CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- During her frequent travels, Charleston psychiatrist Gina Puzzouli is drawn to quirky little neighborhoods. She lingers and often purchases unusual, secondhand items and frequents hip restaurants or coffeehouses.
Downtown Charleston could be like that, Puzzouli thought, so four years ago she opened Stray Dog Antiques on Hale Street. She provided most of the initial inventory from her extensive collection of art and well-worn items that crowded her home, a contemporary loft in the building next door.
She filled the spacious first floor with items that caught her eye at estate sales and secondhand and antique shops near and far. Two years ago, she gutted and renovated the building's second floor. The space turned out so beautifully that she used it as an art gallery before Puzzouli filled it with her growing collection of saleable paintings, small bits of furniture and household items.
"I'm really out of my realm of knowledge here. I'm a psychiatrist. I buy what I like," she said. "My grandparents had a store. Perhaps they gave me the courage to do this."
The enticing and substantial inventory fills every tabletop, display case and counter and covers every wall. Customers with large handbags keep them pressed tightly to their sides to avoid accidentally knocking something over.
Puzzouli summed up her eclectic shop with a conversation she once had with a customer who said, "I kind of feel like I walked into somebody's imagination."
Her sense of style leads her to some savvy purchases. She pointed to a table that held a collection of oversized glass domes that are all the rage since Renovation Hardware featured them in a catalogue. Their retail prices were between $300 to $600.
"These are hand blown. They're 100 years old," she said. They're priced at $100.
When popular stores feature reproductions of older furniture and accessories, customers can sometimes find the real thing at Stray Dog. A couple came in looking for a drop leaf table similar to one featured in Pottery Barn for about $1,000. Puzzouli had three, including a solid mahogany one for $250 of incomparably better quality than the new version.
"I like the aesthetics of Pottery Barn, but they wouldn't be able to sell that in a yard sale in five years," Puzzouli said of the construction quality of modern versus older furniture.
Recently, she noticed that pieces of vintage costume jewelry and accessories were selling well, so she set up clothes racks and hung an array of dresses, jackets and coats that were "smart" when they were popular years ago. They're smart again.
Customers, mostly young girls, snatch them up.