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Just the same old, same old? Not on Route 1

By Nicole Cammorata
Globe Staff / November 21, 2010

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The first thing my mother said when I got in was, “This car makes excellent U-turns.’’ Before long on a recent crisp and sunny Saturday, I would learn just what she meant.

Our mission was simple: Begin in Portland and travel south, making our way down Route 1 along the coast, stopping at antiques shops on the way. If I knew my mom, we would stop at every shop possible — something I was happy to oblige.

Our first stop was Déjà Vu Practically Perfect Consignment (87 Market St., 207-699-5728), where we sifted though a mix of consignment items and the occasional vintage and antique finds. Owner Terry Hartwell told us costume jewelry is her specialty; there is a second location in Gray. I was drawn to a brass service bell. For $15 it was a steal, but I was hesitant to make a purchase so soon.

We set out on foot for Anna’s Used Furniture (612 Congress St., 207-775-7223). After a long walk and then browsing through stacks of furniture and admiring a couple of paintings in the window, we got back in the car.

Lovell Hall (463 Fore St., 207-871-1868, www.lovellhall.com) was fascinating with its combination of high-end Asian antiques and reproductions. Here we found a Japanese mizyuna, a traditional stacked chest used to store tea and dishware, and a Sendai tansu, a chest used to store clothing, dated 1790-1820.

At Judy Pascal (6 Free St., 207-347-5633), the floor-to-ceiling wall of windows on the storefront façade lent a bright openness to the store, which was full of delightfully arranged nautical and Provençal antiques and home decor.

I had high hopes for Portland. I pictured tiny, cluttered shops along the cobblestone streets with salty sailors peddling their wares. Though the few shops we found were good, they were scarce, since in recent years many stores have relocated to group shops on Route 1. So that’s where we headed next.

First up was M & M Antiques (809 Route 1, Saco, 207-284-7286), a group shop with seven vendors selling an eclectic mix that included furniture, metal toy cars, dishes, kitchenware, and more. Mom made her first purchase of the day: a picnic basket used to carry pies.

One of my favorite shops was the last one of the day. We pulled up to Nothing New (2796 Route 1, Arundel, 207-286-1789) at 5 p.m., but decided to see if they would let us poke around anyway. (Most stores on Route 1 close at 5.) Here we found two floors filled with gorgeous, restored antique oak, walnut, and mahogany furniture dated 1800-1919. “Tremendously heavy and hard to work on,’’ was Richard Kontoff’s response when I asked him what kind of pieces he’s drawn to for the store he owns with his wife, Linda.

We got back on the road and turned onto Route 9A in Kennebunk. We made our way to the Waldo Emerson Inn (108 Summer St., 207-985-4250, www.waldoemersoninn.com), a bed-and-breakfast housed in the former residence of the great-uncle of writer and transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson. The original home was built in 1753 and expanded to its current footprint in 1784.

We enjoyed a seafood dinner just up the road at the Pilot House Restaurant (4 Western Ave., 207-967-9961) and some live music at Federal Jack’s (8 Western Ave., 207-967-4322, www.federaljacks.com) before calling it a night. In the morning we feasted with our fellow guests on a homemade breakfast of warm granola, Dutch toast, fruit, and sausage.

Our plan had been to be on Route 1 at 9 a.m. so we could be waiting for the first shop to open at 10. But I got distracted by the trays of jewelry at Best of Everything (9 Western Ave., 207-967-8771) and delayed our start.

“We’re 40 minutes behind,’’ my mother said as we pulled into the parking lot of Antiques USA (1660 Route 1, Arundel, 207-985-7766), which was already full of cars at 10:40. Here we found the efforts of more than 100 dealers, with rows of glass display cases filled with everything from china to jewelry to toys, and more, including quite a few Bessie Pease Gutman prints. It was overwhelming at first, and felt a bit like a warehouse, but once we walked deeper into the building the displays were no longer in cases and we could wander among the items. We could have spent hours here — there was just so much.

Our next group shop was Arundel Antique Village (1713 Route 1, 207-985-7965), which had a flea market next door. Inside the shop it was almost all bric-a-brac. We found lots of glass, dishes, Fiestaware, and some records.

Just as we were missing that musty smell common to the independently-owned stores, Hemen’s Antiques (1752 Route 1, Arundel, 207-467-3123) delivered. We made a quick stop at the folk art and country antiques spot 111 York Street Antiques and Americana Workshop (Kennebunk, 207-985-8356) and then at MacDougall-Gionet Antiques & Associates (2104 Route 1, Wells, 207-646-3531). Housed in an old barn, the pristine furniture at MacDougall-Gionet comes from some 60 dealers and is mostly 18th- and 19th-century. Bureaus, chests, porcelain, dining room sets, and grandfather clocks abounded, as well as a lot of tiger maple.

All day, it was the same thing: As soon as we drove away from one store, we spotted another. Midcentury gas station and fast food signs adorned the front lawn at Wells General Store Antiques (2023 Route 1, 207-646-5553). The shop offered classic midcentury Americana, such as a Wurlitzer jukebox and Coca-Cola products and a room decorated to look like a 1950s diner.

“OK, 15 minutes, let’s do this quick,’’ said Mom as we got out of the car at Reed’s Antiques and Collectibles (1773 Route 1, Wells, 207-646-8010). But that turned out to be impossible. My favorite thing was a late 1800s Portland High School football team photo, with the players wearing their jock straps around their necks.

Wells Union (1755 Route 1, 207-646-4551) was a must-see, since it combined the idea of a group shop with the charm of an individual store. Here we found six dealers in a row, jam-packed with specialties ranging from architectural salvage to shabby chic decor.

Famished, we grabbed a late lunch at Borealis Breads (1165 Post Road, Wells, 207-641-8800), where you can watch the bakers hard at work through glass panels in the dining area. We both had the tarragon chicken and walnut salad sandwich, plus a cup of corn chowder, and bought some homemade desserts for the road.

Collectiques (1616 Route 1, Wells, 207-205-4843, -1646) beckoned us with a display of furniture on the front lawn. They had decent prices on solid wood furniture, though most items required some refinishing. I bought a side table that matched one I already had.

By 4:30 we had hit our antiques limit and the shops were about to close for the day. We decided to head toward the coast. On the way, we passed Red Barn Used Furniture & Antiques (27 Mile Road, Wells, 207-646-2137), and wouldn’t you know it, the car finally got to make that U-turn.

After a quick stop, we continued to Wells Beach. We had to laugh as we walked along the shoreline. Even now, with our treasure hunt behind us, we were still searching, scanning the sand for sea glass to add to our collections.

Nicole Cammorata can be reached at ncammorata@boston.com.