Hallmark ornaments have been called one of the “most enduring and endearing” collectibles available today, valued for their quality and history. In 1973, the Hallmark company produced the first 18 ornaments– six balls and 12 different yarn ornaments
Vinton’s Bootie Chewning at one time owned a Hallmark store at Lake Drive Plaza. In 1973, her brother, Jimmy Bell, approached her about opening a gift store. Together they opened Bell’s Hallmark and Gifts. Her brother later returned to teaching and the store became Bootie’s Hallmark & Gifts. Chewning says that many Vintonites remember the store fondly and still ask her about it.
“I miss all the great people that shopped at the Hallmark store and my fun-loving employees who were so devoted,” said Chewning. “Christmas Eve’s all-day party at the store will always be remembered— lots of work, but very enjoyable.”
While she owned the store, she collected Hallmark ornaments herself. They eventually ended up packed away in several boxes in her basement until she recently decided the time had come to part ways in the interest of space. She has now placed them on consignment with Oma’s Magic Attic Antiques and Collectibles in Vinton, located in the Hardy Road Plaza in the nook next door to Rancho Viego.
Chewning has over 200 ornaments at Oma’s, dating from 1975 through 1988— all in mint condition with most in the original box or packaging. The sought-after Rocking Horse series, yearly Mother/Son/ Daughter ornaments, Wildlife series and many others are part of her collection.
Anna and Clinton McLaughlin opened Oma’s Magic Attic in June after doing extensive renovations to the store to “make it our own.” The space had previously housed, at various times, a tattoo parlor, a pet grooming store, and a nail salon. The McLaughlins, like Chewning, had found themselves with too many collectibles and decided it was time to pass their memories along to others. So they opened the shop.
The couple moved here from Washington, D.C., about 17 years ago to work with Mill Mountain Theatre, under Jere Hodgins. Clinton was production manager and Anna was company manager. That’s where they met Chewning, who served on the theatre board.
Leaving theatre work after 30 years, Clinton McLaughlin says that friends suggested a second career in teaching, which required returning to school to get a license. He now teaches art at Forest Park Academy in Roanoke City. Forest Park is a non-traditional, cutting-edge learning environment that has helped to significantly advance the graduation rate in Roanoke City over the past decade, graduating over 1,000 students.
Anna is originally from Ohio; Clinton from Germany, where his father was stationed in the Air Force and there met his mother. In Washington they worked with the National Opera and Placido Domingo.
As for how they named their shop, “Oma” means grandmother in German.
“When we were talking about what to name the store, we said we wanted something that would pay honor to our mothers and grandmothers,” the couple says. “We both remember spending time with ours and all the neat and exciting things that we would find in their homes when we were children. So, ‘Oma’s Magic Attic’ is in honor of our mothers for all the special memories they provided us as children.”
They chose the Vinton location when it opened up because it was a “great space and good match for us,” and because there is a niche network in Vinton of antique and collectible shops that work well together. Robbin’s Nest, Vinton’s Country Corner, Twice Treasured, and Cornerstone Antiques are willing to recommend one another when an item can’t be found in their own store but is available in someone else’s.
The McLaughlins say they are not “high-pressure” proprietors. They like people to come in and browse in a “laid-back space,” without lurking over their shoulders. There is always a pot of coffee brewing.
At Oma’s, the McLauglins sell “things they like” themselves and ones that hold their value. Some came from their attic and have family memories; some from local and regional estate sales and auctions. “We hope things will become special to someone else and help them make their own wonderful memories.”
They deal mostly with “smalls.”
They love to travel, so they pick up unique items they are drawn to as they travel. Each item in the store has been handpicked, and something they enjoyed owning themselves or found fascinating. The couple can tell the history or the story of each piece.
“We are willing to display anything here in our own home,” the couple says. “We search high and low for the unusual, the vintage, and the kind of things that you cannot find elsewhere. Often times in our shop you will find things that are no longer made. Examples of this might be a World War II Military Field Needle Sterilizer, or maybe a special brand of handmade glass that you are looking for that reminds you of the one that your grandmother had in her home.”
In fact, that is one statement they love to overhear from people visiting their shop: “My mom/grandma/aunt had one of those.” There is no typical customer for Oma’s Magic Attic. They get a wide range of ages and interests in their eclectic stock. They are the sole employees, other than occasional help from their children.
The McLaughlins say they are not out of anyone’s price range with prices ranging from $1 to $400. They are frugal themselves, owned and operated solely “out-of-pocket” and willing to pass low prices on to their customers. They give a 10 percent discount to Vintonites.
They especially enjoy helping children choose gifts for their families and friends, creating another memory.
Their merchandise includes Disney items, Dept. 56, china, glass, trunks, cookie jars and other vintage kitchen items, paintings, railroad memorabilia, and paperweights. Gumball machines are a specialty with their Roanoke history
There is a children’s corner of books, Legos, and toys to keep the young ones occupied while the adults browse.
Oma’s switches some of the stock out seasonally— focusing this month on Chewning’s collectible Hallmark ornaments. They say they are “pretty particular” about consignment sales in general, but always willing to talk.
One reason the McLaughlins remained in Roanoke after they left Mill Mountain Theatre was their connection to the Embrace Treatment Foster Care organization— a national group with a local branch— which led to the adoption of their four children— Veronika, Brittney, Timothy and Conor, ranging in age from 16 months to 15 years. Their first child, Veronika, was placed with them when she was 5 days old; Brittney at 18 months along with her half-brother Timothy, who was 6 years old, and finally Conor, who has been part of their family since he was 2 weeks old.
Hours for Oma’s Magic Attic are updated daily, along with current merchandise mentions, on the store’s Facebook page. Information is also available on the eBay store at omasmagicattic.
They are generally open Tuesday through Saturday and closed on Sunday and Monday. They are also willing to open by appointment by calling 540-761-6627.
“We are proud to be selling the vintage Hallmark ornaments of Vinton’s long-time resident, Bootie Chewning,” say the McLaughlins.