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Driving down Route 30 in south-central Pennsylvania, the signs for antique shops seem as unending as the rolling hills and numerous trees.
But something about D&L Treasures (411 Lincoln Way West), nestled next to the main road in New Oxford, catches the eye. Maybe it’s the small “OPEN” flags flying just outside the old blue and white building. Or perhaps it’s the stacks of crates and the old sleighs sitting outside.
Pull over, walk inside and Dale Sponseller — the “D” of D&L Treasures — will greet you by the door. Chairs hang from the ceiling and cases carry items ranging from Lucky Strike cigarette boxes to irons that are actually made of iron.
D&L is one of many such shops in New Oxford, the self-proclaimed antique capital of the region. Thousands of antiques lovers travel to the small borough — just nine miles east of tourist destination Gettysburg — on the third Saturday of every June for its annual antiques show. A smaller show will be held Oct. 16.
The items for sale throughout the borough are all similar in a way, according to Richard Cisney, owner of the New Oxford Antique Center (333 Lincoln Way West). “They’re all historic and many of them come from this area,” he said.
Cisney serves as president of the New Oxford Antique Dealers Association, which represents 16 stores and two bed and breakfasts and encompasses about 400 dealers.
He bought the center in 2001 and works with 70 dealers to sell anything from 200-year-old paintings to children’s clothes. The shop has been open since the 1980s, but the candle-shaped lamps in the windows and fake fireplace aim to evoke an earlier era.
Many of the items that Cisney sells, whether a hook rug dating to the 19th century or old food advertisements from the 1950s, are for decorative purposes. In his experience, people aren’t looking for practical; they’re looking for pretty.
But talk to Sponseller of D&L Treasures, and he’ll tell you about a recent customer from Oregon. The man owns a Christmas tree farm, and he needed sleighs to transport the trees. He wasn’t having any luck back home and thought he would try New Oxford’s antiques stores while he happened to be in the area on a visit. He popped into Sponseller’s shop and bought three sleighs immediately, plus commissioned the dealer to find more.
It’s the sort of project that particularly pleases Sponseller, who wants customers who seek to repurpose his treasures, whether they are reupholstering old chairs or painting a wardrobe.
He has owned the shop for three years, after owning another in the 1990s. He stocks it entirely with his own finds and especially loves horse-drawn items, which explains the number of sleighs on hand.
One sleigh is intended for a special purpose: Sponseller is donating it to nearby Hanover, where local officials will use it to transport Santa Claus around the borough at Christmastime.
This year, the Hanover officials will use the sleigh in its current condition and cover it with a blanket. Next year, the sleigh will be restored to its original condition.
“I’m excited to see that people will get some use out of it again,” Sponseller said.
On the other side of town is America’s Past Antiques (114 Lincoln Way East). The vibe is homey, and visitors quickly learn that’s because it’s the first floor of Cary Murphy’s home. Murphy opened the shop in 1988 as a part-time business and has been running it full time for the past few years.
He walks around the shop, explaining that every piece has a unique story. He points out an “orphaned girl” lamp, which gets its name from the base carving of a child who was orphaned during the Civil War. In another room sit two spinning wheels, one for a child and one for an adult. “There were no K-Marts back then,” he joked.
Murphy said he started antiquing as a child because of his love of history, and he has stayed in the business because of the interesting people who stop in his store.
“People have all sorts of interests, and with antiquing, they’re always on the hunt,” he said.