By Neale Gulley
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Vanessa Fineberg laughs and calls it "a great big mix of food and old stuff," officially dubbed Sweets & Antiques in the Town of Tonawanda.
There's a story behind each piece in her carefully curated collection of unique and vintage furniture — all of it for sale at her new store at 217 Highland Parkway.
"I have this flair for anything unique — anything old," Fineberg, who opened the shop two months ago, said.
Her showroom features retro innovations successfully casting a bowling ball and elk horns as a centerpiece, for example, and interspersed with carefully placed literature like the unofficial biography of Tom Selleck or "Amy Vanderbilt's Everyday Etiquette."
While some items are vintage, others are custom made — including the wrought iron table and chairs crafted by a policeman from Clarence whose real passion is furniture making.
All is functional, restored if necessary, and guaranteed to catch the eye.
Such an eclectic range — emphasizing art deco, oriental and mid-century motifs — is capable of suiting the tastes of an equally wide-ranging clientele, one that Fineberg said includes everyone from empty-nesters looking to re-decorate to first-time home buyers adding character to their rooms.
Less common than her collectables, however, may be the business model for Sweets & Antiques, where local pastries and cookies will soon be made available to guests to enjoy while seated at the very furniture that's for sale.
"You can try it out," she said. "If you like it, you can buy it."
Once the final touches are in place, customers will be munching hungarian cookies, sweets from a handful of local Italian bakeries and Polish pastries from Chrusciki's of Lancaster at the custom glass-top table on the showroom floor, or sidled up to the charming end table near the door.
All of the furniture for sale at Sweets & Antiques doubles as a place to enjoy cookies and other baked goods that Fineberg said will be available starting in two weeks.
"You can sit at an antique table, you can eat off of antique China, and you have the option to buy that stuff," she said. "People who come in for sweets will hopefully leave with a piece of furniture."
And vice versa, of course.
The concept of the place in many ways mirrors Fineberg's life growing up in the area.
The daughter of parents who ran an interior design and real estate business, Fineberg's aunt is also the longtime proprietor of the Betsy Ross Costume Shop in Clarence.
"My first toys were carpet samples and fabric swatches," she said.
"Every piece has a story and when I buy something, they tell me all these things about it. I can just picture their houses," she said, admitting the temptation can sometimes arise to keep some of the items for herself.
So what keeps the store stocked?
"Seeing other people and how happy they are when they've been searching for something and they find it — I Iove that, and restoring things to their original beauty. It's all ready to use. I refinish everything myself."
The store is on facebook by searching sweetsANDantiques, and Fineberg can be reached at 946-7709.Contact city editor Neale Gulley at 693-1000, ext. 4114