When I think of things I did NOT enjoy as a child, the list is surprisingly short: Math, bedtime, the tuna fish and crumbled soda crackers dinner my dad made when ma was at work (“because it’s simple, it’s what we ate while oversees in The War.”) and antiques. Not the antiques themselves, but the act of shopping for them. Few childhood memories still evoke that very specific type of hopeless dread I feel when someone mentions, “going antiquing.”
In Napa, California, the Red Hen was the mecca of antiquing. It was a long, barn like store comprised of many different booths, like an indoor flea market. My ma used to execute this horrible trick in which she’d con me into going with her by saying we were going upvalley for ice cream, and then, “oh, well look at that, we’re going to drive right by the Red Hen, I’m just going to pop in for a minute. I’ll be fast, I promise, 10 minutes max.” LIES! I don’t think we were ever in there for less than an hour.
My memories of the Red Hen are vivid and unpleasant. Healthy, childlike curiosity was not an encouraged trait inside the store, and my ma made me walk around with my hands in my back pockets. Should a hand stray out of pocket, even if I thought my ma was in another part of the store, she’d appear out of nowhere and hiss, “HANDS!” Having already consumed, and long forgotten, my ruse of an ice cream cone, the only foreseeable treat at the Red Hen was a disgusting piece of sugar-free candy located next to the cash register, under the watchful eye of a lady with large glasses and magnificent, flaming orange hair. She guarded the candy dish as though they were antiques, and they pretty much were, having expired years ago.
There were a few things I liked looking at, although not enough to override the trauma of an afternoon at the Red Hen. One booth sold milky, mint green Depression glass, called “Jadeite,” that reminded me of the edible tea sets in Willy Wonka. During one trip, my ma actually bought me a cup and oh what a glorious day that was! I spent the afternoon throwing a tea party with my stuffed animals, and, despite a stern warning not to, gnawing on my inedible glass cup. Kids are fucking weird.
A quaint farm house behind the antique store was used as the offices of “Balloons Above the Valley,” a company which specialized in a tourist activity that involved a giant balloon with a little basket dangling from the bottom, in which four living people were crammed as they ascended into the sky via an air filled fabric bubble kept aloft by fire. It was, and still is, a popular activity.
On the north end of the property was the Red Hen Cantina, a restaurant notorious for having horrible, diarrhea enduing Mexican food. The Cantina still operates today at a different location, and while I can’t personally attest for the food, Yelp reviewers don’t seem too fond of it- “Reminds me of the time I went to the Philippines and got the tapeworm.” “Garbage. I wish I had 4 hands so I could give this place 4 thumbs down.” If someone hates a place so much that they wish for extra appendages to utilize in such a frivolous manner, I’m going to take their word for it.
The Cantina was briefly turned into the restaurant Zare, which I can’t tell you anything about since I already shot my Yelp wad and I’m done. Zare didn’t last long, and I’m erroneously blaming its demise on the decorating scheme, which is based on the color PURPLE, LOTS OF PURPLE, and PURPLE IS A HORRIBLE COLOR. I can’t fathom why the color gets its own store at the mall, although I can’t wrap my head around antiquing either, so, whatever, you do you, boo, just don’t eat at the Cantina unless you want the wicked shits.
The Red Hen was sold in 2011 to winery owner Ken Laird, who hasn’t done anything with property except let it sit and….dare I say it…be “reclaimed by nature.” BARF! I said it! Fuck my face off I hate that phrase. I don’t know if there are any current development or sales plans, but undoubtedly it will eventually be turned into another winery, upscale restaurant or some other type of place that evokes The Fear in children.
I’m done complaining for the day, so let’s get through the rest of these photos:
I didn’t notice that hand print until I was editing the photos for this site. That is all.
One of the other farm houses on the property behind the Red Hen. It was used as an office, but I’m not sure if it was part of the balloon company or something else.
Painted windows in a booth inside the main antiques building.
Some artsy shots of colors n’ plants n’ stuff.
Check out these plant boners, I couldn’t get enough of em!
The farmhouse had some kid drawings taped to the walls, I’m particularly fond of the stick figure style on the right in the top drawing.
For the record, I know it seems like I should love antiques because of all the treasure hunting I do during my explorations, but it’s more about the hunting/finding than the idem, and I’ve tried to go antiquating in my adult life and I max out in 10 minutes and have to go get ice cream because some things never change.
Disclaimer: If any information on this post is incorrect, if you have more info or would otherwise like to tell me something, feel free to contact me.