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Southwest Orange Wednesday, Jul. 6, 2016 6 years ago

Melvin's Garden: A cove of treasures

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Visitors to Windermere often do not realize there’s an antique shop inside the historic building next to Windermere’s Town Hall.
by: Jennifer Nesslar Reporter

WINDERMERE A stone’s throw from Windermere Town Hall sits a small, historical building, marked not by signage or advertisement, but rather by a garden. 

The garden is planted out in front of the building and features plants like basil, thyme, rosemary, sage, tomatoes, plums, mint, blueberries and raspberries.

“We encourage people to pick and to use it; it makes the plant healthier anyway. There’s more out there than any of us can use,” said John Thurman, the owner of Melvin’s Garden. “I like it when they come by and they get what they need.”

The name Melvin’s Garden identifies that garden as well as the fine-art and fine-antiques shop inside. 

Three friends — Thurman, Joan Schaffer and Douglas Hinchcliffe — run the business. Schaffer operates the business while Thurman and Hinchcliffe own it. 

They seek to reflect the history of the building and, likewise, the history of Windermere.

THE HISTORY 

The building at 502 Main St. was built in 1910 and served as Windermere Development. It is a misconception that the building was the former post office, Thurman said, but from 1911 to 1913, the building doubled as Windermere Development and the post office while the actual post-office building was under construction. Once the post office moved out, the building still remained as Windermere Development. It later became town hall, the women’s club, the garden club and shuffleboard club.

The building served as Finder’s Keepers, as antique shop. When Thurman made it his office for John Ashley Interiors — his interior-design business, people kept requesting the building become an antique shop again. Because his interior-design business emphasizes classic historic Windermere looks and incorporates antiques, it made sense to him to open an antique shop.

The garden is even historic, reflecting the kind of plants the common people of Windermere would have grown in 1910. 

MELVIN’S GARDEN

The shop is home to a wide range of fine antiques and art that have been collected from many places, often from estate sales. The small space packs in unique finds, from Picasso paintings to 5,000-year-old Chinese pots. The shop features famous artists as well as others local to Windermere. 

Sit in the shop, and you’ll see regulars stop by to give Schaffer a hug and spend time there. But it also has its critics, especially regarding the garden outside the building. 

“It’s a 1910 garden fitting a 1910 building,” Thurman said. “Some people in town would like to see everything in this town redone completely. … We’re trying to stay true to the area and true to what Windermere was.”

 

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