Outer Banks Quilts & Antiques — a 3,000-square-foot shop at 108 Sir Walter Raleigh St. in the heart of Manteo’s Waterfront District — is a shopper's paradise.
The shop boasts an array of items — sold by 13 private vendors — as well as specialty quilting fabrics.
“There is a wide variety in here. Many antiques including furniture, bottles, tools, books, magazines, jewelry, art, housewares, dishes, vintage clothes, vendor made crafts, decoys, and ’80s and ’90s unopened baseball cards,” says the antique mall's owner John Bliven. “I have a selection of new and used vinyl records, along with record label and band T-shirts. I also have a large selection of new puzzles and bicycle playing cards. As for the fabric, which is all cotton, we have many nautical, batik, and animal prints. For fabric accessories, we have embroidery floss, needles, thread, scissors, batting, thimbles, etcetera.”
The building once housed the barracks at the Manteo airport and was relocated to its current site sometime after World War II, Bliven says.
“Perhaps the most memorable business for natives would have to be when it was Ras Wescott's pool hall,” Blivens says. “It was later Sir Walter Raleigh Steak House, and you can still see that wooden sign of him right outside. Dare County also rented it as office space, especially when the jail was still downtown. John and Carolyn Black then started their antique and quilting shop here in 2000.”
Bliven, who grew up on the Outer Banks, purchased the business in 2013.
“I was doing construction at the time and figured I'd give it a shot. The antique and quilt aspect was already set up, so I continued and expanded that theme,” he says. “The fabric was a staple here for years, so when I took over I figured I needed to keep that available for customers. I have some basic sewing knowledge but I mostly just order and cut it. I try to have a good variety of nautical prints because I've found that people on vacation enjoy incorporating them in their projects as a memento of their time here.”
The vendors are a close-knit group, half of who have been in the shop for more than a decade, including Sylvia Cook, one of the remaining vendors from the original shop, which opened in 2000.
Cook’s booth is called Shelby Sues — named after her beloved Samoyed herding dog she had when she opened the booth — and in it shoppers will find hand-crafted mixed-media artwork, hand-crafted pillows and other soft goods, vintage and costume jewelry, hand-poured wine bottle candles, up-cycled and re-purposed items, lamps, gently-used vintage clothing, and other vintage and antique items.
“I have made many hand-crafted items for my shop over the years, beginning with selling hand-crafted pillows and soft goods there,” says Cook, who lives in Manteo not far from the shop. “A bit later, I began to enjoy the beachy-chic look and began making coastal style decor items, such as driftwood whales, trees and fish, painting small furniture in coastal colors, and painting hand-crafted signs pertaining to the area and in the coastal-style.”
Bliven says each of the vendors in his shop has his or her own vision, and that variety is what keeps shoppers coming back time and time again.
“I feel that there truly is something for everyone in the shop — young or old, vacationer or local,” he says, adding he encourages shoppers to make a loop through the entire store — front to back — so nothing escapes their attention.
Joanne Keegan, who is visiting from Scottsdale, Arizona, says she stumbled on the shop while visiting the Manteo’s Farmers Market.
“I make it a point to visit farmer’s markets whenever I’m on vacation, and I must say that I was impressed by the miscellaneous booths that were set up along the water — even the SPCA had a place to have my little Murphy, a bichon, bathed,” Keegan says. “While she was getting all prettied up, I took a stroll, and I found this antique gold mine right around the corner, so I decided to pop in. What a great place, and an unexpected treat. I picked up some really great gifts. Manteo really does have everything: museums, art galleries, sweet little shops, a great mix of restaurants — even places where we can take our Murphy. We’re definitely coming back. Manteo is a part of the Outer Banks that is like no other. I simply love this charming little town.”
Cook says that’s the kind of thing she likes to hear.
“This store is a hidden gem in Manteo; a very unique shop that has many unusual items,” Cook says. “It’s a fun place to spend an hour or so. What ever you might like we probably have some version of it. We love it when people stop in and say ‘Hello,’ and tell us how much they enjoy our little town of Manteo.”