Squashapenny Junction, in Doswell, is a former country store full of stuff “hollering out” from another time.
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Suzanne Fleet calls herself an “old crotchety woman,” but at age 52 she’s far too perky and delightfully quirky to match that description. What she might fairly be called, however, is an old soul, for the Maryland native has a deep passion for Americana—the stuff of American lives 50 or 100 years ago.
Fleet owns a former general store in Doswell, in Hanover County, that she’s turned into antique shop called Squashapenny Junction. It is chock full of American curios and folk art ranging from knockdown carnival clowns and antique bikes to matchstick lamps, papier mâché Santas and penny gum machines. Does an original Hires root beer dispenser pluck a nostalgic chord in you? How about an 1897 spool cabinet, or a Master Mason’s chart, or an original diner’s set? These are a few of the thousands of “industrious creations,” as Fleet calls them, just inside Squashapenny’s screen doors—themselves a throwback, with a sign that reads, “Serve Nolde’s Bread and Cakes.”
Fleet carries no crafts or reproductions. Instead, she looks for items that“evoke a soulful emotion in me,” she says. “It’s not the latest thing to collect, just something that I feel hollering out from another time …, that wants to be noticed and adored again.”
Some things scream more loudly than others, such as a handmade doll stitched in 1870. “When you hold it, you can feel how happy it made somebody.”
Why the name Squashapenny? “When I was a little girl I used to put pennies on the railroad track and flatten them,” she says. “I thought that was the coolest thing in the world.” The fact that Doswell still has active rail tracks not more than 200 feet from the store also influenced her choice of name.
Doswell, 25 miles north of Richmond, is the home of both the Kings Dominion amusement park and the Virginia State Fair. It was originally a crossroads known as Hanover Junction, but the name was changed in the 1890s to honor one of its first families. James Doswell, a captain during the American Revolution, owned an estate where he both bred and raced horses. His son, Thomas Doswell, was a major who fought in the Civil War. He carried on the breeding tradition and also owned a hotel near the railroad depot. The hotel building has survived and is now a private home. It sits next to the former Doswell Bank, a brick building that Fleet and her fiancée, Richard Wheeler, bought and turned into a second antique store.
Fleet’s store was first opened by D.E. Campbell in 1895. After his death, in the 1950s, a man named Roy Darnell took over the place, selling everything from shoes to hardware, until he passed away in the 1980s. The store sat vacant for 13 years until Fleet, who is nostalgic about general stores, bought it in 1995. “Everybody thought I was crazy, but I just love this building,” she says. “It’s large and about as original a general store as you’ll find. The porch, doors, windows, floors, and siding are all original. It’s got great karma—everything about it makes me feel good.”
Before opening Squashapenny, she’d operated two other antique stores in the Richmond area that had also been general stores. She’s done a lot of work to the current space. “Whatever I make from selling antiques goes to pay the bills. This is my life.” She’s not sure why she’s motivated to save old buildings, old stuff. “It’s just in me,” says Fleet. “I don’t know where the [instinct] comes from, but I can’t ignore it.”
10570 Doswell Road; 804-876-3083