Explore one of Au Sable Forks' can't-miss destinations
What happens when you combine great shopping, a passion for art and history, a small town full of creativity, and two delightful, wonderful women? That amazing alchemy has gifted the Whiteface Region — and the town of Au Sable Forks in particular — with Arts & Antiques, a distinctive shop filled with an array of antiquities, Adirondack art, and the sound of delighted laughter. Owned and operated by friends, artists, and passionate antique collectors Susan Cassevaugh and Julie Robards, Arts & Antiques is a true gem, perfect for browsing, chatting, and learning. If you're keen on browsing through history or shopping for something distinctive, you'll find a haven here. Good luck not spending the whole day!
An array of treasures
Because Susan and Julie have extensive knowledge on everything pottery and china, jewelry, painting, toys, furniture, and more, the selection of antiques and works of art for sale in the shop is beautifully curated and the variety offers something for many, from lovers of the 18th century to all you mid-century modernists, from those who simply like to have something old and unusual to those who see something that might remind them of their past (hello, vintage toys!).
My grandmother was partial not to having one perfect set of matching dishes, but rather enjoyed finding single plates or bowls that she was simply struck by the beauty of and I know there are many out there who feel the same. The range of styles, patterns, and colors of the china and pottery at Arts & Antiques means that it's easy to find something you'd like to take home to brighten your table, match your 1930s kitchen, or cheer up your cheerios.
We all have certain toys we especially loved when we were children, whether it was a baby doll, model train, or a much-loved and much-battered board game. For most of us, those toys eventually find their way to another house, or perhaps get lost in the attic, not to be seen again for decades. If you're really lucky, you might still have one or two favorite things that you're super glad your mom saved. One of the joys of a shop like Arts & Antiques is that you can travel back in time to childhood, to see toys and games you might have had yourself, or that might simply remind you of the fun you had when you were a kid. By the time I was a kid, a lot of my toys were plastic, but I still love seeing old tin toys, which must have delighted someone long ago.
Of course, the shop isn't just china and toys. No, it's a wonderful collection of unique items that each tell a story, from old books to glassware, linens to paintings and photographs. Poke around the shop and find silver home decor, rustic Adirondack items, lamps, and beyond. You may find just what you need or something you never knew existed but have to have.
The best of the best
As wonderful the array of items, the highlight of the shop is undoubtedly Julie and Susan. Their charm, enthusiasm, and joie de vivre light up any room. They're business partners and dear friends, such that any conversation among the two of them is peppered with laughter, nudges from one to the other to tell a certain story, and finishing each other's sentences. They also love chatting with customers, whether you're new to vintage or an old hat (pun intended). Have an interest in royal history? (I do!) Julie can tell you all about how Queen Alexandra, daughter-in-law of Queen Victoria, popularized amethyst jewelry at a time when the family was largely in the black of mourning. Do you collect a certain type of china? Julie and Susan, who are both experts in different time periods, can help you learn more about the things you like, such as how to figure out how old a piece is, or whether it was made by hand or a machine.
Susan Cassevaugh is an Au Sable Forks native and well-known throughout the Adirondacks for her beautiful artwork. Susan showed a strong talent at an early age, a talent that was noticed at an early age by family friend, the renowned American artist and adventurer Rockwell Kent. Susan grew up surrounded by interesting people, including summer residents and the Kents, amid homes full of art and antiques. Kent himself collected first editions and kept an Alaskan kayak hanging from the ceiling inside his home, with Susan noting, "Rockwell's was like a museum." Guests at the house dined off china Kent had designed himself and it was he who persuaded Susan she should study art in college. That was a significant step, for it led to incredible experiences and development of her own art. A semester in Italy helped her learn about painting and the challenge of carefully preserving the art, while in New York City a restorer from the Louvre in Paris taught her conservation techniques. Susan still makes use of those techniques, as one of the aspects of her work that she does at the shop is clean and conserve art.
Susan expanded her artistic life to include antiques when she spent a month in England with her sister Connie, who owned an antique shop in Greenwich Village called "The Tudor Shop." Susan quit her job to join her sister and together they explored and Susan bought a few antiques. She has become an expert and specializes in the 16th and 17th centuries, particularly furniture and pottery. Today, her life is filled with antiques, her career as a painter, for which she is well-known throughout the Adirondacks, and her expert conservation skills. You'll find Susan's intricate and deceptively simple (they're not simple in the least, demonstrating an expert hand) watercolors throughout the Adirondacks, depicting loons, moose, birds, and other remarkable examples of the natural world.
Originally from Maine, Julie Robards is wonderfully, gleefully at home in the Adirondacks, where she has preserved history at Santa's Workshop, runs her family's legendary wine shop in Lake Placid, Terry Robards' Wines & Spirits, is an author, and an accomplished musician. Within minutes of meeting her, she'd gifted me a beautiful piece of green "vaseline" glass, hugged me, welcomed me into her antique-filled home, and told me I could stay overnight (I didn't but gosh, it was tempting). Julie's passion for antiques began at an early age in Maine, when she and her siblings found that the woods near their home were filled with great spots to dig: they'd found old bottle dumps from the 1800s. That was the start of an adventure that hasn't stopped since.
As Julie grew, her interest continued to grow, deepen, and she, like Susan, became an expert. As she collected, Julie also began selling antiques as well, and acting as a consultant on antique values. As a young mother in Pennsylvania, she was in the right place at the right time, for she befriended and learned from a nationally renowned antiques expert, and began to take classes at the Institute for the Study of Antiques & Collectibles. For decades she has been sharing her love through her writing, in columns and contributions for AntiqueWeek, Warman's Antiques and Collectibles Price Guides, and later, the Press-Republican in Plattsburgh, NY.
In her studies she came to specialize in early plastics, going on to author two authoritative guides to celluloid. Celluloid, for the uninitiated like me, is an early plastic that was (and is) very flammable, but was ideal for shaping into countless items, from dolls to eyeglasses, decorative boxes, picture frames, jewelry (particularly imitation ivory), souvenirs, and more. Celluloid is all around us — once upon a time men's stiff shirt collars were made of it — and Julie loves to share its fascinating story. It turns out I had some at home myself!
Two paths merge
In November of 2018, Susan started Arts & Antiques, which is also populated with a beautiful collection of works by contemporary Adirondack artists. For a time, Susan also offered custom framing, but it proved so successful that it left her less time for her own painting. After two years of business, Susan reached out to Julie, who had had an antique shop in Jay for a time. When the Ausable River flooded one year, it wiped out the shop. Julie and Susan joined forces and together have created a truly special place, where shoppers can browse and learn, the women can sell items they find interesting or unique, and share their passion.
My time spent with Julie and Susan was full of bubbly fun, amazing stories, friendship, and generosity of time and spirit. Susan now says of Julie's role at the shop, "I don't even think about the shop without you." Enchanted by the pair of them, I finally said, "You two are adorable." Susan's response was perfect: "We are!" Of living in Au Sable Forks, and the Adirondacks in general, Susan explained to me, "We're drawn to this place for the creativity and beauty." Those qualities are found in abundance in Susan and Julie's shop and in them, as well. If you're lucky, you'll also get the chance to meet Julie's dog and the store's mascot, Baxter McTavish II!
Be sure to visit Arts & Antiques in Au Sable Forks this summer. Have fun, take your time, and be sure to say hello to Julie and Susan. While you are in the area, don't miss the Whiteface Region's delectable restaurants and taverns, fun events, and memorable outdoor activities.