe as one of my true antique dealers. If there’s anything that comes into the store that I don’t know what it is, he will know.”

In the last six months, the owner has filled the upstairs in the building with more vintage items.

“I love my Hodge Podge. It’s funny what you end up doing in life,” said the storekeeper, who was a bank teller before raising four children as a stay-at-home mother. “I guess I’ve always loved selling things. I sold Home Interiors and Discovery Toys while staying home with my children.

“Probably my favorite thing about owning a business is the time I’ve shared with my family. Each of my children has helped me to succeed. My son, Michael Rush, is my main helper in the store. My parents have come to help me one day each week since I’ve opened.

“And my customers are special, too. I meet someone new every day, and I’m blessed by each one of them.”

Hodge Podge on Main is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and closed on Sunday and Monday. Follow them on Facebook, or call 276-706-0249.

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Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at news@washconews.com.

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