After nearly 15 years in business, Camas Antiques, a keystone in downtown Camas’ vaunted revitalization story, has suddenly found itself in need of a new home.
Owner JoAnn Taylor said she realized she had “given up some of her options” after selling the historic, 15,000-square-foot C.E. Farrell building in 2015 to Christopher and Anne Marie Oldham, of Encinitas, California, but didn’t think she would have to give up Camas Antiques, the business she built from scratch at a time when downtown Camas was still dreaming of becoming a destination shopping area.
This summer, Taylor found out that the Oldhams were not renewing her lease.
“My lease was up in June and the building owners extended my lease to Jan. 31 (2019), to let me stay through the holidays, which I appreciate,” Taylor said.
The Oldhams have indicated, however, that Camas Antiques’ multiple antique vendors will not have to vacate the building.
“I am assuming they will have a similar store as mine,” Taylor said. “My vendors will receive (information) on the new store in November, and will not have to move out.”
Taylor said she is seeking another location within the city of Camas and hopes to relocate Camas Antiques. If she is able to find another building, Taylor hopes many of her vendors will follow.
“My staff, my vendors and I have worked very hard to develop a store that I am extremely proud of,” Taylor said. “I have been so lucky to have incredible support from the community and that is so appreciated.”
Carrie Schulstad, executive director of the Downtown Camas Association (DCA), said Taylor’s business was instrumental in revitalizing the city’s downtown and said it would be “unfortunate on many levels” for the city to lose Camas Antiques.
“They are a key anchor business and have been since they opened in 2004,” Schulstad said. “JoAnn and Camas Antiques have been exceedingly supportive of downtown revitalization efforts and the DCA, including participating in every single First Friday event since May of 2005, sponsoring the Camas Poker Tour First Friday for the last 13 years, donating to every event, donating multiple times to the DCA through the B&O tax incentive program, serving on our DCA Board in our earlier years, consistently hosting and marketing multiple store events that bring thousands of people to downtown each year, creating amazing store window displays and being advocates for other businesses by doing joint events, initiatives and referrals.”
Schulstad said DCA leaders hope Taylor will be able to keep Camas Antiques going, even after she leaves the Farrell building at 305 N.E. Fourth Ave., in the heart of Camas’ downtown core.
“This is a beloved business in our downtown,” Schulstad said. “We want to have the quality of vendors, window displays, store appearance, camaraderie, events, town support and products that have helped our town grow and set the standard for what a downtown business in a Main Street town should be like. We are most hopeful that Camas Antiques can continue in our downtown.”
Family had vision of ‘turning Camas around’
When Taylor and her four brothers purchased the C.E. Farrell building in 2004, they could envision what downtown Camas might become.
“The Farrell building was a family project,” Taylor said. “I love old buildings and was so taken with downtown Camas. The building has amazing windows, along with a great location.”
The building, which had been vacant since the 70-year-old Farrell & Eddy clothing and shoe store closed in 1998, needed some love.
“They did a quality renovation of this entire historic building — all three floors — listing it on the county and national historic registers, and brought it back to life,” Schulstad said of Taylor and her brothers’ renovation work.
The family also renovated the eight apartments located above the retail space, which had been vacant for 30 years when they bought the building, decking them out with brass Murphy beds, Hoosier cabinets, hardwood floors, 9-foot ceilings, claw-foot tubs, air conditioning and high-speed internet.
Lon Combs, one of Taylor’s four brothers, said in 2004 that he had a vision of transforming downtown Camas into a destination location for antique enthusiasts.
“Our hope is to be part of turning Camas around,” Combs told The Post-Record in March 2004. “It’s a neat town, but the people are not there yet. We’re hoping to draw the people. We’ll do our best.”
The family’s vision extended far beyond Camas. After just a few years in business, Camas Antiques was earning mentions in national magazines such as Country Living and the American Automobile Association (AAA)’s Your AAA Magazine. In 2011, the national Flea Market Style magazine listed Camas Antiques as one of the top 80 antique malls in the United States.
Taylor said she was “surprised and delighted” after the 2011 Flea Market Style praise, and told The Post-Record people had come to downtown Camas after reading about her shop in the magazine.
Taylor had rented spaces in other Portland-Vancouver area antique malls and been a sales representative in the gift industry when she and her brothers bought the Farrell building.
“I wanted to try it myself,” she said of owning and running a successful antique mall. “I wanted to use the knowledge I acquired from selling to retail stores. I didn’t want to have antiques.”
What emerged was a shop filled with antiques and vintage items as well as newer gift and home-garden items.
“I like the diversity of the product that we carry. In a smaller community, you try to have something for everyone,” Taylor said. “I built a store that I would love to shop at, and I am grateful for the community that has supported me.”
As of this paper’s print deadline, The Post-Record was unable to contact the new Farrell building owners, Christopher and Anne Marie Oldham.