It’s worth a trip to the newly opened Robbins Nest Primitives and Antiques shop in Vinton just to meet Crook, the rescued feral cat, who will instantly become your best friend.
Crook (because of his ear, not a criminal past) was rescued by Robbins Nest owner Penny Robbins from a field near her home in the Stewartsville area. When she opened her store on April 1, she decided to bring Crook along as the “shop kitty.”
Robbins thought she was “getting in a rut” with her children grown and leaving home. She says she “needed a purpose” and decided to learn to make dolls. She found a pattern and made her first doll, then met a friend who makes “primitive” dolls herself who saw the ones Robbins had made and told her she needed to rent a booth to sell them— they were that good.
Next she took up furniture painting and making “primitive” signs. “Primitive” is generally taken to mean decor in a folk art style from an early Americana time period, typically using muted colors and with a rough and simple look to them. Her technique is to distress furniture she purchases at auctions and estate sales to make the pieces look older and more primitive.
Robbins has enjoyed arts and crafts since her childhood and remembers painting her bedroom suit when she was just 15 years old.
In recent months, her husband Doug noticed the space at the corner of Third Street and Virginia Avenue in Vinton was for rent and encouraged her to take the plunge and open her own business. Robbins says the decision was between “collecting more cats or opening a store.”
She said she wanted to locate in Vinton because “it has started to grow; it’s on the verge” with the new Macado’s, Twin Creeks Brewing, and the renovations at Roland E. Cook and the former William Byrd, and she “wanted to be a part of that growth.”
The Robbins Nest is open six days a week with Robbins as owner, operator, and sole employee. She sells her primitives and antiques and also makes signs and paints furniture in a workroom located in the back of the store. She plans to bring in a sewing machine soon so she can work on other crafts as well during business hours.
One of her most popular items is seasonal mice, which generally sell out as soon as she puts them on the shelves.
Robbins says her customers tend to be young people just starting out decorating their first homes and apartments, the middle-aged who have time to collect— not so much the elderly who are downsizing— except those looking for unique gifts.
She has found that potential customers are shunning mall shopping with assembly-line products for small shops with one-of-a-kind handcrafted goods. The trend is painted furniture, not the traditional finishes.
Her inventory at the Robbins Nest, in addition to painted furniture and antiques, includes all types of home décor, scented wax tarts (no flame involved), patriotic décor, her hand-painted signs (wedding signs are very popular for gifts), quilts, linens and seasonal items (snowmen, the aforementioned mice, and more). There is even a “Man Room” with antique cameras, tools, fishing equipment, rotary phones, and antique collectibles, assembled by her husband.
Robbins traditionally sets up a booth at the popular annual Floyd County Arts and Crafts Festival and will participate again on October 7-8 this year, mainly selling her signs. Her crafter friend Jodi Fitzgerald will be with her selling handmade mice, pin-keeps, and ornaments.
The Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting for the Robbins Nest on May 2. VACC Executive Director Angie Chewning and President Justin Davison welcomed Robbins to Vinton and wished her well, as did Vinton Mayor Brad Grose.
The Robbins Nest will be open on Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and on Sunday from noon until 5 p.m. They are closed on Mondays.
Robbins says if you want unique items for your own home or a gift for someone else, don’t bother driving to the mall. Instead stop and shop at the Robbins Nest— and meet Crook.
Also check out the Robbins Nest Primitives and Antiques Facebook page where you can find not only what’s available in the shop, but one of her customers’ favorite recipes posted each Monday– Sausage Quiche and Pound Cake on recent Mondays. On Fridays her Facebook page features pets available for adoption at local rescue shelters.