Picky Judy's Picks: Red Right Return
Red Right Return is crammed wall to wall and floor to ceiling with treasures both old and new. When I first walked in, I felt overwhelmed. I didn’t know where to look first. Then I spotted the lobster weather vane standing on a shelf near the ceiling and it captured my attention. Owner Judy Clark told me that the weather vane was not meant to be on someone’s rooftop, but was more a decorative piece. Thereafter, I slowed down and focused on the treasures there, one-by-one.
There have been other used stores on Block Island, most notably the once-popular Island Exchange, which showcased furniture and bric-a-brac in an uncluttered department store manner. But Red Right Return is more like the antique stores I recall from the '60s, before it became fashionable to own old things and prices skyrocketed.
Those antique shops carried everything from junk almost anyone would throw away to valuables, and often were located in old New England farmhouses, room after room and floor after floor of dusty bric-a-brac to search through and bargain over. Red Right Return is but one room, but that room is crammed with interesting merchandise.
Among the many kitchen items, there are usually lobster-related ones — Clark makes up tea towels with red lobsters printed on them — and right now she has lobster-shaped saltshakers and plates, including a slightly chipped green Carleton plate.
Her collection of Jacqueline Kennedy-era women’s hats sent me searching for my mother’s petite pillbox, one of the few items of her clothing I saved. Please don’t go into the store to try them on if your hair is wet, Clark requests. Don’t be like the young girls who flocked in with wet tresses this summer.
Clark buys old typewriters. She has a big old Underwood in the back, one that claims on its case to be “portable.” In its day, there was a different standard for “portable.” I remember trying to type on those machines with their stiff keys in the high school typing class I took so I could do my own papers in college. My teacher’s voice but not her name comes back to me, as almost every day she chided me to “uncross” my legs and stop chewing gum.
I checked out the makers of the two old radios in the shop, one a standing floor shortwave model similar to the ones my dad used to have. Among the myriad other items for sale are silverware, lamps, old hand tools, costume jewelry, pocketbooks, a kimono, steamer trunks — even an old washboard if you are thinking of joining a jug band.
What may initially look like a haphazard collection are actually categories of goods that Clark is interested in. She travels to mainland junk shops, searches eBay and buys locally as well. Her latest acquisition is a chrome, turquoise and white 1971 exercise bicycle with a tractor-sized seat and self-moving handlebars. It came over on the boat on Labor Day.
Clark will take goods on consignment if that’s your preference, and when items are given to the shop, she donates half the proceeds to the Early Leaning Center.
Red Right Return is located next to Watercolors on Ocean Avenue in town. It will remain open, post-Labor Day, Thursdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.