Continued: Vernonia: where everybody knows your name
completely revamped the former J.C. Penney building, from which their store gets its name. The Versaws took it from a rundown eyesore to a true vintage building that houses a robust collection of vintage, collectible and antique items. After more than a year of restoration work, which included restoration of the buildings roof, a complete new floor, and the addition of a second floor, they’ve had Penney Lane Antiques open for a little over a year.
Joe is the folksy mouthpiece of the shop. He says Nina is the brains behind their operation, which includes nearly 4,000 square feet of space on two floors. He notes that he comes by the business somewhat naturally. His mother ran a very successful estate sale business and at five years old he started in the business, playing with toys under a table at estate sales until they were ready for the estate sale.
“When I got old enough I was folding towels and wrapping up sheets — I worked my way into this business, it seems like forever,” he recalls.
Nina bought her first home in Vernonia when she was 19-years old. One day when they were out and about searching for a new store location she asked Joe if he wanted to see her first home. During that journey to Vernonia they found their current store along with the church in the back, that today they use for storage.
The couple at one time travelled the antique show circuit but thought having a store would be less work. “We thought having a store would be easier than traveling — but it’s not,” Nina said with a smile.
The move to Vernonia has been a great decision for the couple and Nina adds, “We’d been looking for a building for three years — and being out in the middle of nowhere we didn’t know how it would go.”
“It’s been the best decision we’ve made. We love this town - - we actually sell more here than we did in Portland. Couldn’t be happier,” she added.
When you ask Joe about Penney Lane he smiles, looks you in the eye and says, “I’m kind of easy about things. I normally tell folks we’re a fabulous store with a lot of junk and a few good things.”But don’t let his aw shucks attitude fool you. Penney Lane is the real deal when it comes to collectibles and antiques.
While Joe’s passion is with antique fishing reels, over the years he’s also become knowledgeable about a wide range of collectible items.
Nina brings him a 10-inch dagger in a sheath and asks the price. He asks if it’s a Sheffield and when she affirms the brand he gives her a price, noting, “It’s an early English piece. It’s a Sheffield, so its after 1920.”
Nina’s expertise comes from her background in graphic art. “I like the art related items — the graphic type items — advertisements and those type of things,” she said.
The next door over is Fox Hollow Antiques where Julie Kehoe says her shop specializes in old country farm primitives. “These are generally things that people use to hand make and build. That to me speaks volumes — they had a need, so they made it. Somebody needed it — and they came up with the design and made it,” she said.
Kehoe’s Fox Hollow Antiques is filled with items that at one time or another resided in her home. Her passion for these items is evident when she explains, “I like what I like what, I collect what I like and I try to sell what I like. I haven’t been able to sell anything that I don’t like.”
Of the town, Kehoe says, “Most people come here for the food. It’s just amazing that for the size of the town we have so many good restaurants.”
Indeed, when it comes time to quell your hunger pangs, Vernonia may have one the most diverse selections of eating establishments for a small town. None of the proprietors wanted to really choose a best place to eat, and nearly all would preface any thought of a best café with, “It depends on what you want to eat.”
Joe Versaw said he likes Mariolinos for breakfasts and home made pizza, but parroted Kehoe, “We really don’t have a bad place to eat in town — it just depends on what you like.”
Across the street from Penney Lane is The Blue Mediterranean Café, which serves authentic cuisine from the Med. Everything from Gyros to baklava. Up the street you’ll find a nifty Mexican restaurant, La Cabana Restaurant, as well as Islands Grill, where you’ll find Hawaiian dishes.
For regular American eats you’ll find several places to satisfy your cravings. These include Cedar Side Inn, Black Bear Iron Grill, and the All In Pub & Eatery.
If you’re inteested in learning more about the history of the area, the Vernonia Pioneer Museum holds a complete record of yesteryear with a complete record of logging that took place. It’s open by appointment and regularly Saturdays and Sundays from 1-4 p.m.
Coming soon to Vernonia is a new skateboard park. One of the chief draws to Vernonia is the bike trail that give you a chance to experience the Douglas Fir Forests in the surrounding area. The Vernonia-Banks State Trail follows an abandoned railroad bed stretching 21 miles between the cities of Banks and Vernonia.
The trail consists of a paved 8-foot wide hiking and bicycle trail alongside a gravel trail for horses that’s about 4-foot wide in most sections. The gentle grade in all but one area allows hikers, bicyclists, equestrians and people of all abilities to enjoy the scenic mountains, fields and forests of Washington and Columbia counties
Trail highlights include 13 bridges and views from the 733-foot long, 80-foot high Buxton Trestle, open to hikers and bicyclists. A ground-level equestrian bypass crosses Mendenhall Creek. You may access the trail from one of the five trailheads. Each has parking areas and restrooms. The trail also connects to L.L. Stub Stewart State Park. Stub Stewart offers all the amenities of an Oregon State Park including RV hookups, yurts, camping spaces, and showers and a restroom.
Anderson Park, located in the heart of Vernonia and is walking distance to the downtown area. The park offers 19 full hookup RV sites, 12 tent sites and horse camping. Amenities include free WiFi, full restroom facility, covered picnic area, playground, bike repair station, boat ramp and horse arena.
One last stopping place if you’re looking for a nice walk is Vernonia Lake and the city park there. Bring a boat or a kyak to paddle around, if you like or just enjoy the lake and the ducks as you walk the trail around the lake.
And who knows, you might just meet someone who knows your name!