A peek at North Carolina Avenue at the Scranberry Coop in Andover Borough.
By Mandy Coriston
Andover Borough — The bright yellow exterior of the Scranberry Coop Antiques Market in Andover Borough is a distinctive sight for travelers on the Rt. 206 corridor, and the building holds treasures for those seeking one-of-a-kind décor, vintage collectibles, original and custom art and handcrafted items, and everything in between. The business is going strong in its 31st year at the current location, and owners Lori English and Tzveta DaVinci are proud to bring customers a unique shopping experience. The Scranberry Coop was begun by English’s aunt and uncle, Gale and Vinny Breen, and English took over ownership when her uncle passed in 1999. “It’s always been in my family, and we still have people come in who remember my aunt and uncle,” English said, “There are customers who shop here because their parents shopped here, so everything is passed on to the next generation.” There are still touches of her aunt and uncle’s handiwork in the shop, including the custom wooden signs that mark the aisles and the doorways. “It’s all based on Monopoly,” English said, “So there’s Marvin Gardens, and Boardwalk. The counter area is Jail.” DaVinci joined English at the business several years ago, and brings a European flair to the operation. A native of Bulgaria, DaVinci is well-traveled, having lived on three continents before settling coming to her 4th, North America, and settling in New Jersey. “My journey began with the falling of the Berlin Wall,” DaVinci said, “With the Iron Curtain gone, I could travel the world.” After leaving Europe for South Africa, followed by Dubai, DaVinci won the green card lottery to emigrate to America. “I just got my citizenship this year,” DaVinci said, “It’s so exciting!” The women agree the strength of Scranberry Coop lies in its vendors and customers. With 150-200 individual sellers at any given time, there is always something for every shopper. “This is all about small business,” English said, “Each booth is its own small business in and of itself.” For DaVinci, it reminds her of the markets of Europe. “It’s about shopping local and supporting local business,” DaVinci said, “It’s a very European model, and our customers are the best.” They also love the diversity of the merchandise available. “Every single day, you can walk in here and find a one-of-a-kind item,” English said, “You can’t do that at the big chain stores.” In addition to being the proprietors, both English and DaVinci are artists themselves. English maintains her own booth within the shop, where she sells her handmade leather goods under the name McFarland Leathers. She makes bags, belts, cuff bracelets, custom gear for medieval reenactment, as well as motorcycle bags. Many of the goods are made to order. DaVinci puts her artistic talents to work doing demonstrations and giving instruction on the use of Dixie Belle Paints, a line of craft products of which the Scranberry Coop is proud to be a premier dealer. DaVinci has also built a Spiral Garden on the property, which she calls the culmination of a spiritual journey. “The gardens are open to the public to enjoy,” DaVinci said, “I hope people will walk the spiral and find clarity and confidence. I based it on ancient and modern spiritual teachings from my own journey around the world.” There’s also a large sandbox for children to enjoy, and a near-hidden secret garden, with novel treasures waiting to be found among the winding path and trees. While the counter is staffed by some of the Coop’s dealers during the week, English and DaVinci are there on the weekends, along with Customer Relations Specialist, Joey Badinov- a rescued shepherd mix with his own business card, Facebook, Instagram, and a booth in the shop. The proceeds of sales from Joey’s booth benefit local animal charities, including O.S.C.A.R., B.A.R.K.S., Father John’s Animal House, and Antler Ridge Wildlife Sanctuary, among others. “The business cards for Joey started as a joke,” English said, “but now he’s a bit of a celebrity. I’ve even had my mechanic ask to take a picture of him when I was dropping my truck off for service, because he wanted to show his daughter that he’d seen Joey that day!” With the increase of traffic on Rt. 206 over the last decade, English said, “We’ve seen a change in clientele. Antiquing used to be for older people, mostly, but now we see a really nice mix of older and younger customers in the store.” English feels that more traffic benefits not only them, but the other antique stores in Andover Borough. DaVinci thinks the rise of social media helps, too. She frequently posts live videos to Facebook, and said “I like to go on treasure hunts throughout the store. It’s fun, and people seem to want live content these days.” Despite the advent of social media and the increase in car traffic, both English and DaVinci say it remains the vendor base and local clientele that drive the spirit of the Coop. “The vendors are awesome,” English said, “They do the best job of bringing unique items for sale. And our customers really are the best. It’s like a family.” Community is important at Scranberry Coop, and once a month, they open the parking lot for a flea market. “On the first Sunday of every month, our dealers bring extra merchandise and set up outside,” English said, “and that way customers can come and speak with them face-to-face. The dealers know what the regular customers collect, and they can have real conversations about what they’re looking for.” In October, the regular flea market will be expanded to two days, Saturday 10/6 and Sunday 10/7, in conjunction with Andover’s Antique Row 2nd Annual Vintage Fall Marketplace. Also beginning in October will be a community Coat Rack. Starting Saturday, October 13, anyone who has a coat to donate may bring it to the shop, and anyone in need of a coat may come and choose one free of charge. The Scranberry Coop also accepts donations of shopping bags and newspapers. “We really like to recycle materials,” English said, “so we’ll always take things we can use for wrapping and packing.” DaVinci points out that it’s just another part of being a small business. “It all goes back to being local, shopping local, and supporting the community by reducing waste,” she said. With 31 successful years gone by, it’s clear that the business model of Scranberry Coop makes it one of the most unique stores to be found anywhere. What will the next three decades bring? “We’ll continue to get bigger and better,” English said, “with both the shop and the gardens, we really want to be a destination.” DaVinci added, “We really believe that we can be not only shopping, but an experience!” The Scranberry Coop is located at 42 Main Street (State Rt. 206) in Andover, NJ or online at www.scranberrycoop.com and on Facebook and Instagram. The shop is open Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and until 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Scranberry Coop can also be reached by phone at 973-786-6414.