STEPHENS CITY — Marlene Mangum still has the “old-timey” cash register she and her husband opened their store with 50 years ago.
That’s just one of the many antiques that has come through the doors of Valley Furniture Country Interiors at 5958 Valley Pike since it opened in 1971.
On Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., folks are invited to celebrate the store’s 50th anniversary. The celebration will include giveaways and refreshments as well as meet-and-greets with a few artisans such as Greg and Mary Shooner and Jill Peterson.
The store has been a labor of love for Mangum, whose husband Al passed away in December.
Mangum, 82, said she never really thought about how long the store would be around.
“Fifty years is a long time. We’ve enjoyed it, though. If we didn’t, we wouldn't be here,” she said Wednesday while taking a rest on one the pieces of furniture in the store. “We love this. Our homes are decorated like this. If you love to do it, it’s not really a job. My husband used to kid me and ask, ‘Are you going to paradise today?’”
Before moving to the area, the couple worked in Washington, D.C. They later bought a building in Churchton, Maryland, and opened their first store, Town and Country.
In the early 1970s, they moved to the Stephens City area and opened Valley Furniture Stripping, where they did furniture stripping. Eventually, they switched over to selling antiques and later Seely furniture.
Brenda and Kevin Miller — Mangum’s daughter and son-in-law — took over the Seely furniture part of the business about 20 years ago, which allowed the Mangums to focus more on period furniture. The Millers own The Miller House, which is next door to Valley Furniture.
Mangum said the store continues to offer a unique experience and opportunity for customers to find one-of-a-kind items for their homes. Many customers come from surrounding states to find items made by a specific artisan or to browse for a specific style of decor.
That’s been a big reason the store has lasted five decades, she said.
“It’s a family-owned business. And it’s all American-made furniture with a unique look,” Mangum said. “There’s not many shops that have this look.”
The store is known for its customer service, including doing all of its own deliveries.
Items for the shop are acquired in a variety of ways, but it usually involves traveling. Mangum will travel with her daughter and son-in-law to various shows or auctions to find most of the items. Others are found by meeting with private individuals.
When they’re buying items, they talk with the creator, the owner or seller about the history of the item, so they can be knowledgeable about it.
Mangum said the biggest difference in how the business runs today compared to 50 years ago is technology. Having to learn how different things work and operate, like credit card readers and computers, has been a change, Mangum said, and her daughter handles most of that.
“When we first started out and were going to have an open house, I just called our customers and told them,” Mangum said with a laugh.
She still keeps her old cash register for layaway purchases.
Customers haven't changed much, Mangum said, outside of the fact that younger customers sometimes will pick one or two items rather than decorate entire rooms or homes.
Over the years, plenty of memories have been made in the shop. Mangum and her daughter both said one of their favorite memories was when President Lyndon B. Johnson’s wife, first lady “Lady Bird” Johnson, visited the store, providing a humorous and long-lasting memory of the Secret Service surrounding the business.
Other memories include meeting and becoming friends with many customers, Mangum said. Spring, fall and Christmas open houses are near the top of the memory bank, too.
Working with her family, though, might top all of that, Mangum said.
“I couldn't do it without them,” she said.
Valley Furniture Country Interiors is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. For more information, join the shop’s Facebook group Primitive and Colonial Style with Valley Furniture Country Interiors.