Shady Lawn Antiques Reopens After Winter Hiatus

Kate Grumbles, News Reporter

This year on Valentine’s Day, Dave and Jill Emigh reopened the doors of Shady Lawn Antiques after a long winter hiatus for furniture restoration.

Just five minutes from the center of Whitman’s campus, Shady Lawn Antiques is located in the old creamery building that has been in Dave Emigh’s family since 1897. The pale yellow creamery building stands out in the midst of the homes around Whitman, with the original “Shady Lawn Creamery” sign from the early days of the business covering one side of the building.

The sign is a remnant of the long history of Emigh’s in the creamery building on Valencia. Ward Emigh, Dave’s great grandfather, ran the Walla Walla Creamery from 1897 until 1922. Dave’s grandfather eventually took over and renamed the business “Shady Lawn Creamery.” Dave and Jill’s son, Nick Emigh, is the fifth generation of the family to work in the building. The creamery produced dairy products until 1992, when Dave’s mother retired.

The walls inside Shady Lawn today are covered with old signs, photos and one full wall of antique dairy bottles. Emigh has some of the bottles from the original Shady Lawn creamery but doesn’t put them out to sell anymore. The building is expansive and is made up of small rooms of different types of antiques connected by a winding hallway full of oak furniture.

Shady Lawn Antiques has been offering unique goods in the creamery building since 1994, when Dave and Jill decided to open the store. The Emigh’s work hard to present an interesting and one-of-a-kind collection of antiques, as well as having a range of oak furniture that Dave Emigh and his son Nick restore. Dave talked about how Shady Lawns fits into the larger Walla Walla antiques community.

“If we thought that you could find it in some other shop in town, then we decided that wasn’t what our emphasis was going to be,” Dave Emigh said. “I don’t ever actually feel like we’re in competition with anybody because our inventory reflects who we are and what we like. We’ve gotten a reputation as of late as the go-to place for restored oak furniture.”

Dave spoke about why he decided to convert the creamery building into the antiques store it is today. For the Emighs, one important stipulation of using the building to sell antiques was preserving as much family history as possible, including the keeping the Creamery sign on the outside of the building and maintaining as much of the original style as possible.

“I have this real attachment, and strong desire to preserve things from the past. Maybe because of my history in town,” Emigh said. “That’s one of the reasons we do the furniture … we could save something that would have maybe gone into the dump, [we can] maybe give it another 100 years of life.”

“Brandy, You’re a Fine Girl” plays as Emigh walks through each room, pointing out his hand-crafted Pocock racing shell hanging from the ceiling and the original sales counter his great-grandfather and grandfather worked behind when the creamery was functional. Near the front of the store, Emigh shows us one of the original metal milk cans from Walla Walla Creamery, the earliest form of his family’s business. He mentions that he and his wife found the milk can by chance at another antique sale.

In the 24 years that Shady Lawns has been open, the popularity of certain antiques and how people buy them has changed, and Shady Lawns has changed as well. Emigh mentioned that the increased use of sites like eBay has lessened the appeal of buying antiques in person.

“We’ve sold stuff on eBay in the past, but we felt like that it actually didn’t help the shop any. We actually quit selling on eBay and our in-shop sales went up 25 percent the next year,” Emigh said. “I think eBay killed a little bit of the mania of antique collecting.”

The Emighs plan to keep Shady Lawn antiques open into the foreseeable future. “It’s a strong piece of my heritage, so that’s something I would really like to keep going,” Emigh said.