Greater Binghamton is an easy-to-navigate, affordable destination for just about any culinary, cultural or “just curious” encounter you can have. Consider Clinton Street, aka Antique Row, one of the latter.
It’s a treasure hunt of sorts, but also the anchor for one of Binghamton’s many classic neighborhood experiences, complete with cafes, shops and community events.
“It has a certain elegance to it, but there’s an urban funk,” says Heidi Weeks, owner of the Mabel D. Orr fashion boutique. “It’s a colorful neighborhood and I wanted that. I wanted an eclectic mix in my neighborhood as well as my product.”
Once a destination for bar-hopping, Clinton Street is alive with plenty of shops, of course, but also cafes and even a giant retro arcade. For several decades, it’s been best known for antiques.
“It started a while ago where it was door-to-door-to-door antique stores. You could start at one end and fill up your car,” Weeks says. You can certainly still do that … and a lot more.
“Everyone has their own ‘wonderful,’” she says. “If you have $5 to spend, you can find it on Clinton Street. If you have $1,000, you can find it on Clinton Street.
“It just depends on what your wonderful is. And we have it,” Weeks says.
A stroll down Antique Row is an entertaining experience in and of itself. Business names range from the tongue-in-cheek Fickle My Fancy to the less subtle Old, Odd and Unique. Weeks can rattle off a list of “wonderful” from baseball cards to religious artifacts. And, in most cases, if you can’t find it, the wonderful folks of Clinton Street will.
“It’s an experience. It’s just fun to be here,” says Laddie Vana of Old, Odd and Unique, which operates under the tagline “What Antique Shops Were Like Before eBay!”. “Almost anyone that’s been here always comes back.”
These repeat customers speak to the vibrancy of the neighborhood. In fact, Weeks has one patron who comes into Mabel D. Orr just about every day.
“I honestly think that there’s a lot of things on Antique Row that you just can’t find online,” she says. “It’s communication. People really love the experience of meeting the characters that run these businesses.”
An actress by trade, Weeks sees fashion as the current focus of her creative endeavors.
“Clothes are my art,” she says. “I can’t paint, I can’t draw, but I can put clothing together and create a picture.”
She accommodates her eclectic tastes by combining vintage threads with more contemporary wardrobe and accessories. But, don’t dare call them “used.”
“I call my clothes previously loved instead of used and I think that’s what’s happening [in Binghamton],” Week says.
She moved back to the area after 30 years in the likes of New York City, Toronto and Boston. She essentially took on the role of tourist as she made her way around town looking for places to set up the shop she founded in Cape Cod with her sister.
“I started walking Binghamton,” Weeks says. “I encourage anyone who lives here or doesn’t to walk this town because I found so many cool places – the architecture, the spaces.
“Just park the car and walk it,” she says in reference to her own neighborhood. “Then drive a little ways to downtown. Park the car and walk it.”
Within what is essentially a 10-mile radius, the bustling Triple Cities of Binghamton, Endicott and Johnson City offer everything from Broadway shows to culturally infused cuisine to art galleries and museums.
“There’s always been interesting, creative people here, but now there are younger people coming here. They want to see the downtown core grow,” she says, pointing to the established scenes on Washington Street (Gorgeous Washington) and State Street (Artists’ Row) as well as periphery developments like Little Italy in Endicott. “I think people want to see this resurrection of these beautiful, historic buildings. We have beautiful architecture.”
All you have to do is park the car, take a walk, feel the energy and find your wonderful in Binghamton, New York.