Greetings from Small-Town America: Round Top, Texas

Twice a year, this tiny central Texas town becomes the antiques and vintage treasures capital of the world.

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Posted in , Sep 30, 2021

Mark Massey, mayor of Round Top, Texas; photo by Robert Seale

From the time I tagged along with Daddy to flea markets, I’ve adored antiques. Yesterday’s treasures ground us in what’s lasting and true.

Then I heard about a fabulous antiques venue: the tiny Texas town of Round Top. Antiques dealer and show promoter Emma Lee Turney invited the best dealers to show off their American Country antiques for one week in October 1968. Some 6,000 vintage devotees flocked there.

In 1995, I went to see what all the fuss was about. The B&Bs were booked, but I found a little cottage on a ranch. The rancher’s wife insisted I check out Royers Round Top Café. Bud “The Pieman” Royer led me to a crowded table. “Hold on to your forks after dinner,” one lady said. “The best is yet to come—the pie!”

Bud’s son Jona­than and daughter-in-law, Jamie-Len, run the café now. His daughter, Tara, opened Royers Pie Haven in a tin-roof house adorned with quirky art and pie tins. “Folks show up in Round Top with a wrestling in their soul,” Tara says. “They lean in and listen to the whispers of God’s gifts on their lives.”

 

Highway 237, a two-lane country road, was packed with vendor tents. I hadn’t gone four yards when I spotted a brown-and-yellow terrier teapot. Majolica! I’d only seen the European china in magazines.

 

Two tents down, a seen-better-days farm table called to me. I felt a kinship with its battered top and carved initials. “Chips and dents are where the story is,” the vendor said.

I rubbed shoulders with shoppers who snagged folk art, salt-glazed stoneware, turquoise and silver rings. I loved it all so much, I returned five years ago.

Emma Lee Turney died this year, but she lived to see her idea become a global attraction, with thousands of antiques vendors. And to witness Round Top elect a 40-year-old mayor, Mark Massey, whose campaign slogan was Keep Round Top, Round Top. “People come here to reboot and leave with a second chance,” he says. The sign welcoming visitors says Round Top’s population is 90, but attendance during Antiques Week in April and October swells to 90,000.

“The whole world comes here twice a year,” says Jolie Sikes, who with her sister, Amie, owns the Junk Gypsy vintage store. Their eclectic array of old advertising memorabilia, cowboy boots and vintage jewelry took my breath away.

“This here’s a sanctuary of the world’s finest junk,” Amie told me with a Texas-size grin. I’d come for vintage finds. But something swelled in my spirit that couldn’t be stowed in a suitcase: the assurance that there’s nothing that can’t be repurposed for greater glory.

The magic of Round Top includes me. Ninety-one people can’t be wrong!

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