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Finding treasures in a 'Hip and Humble' Shenandoah shop

Friday - 3/8/2013, 9:11am  ET

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Hip and Humble in Strasburg, Va., attracts many D.C.-area residents on the weekend who are on the hunt for antique home decor and furniture. (Courtesy of Hip and Humble)
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Rachel Nania, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, one furniture and home décor store has become an unexpected weekend getaway for Washington-area residents.

"Hip and Humble has become its own community," says John Dobricky, a psychologist and therapist in Fairfax County and an American folk art collector.

The store in Strasburg, Va., has become a sanctuary where D.C. residents can escape the hustle and bustle of city life and find relaxation and creative inspiration.

Every weekend, Dobricky makes the trip from Northern Virginia to Hip and Humble. He admits to rearranging his Friday patient schedules -- on more than one occasion -- in order to get to the store in time for its weekly new arrivals, especially painted furniture, which he's collected the past 30 years.

Hip and Humble, a 4,000-square-foot space within the Strasburg Emporium, is one of the state's most well-known antique venues. Berryville residents and artists Julie Ashby and Steve Scott own the shop, which is operated by a collection of furniture dealers.

"It attracts a group of individuals, artists, collectors and decorators who drop by regularly and who also contribute to the energy," Dobricky says. "I have made a number of new friends from visiting the shop."

Dobricky is just one of the estimated 1,000 people Ashby sees at Hip and Humble every weekend. She says her customers are from various parts of the region, but many are from the D.C. area.

Ashby, a furniture painter and decorator, and Scott, a cabinetmaker, have been business partners for about 20 years.

"I found him at a flea market," Ashby jokes. "And we've just been cranking out stuff ever since."

Hip and Humble opened in 1994 and focuses its collection on antique pieces and painted furniture.

"We really try to stick to original, American country painted furniture," says Ashby, who explains that classic American furniture is hard to find because many people got rid of it.

"Furniture in your house is sort of like fashion," she says. "One year, oak will be really popular, and then you couldn't sell it if you gave it away. I think that painted furniture got put out in the barn and piled up with stuff, and that's where we have to go to find it."

Ashby and Scott also repurpose architectural salvage -- or items such as iron fences, white columns, screens and restaurant signs -- into new pieces of furniture.

The store is filled with a mix of styles. Customers may find a contemporary glass-top coffee table with tire-iron legs, a rustic barn-wood side table on an iron wheel and a traditional French toile upholstered chair. Prices in Hip and Humble range from $5 for a hammered watering can to several hundred dollars for a large antique hutch.

To fill the expansive showroom at Hip and Humble, Ashby spends much of the week at auctions and markets and sifting through hand-picked items from her "pickers" -- four high school boys training to be cabinet makers. Ashby's pickers search for antique finds in old barns and houses and on porches.

Between making custom furniture, purchasing pieces at auctions and collecting "picked" items, Ashby and Scott pack a 16-foot trailer every week and take it to the shop on Friday. Sometimes the furniture and home décor doesn't even make it through the Hip and Humble door.

"There are always designers and dealers waiting for me to pull into the parking lot with the truck," Ashby says. "We sell a lot of it before it even gets inside."

One local furniture dealer who frequently ventures to Hip and Humble is Al Marzorini, co-owner of AmericanEye, a home design showroom in the Washington Design Center in Southwest D.C. that opened in 2004.

Marzorini, who sells furniture and home products to interior designers in the D.C. area, says he has picked up several pieces for himself and his showroom from Hip and Humble.

"I like their focus, and Julie and Steve get new merchandise in all the time," he says, adding that some of the items Steve makes, like tin-top tables, are popular with his interior designer customers.

Mike Marcheterre works on the floor at Hip and Humble, helping Ashby and dealers sell their pieces on the weekend. During the week, he lives in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Va., and works in D.C. at a law firm.

Marcheterre makes the trek every Friday to Strasburg, where he and his partner recently purchased and restored a historic home.

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