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Old barns become new upscale home-furnishing stores

Barn owners and their dealers are mostly women who don't want the financial burden of a retail store and are attracted to the flexible hours to balance work and family.

"I have less overhead and more of a life," says Caroline Verschoor of Ekster Antiques in Hamilton, near Leesburg. Verschoor was a brick-and-mortar shopkeeper for 10 years. But last year, after growing tired of paying high rents and suffering through the slow economy, she started selling her old and new European wares out of her family's barn.

"I was spending tons of time decorating the store, which took away from home and family and from finding stuff," she says. "Now I have three months to prepare, and my customers benefit from better things at better prices."

Brandi Wotanowski would agree. A New Jersey resident, Wotanowski travels to Virginia several times a year to attend Verschoor's barn events. She plans trips to visit friends in the Washington area based on the latest sale dates. Over the years, she's brought home a dining room hutch, a velvet settee, a Swedish clock and an assortment of accessories.

"I love the fact that you go in there and it's like a treasure hunt," she says. "There's so much to see. It's not like a local furniture store; the pieces are wonderfully unique."

Lisa Vella Iantosca, owner of the Baileywyck Shoppes in Middleburg, says she has more male customers than female. "Men are very interested in old pieces and are also very knowledgeable about them."

Cool furniture, reasonable prices and a shopping experience that husbands enjoy, too.

What are you waiting for?

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