New Downtown Antique Store Aims for Practicality
The trend of Augusta’s downtown antique stores closing over the last few years hasn’t stopped John McBrayer from opening a new one called Beulah’s.
“I was born into a 200-year-old house full of old stuff,” McBrayer said. “It’s all I’ve ever known.”
For years McBrayer, a longtime historic preservationist and founder of Beulah’s, operated a small-scale operation at a booth at Marketplace Antiques, a co-op of antique dealers a few blocks west on Broad Street. By combining a surprisingly good deal on the 316 8th Street building and a Georgia Power grant dispersed by the Downtown Development Authority, McBrayer made the most of the opportunity.
Now, with much work to a nearly century-old building that has in the past been a financial institution, a beauty shop and a bookstore among other things, McBrayer is continuing his work of historic preservation in a building that took him, his partner Rich and a few friends roughly 8 months to restore.
McBrayer outfitted the rundown shell of 316 8th St with a new acid-washed concrete floor, electrical system, façade and paint job, and of course, antiques—a work of preservation and revitalization both inside and out. The result is Beulah’s, named after his old basset hound, his companion for 14 years.
McBrayer’s primary goal is to make his antiques affordable. He has no issue with selling an item for $70 when he knows the buyer may very well flip it for $300. Furthermore, he wants practicality to be a common thread among the pieces that he sells. An old spice cabinet with dozens of recipes on the inside represents McBrayer’s niche well. It’s priced at a modest $25.
“I know some things are worth more than what I’m asking for them, but I don’t care,” McBrayer said.
Buelah’s opened at the end of October and is open from 11 am to 7 pm Thursday through Saturday and 2pm to 6pm on Sundays. McBrayer also plans on live shows on weekend nights being the norm. On Buelah’s opening night, local band Stink Bamboo played from the balcony that overlooks the renovated space filled with items McBrayer has collected over the years. A series of paintings on the northern wall gives viewers a taste of the landscapes outside Athens, Georgia, McBrayer’s home for 15 years. A surveyor’s theodolite stands in the window, facing the increasingly busy 8th Street.
“They’ve been trying to bring downtown Augusta back since the early 80’s,” McBrayer said. “It would come up to a point and fall back, come up to a point and fall back. But it seems like, finally, the impetus is really there.”