It’s hard to leave empty-handed after a visit to the Round Top Antiques Fair.
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The overall vibe in Round Top is akin to one gigantic sorority party with hundreds of women — and of course some men — descending on the area, talking and laughing, bargaining and buying in the midst of acres of antiques and miles and miles of traffic. Simply heaven for some of us!
I can assure regular Memphis readers that the Mid-South definitely has a presence at Round Top. If you can believe this coincidence, my Connecticut friend Pam Randon bought gorgeous nineteenth-century Chippendale-style chairs at the Marburger show from Brownsville, Tennessee, dealers Kitty and Tony Ables. The couple have many friends in Memphis including antiques journalist Karla Klein Albertson, and of course Stanton Thomas of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. As Tony put it, “A real West Tennessee mafia is usually on hand in Round Top!”
And to go one step further, it just so happens that Tony and Kitty had originally bought the chairs from one of Memphis’ premier dealers, Linda Felts. While at the Marburger show we also stopped in to visit our good friend, Anthony Shaw, from Memphis, the owner of A. Shaw Antiques & Jewelry in Chickasaw Oaks who had an elegant large booth there. Additionally, Memphis’ own Tom Fortner had a beautiful booth at the Big Red Barn that was loaded with fine antiques.
Accommodations can be a bit difficult in the Round Top area, though with a bit of digging visitors can find some inns, bed-and-breakfasts, and even private homes in a variety of price ranges. At the top level, Shabby Chic founder/designer Rachel Ashwell has a 46-acre inn composed of restored cottages called The Prairie — extravagant, yes, but looks to be extraordinary.
Failing all that, the town of Brenham, just 22 miles away to the north, has many of the familiar chain motels we know and feel comfortable with, not to mention a historic old-town square. Restaurants in the Round Top neighborhood book up very early, particularly the most popular ones such as Royers Round Top Cafe (an institution in the area famous for its iconic “Eat Mo Pie” neon sign) and JW’s Steakhouse in nearby Carmine.
I also recommend that you take time out from your shopping frenzy to get off the main roads and tour the Round Top countryside, a lovely part of the world on the eastern edge of the Texas hill country. In April, the rain had made the landscape lush, and the Lone Star State’s scenery was at its best, with world-renowned blue bonnets carpeting the vistas in every direction off to the horizon. We discovered creeks and rivers (we crossed the Colorado and the Brazos, sometimes more than once), cottonwood trees, countless cattle ranches with interesting names like the “Polish Ponderosa,” and several historic small towns.
If you are not pulling a U-Haul full of newfound treasures — or even if you are! — it is ideal to make a small vacation out of the Round Top experience. For example, my husband and I drove southwest through Texarkana on the way down and on the way back we drove home via a more southern route with stops in Houston, Galveston, and Baton Rouge, to vary the trip. We could write whole stories about those fascinating destinations.
No matter how you go, or when you go, my advice is to head for Round Top and a huge Texas-style experience. Happy hunting!
Anne Cunningham O’Neill is the arts & lifestyle editor of Memphis magazine.