Written by Anna Jankovsky
Just a little bit up High St. in Oxford — past the smell of coffee wafting through the door of Kofenya and past the familiar ice cream counter at United Dairy Farmers — there lies two successive picture windows filled to the brim with the most random collection of merchandise ever to strike a college town.
This is Bird House Antiques, owned by Bertie Wespiser and open every day of the week until 5 p.m.
Upon entering her store, I was struck by the shear miscellany of Wespiser’s collection. From the jungle of taxidermy in the shop window to the array of collected university pennants hanging from a door in the back, the antique shop Uptown truly transports its patrons into a whole new world — one filled less with the excitement of modern style but filled more with the intrigue of actual history and the classic charm of the past.
As I stepped slowly down the narrow aisles circuiting the two adjacent stores of the business, it becomes difficult to keep from fingering the collection of thick wooden crosses or from riffling through the pages of a 1979 copy of National Geographic. The relics seem to call for me to reach out to them — to touch them and ask them their stories.
One such item, for me, was the massive figure of a taxidermy zebra. I asked Wespiser why she might be possessed to purchase such a fascinating piece for her store.
“Why I bought it? My Gosh- it’s wonderful!” she replies, expressing her excitement for one of the prized unique inventory items that she has collected at auction over the years.
Her answer truly relates the passion that she holds for her business — a passion echoed in countless antique-lovers of all ages and in all corners of the world. Wespiser’s store has been open for over forty years to cater to antique-lovers and casual shoppers alike, growing in inventory and intrigue with each passing season.
Wespiser was on vacation in Florida as I talked with her over the phone, and still the excitement came across clearly as she described different sections of her store to me as if she stood right here in Ohio to act as my tour guide. While I stood among the crowded shelves of Wespiser’s neat little bazaar, I couldn’t help but feel, myself, like a part of the antiquing community.
Where I grew up, just south of Cleveland, plenty of antique stores monopolized the corners of every historic little farm town that my mother dragged me to on the weekends as a kid, searching determinedly through the dusty racks of each one in hopes of finding just the perfect teacup or coffee table.
The college antiquing experience, I find, is different from the boring hours that I remember enduring in my youth. Bird House Antiques is filled with unique trinkets both interesting and useful to the modern college student — curious enough to entice even the most stubborn skeptic out of their dorm room and into the crowded shop.
Wespiser tells me that, most often, Miami students are attracted to her store for her vintage assortment of college pennants and her selections of unique apparel and jewelry. Her collection of new and old Miami gear, especially, seems to prove an appealing section for any spirited Miami student or alum.
She proudly lists off to me her favorite items in her collection — the early 20th century pennants, the vanishing “Redskins” logo blankets and jackets. The compilation of so much Miami paraphernalia was such an astounding accomplishment on Wespiser’s part that I found myself wondering how she came across all of these pieces.
“People bring it in,” she lists, “auctions, house calls, flea markets, I have one person that does EBay- checks EBay and brings it in.”
Dedication, in short — this is the fuel that is responsible for the great assortment of merchandise in the antique store. Dedication and pure enjoyment from all lovers of the antique experience form the foundation of Bird House Antiques.
Stacks upon stacks of classic, modern, boho and many other assorted styles of furniture abound the store as well as result of this dedication. Wespiser says that Miami upperclassmen finding themselves faced with the task of furnishing their own apartments or houses often find unique solutions in the used cabinets and vintage lamps in her store.
The store’s buy back policy —where students can sell back the furniture they bought at the beginning of the year that they don’t need anymore — allows the furniture strewn throughout the antique store to go through many lives. it also offers a reasonably economical solution for students on a budget.
Stepping into Bird House Antiques for the first time is not an event meant to fill a ten-minute gap in one’s day, but is a full afternoon’s entertainment. With the friendly, passionate staff and an absorbing assortment of merchandise, the eclectically-filled picture windows on High Street are a true Uptown treasure for Miami students to enjoy.