After over 60 years of collecting antiques, the now 90-yr-old antique dealer, Frances Veillette, joined forces with her daughter, Jeanne Veillette Bowerman to open a robust antique store, Olde 1811 Antique Shoppe, in Chatham, New York.
The mother/daughter antique-dealing duo started “working” together when Frances purchased an auction house in the 70’s. At the age of 13, Jeanne trained to be the auction cashier. What teenager didn’t want to spend a couple of nights a week surrounded by dusty old things and frantic bidding?
The auction house operated for years, with locals and city visitors attending, even the famed Harry Belafonte was a regular customer! After its closing, Frances went back to running her small antique business from her barns, and became a co-founder of Jackson Hewitt Tax Service.
Never wanting to give up on opening a retail antique shop, in 2004, she purchased the oldest building in Chatham, NY, erected in 1811—a building she had dreamed of owning. But the building needed major repairs, requiring years of renovations, overseen by her husband, Paul, who was also a historian and dove into the history of the building. The original use was a tavern and inn, frequented by Martin Van Buren, who hosted meetings in the tavern for the Society of the Detection of Horse Thieves. It was rumored he liked his beer, knocking more than a few back, but lucky for him, his horse knew the way home!
Renovations finally finished in 2007, and now Frances had a 10,000-square foot building to fill! And fill it, she did. But grandchildren and her successful income-tax business kept her goal of opening her first brick-and-mortar retail space out of reach. In the 10 years that passed, Frances had filled barns and other buildings with a wide variety of unique antiques.
In fact, in 2012, the American Pickers traveled through New York State and discovered Frances’ barns, highlighting her in the episode, “Ladies Know Best.” That day reminded Frances of what she was missing in putting her dreams aside.
Finally, in 2017, with her husband very ill, she lamented to Jeanne her guilt of “leaving her with a mess.” Frances may have thought it was too late to open a store at the age of 86, but Jeanne was hearing none of that.
Being a professional writer and not a store operator, Jeanne knew she’d need help, so she reconnected with her childhood friend, Jody, who was also the granddaughter of one of Frances’ early antique mentors, and a shopkeep herself, with a successful business that is Crow Cottage. Jody jumped in to help Jeanne finally open the store of her mother’s dreams.
It was a journey back in time, bringing these two families together again. There’s no doubt Jody’s grandfather was looking down on them, with approval.
Together with Jody’s husband, Jeanne and Jody worked for months to clear out the first floor of the building, sharing pictures of the treasures they found along the way on their Instagram and Facebook accounts. Soon, they had a following of not only antique lovers, but also locals who just wanted to step foot in the oldest building in town!
On May 22, 2018, they officially opened the doors to finally fulfill Frances’ life-long dream. Their antique store bursts with primitives, collectibles, toys, and furniture of all styles. Their wares also include candles, textiles, and artisan creations—something for everyone’s budget!
American Pickers must have had a premonition when they titled Frances’ episode. This dynamic duo of woman have proven ladies really do know best.
Chatham’s first building, erected by William Thomas, opened New Years Day, 1812.
The longtime proprietor, Captain Petrus “Peter” Groat Jr. operated the tavern and “Groat’s Inn” which was conveniently located along a stop on Albany-Hartford stage route. Beyond owning the tavern, Groat was also Chatham postmaster, owned a stage line, and was elected to NY State Legislature.
Groat’s friend, eighth U.S. President Martin Van Buren, frequently rode from his home in Kinderhook to visit the inn. The two politicians slung back the beer, had meetings of “The Society of the Detection of Horse Thieves.” Out of respect for Van Buren, patrons vacated half of the tavern, and left the remaining half to Groat and the President.
Only Van Buren’s horse knows just how tipsy he was when he climbed on to ride the nine miles home to Kinderhook. Luckily, no one stole him.