Treasure-hunting utopia hidden in southwestern Virginia

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Entertainment,Robin Tierney
After weeks of mall-hopping for holiday gifts, how about a retail therapy getaway for yourself? In Virginia's Roanoke Valley, far from crowds, traffic and chain stores, is a tiny treasure-hunter's paradise.

Grandin Village is an accidentally hip town populated by families there for generations and passers-by who finally found a place that felt like home. The historic 1920s-era village combines vintage and eclectic in a square mile surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains.

If you go
Roanoke Valley
Info: visitroanokeva.com, 800-635-5535
Store links: grandinvillage.org

Start with a hot brew and just-baked breadcraft at Cups Coffee & Tea, visually raucous with huge cookies, collector bobbleheads and joyous artworks. Then lose track of time among used tomes in Too Many Books and Urban Gypsy, a new boutique jammed with eco-friendly, bargain-priced jewelry, clothes, decor and furniture.

Impressive sites range from the restored 1930s Grandin Theatre to an impossibly tall contraption rolling up the street. "I made it from parts from an exercise bike my friend was throwing out," says Bob Saon, dismounting to join buddies at Pops for old-fashioned sodas in flavors you've got to see -- and taste -- to believe.

Home-remodeling utopia beckons from the village's southeast edge. Black Dog Salvage is a 44,000-square-foot wonderland of mantels, stained glass, wrought iron, doors, windows, antiques, claw-foot tubs, pinball machines, period lighting and hardware salvaged from buildings in southwestern Virginia. Door knobs? Glass and brass, plus some transformed into bottle-stoppers. Garden statuary? Just got a new shipment. Art Deco wardrobe, vintage paintings, washboards, "Dick and Jane" first editions? All here.

How did Black Dog co-owner Mike Whiteside, previously a yacht captain, get into junking? "I was a pirate in a former life; I plundered!"

The warehouse (closed Sundays) contains raw-salvage displays and what Whiteside calls "vignettes" of cleaned-up pieces and furniture cobbled from spare parts such as a settee framed in an antique cola refrigerator. "Everything has a story and if we don't know it, we'll make one up."

Chief operating dog Sally, a black Lab, drinks from an antique fountain on the porch, then curls up on a vintage sofa. Whiteside keeps winter chill outside: "We heat the place using vegetable waste oil from local restaurants. Reuse is good for the environment, and we're cheap."

Washingtonians restoring homes tell Whiteside, "I've been looking for such-and-such for years!" What if you can't travel back with your fetching finds? No worries -- Black Dog ships.

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