I would be willing to bet that most of you have either been in or at least noticed Toad Hall Antiques. Nestled on the corner of Central and Cooper, it is hard to miss. What gives it away? A huge whimsical frog that is painted on the side of this historic building. Antiques veteran Dana Whitehead opened this unique store on a whim, and it’s still going strong due to this talented lady and her impeccable taste. We could not be more excited to introduce you to the woman behind this beloved Memphis favorite.
Toad Hall has been a favorite local staple for years. What inspired you to open an antique store?
It actually happened by chance – one of those right place, right times things. I was in hotel management for 12 years, and that is what brought me to Memphis. I became friends with the owner of Memphis Antique Market (where Dogs Rule is now located) and I was in one day and she told me she was selling the business. I had grown up around my Grandfather’s furniture store in Chapel Hill and had business management through my hotel days, so I thought why not, I can do this! It was a huge leap of faith but after all this time, I still love it! I opened Toad Hall 3 years after MAM, and inMarch of next year will be 10 years…so far so good!
The building is beautiful! How long has it actually been around?
It was built in 1909 and is 104 years old. It was one of the first Piggly Wiggly’s in Memphis. It is probably remembered most as Second Hand Rose, which was open for 15 years before I purchased it 10 years ago. It has a great history and is one of the oldest standing buildings on Central Avenue.
What are the best parts of your job?
I love it when a customer comes in and we can help them find that perfect thing for their home. We are very fortunate to have such a great customer base and a lot of them have been shopping with us for years, so we have gotten to see their kids grow through the years and families expand. I feel very blessed that they have chosen to come back through the years and know that there are many other great places they could frequent, but they choose us.
What are the biggest challenges?
Biggest challenge lately is probably finding unique items at affordable prices. I try to offer a variety every season that you won’t find all over town and that appeals to all. It is getting harder, but we usually find what we are looking for. We just have to be a little more creative.
There are quite a few antique shops in Memphis and the surrounding areas. What makes Toad Hall stand apart from the other ones.
We are known for our primitive antiques. I adore painted furniture. The chippier the better! We receive shipments from Romania a few times a year and specialize in pine furniture. That all has a unique look, and paired with eclectic accessories and gifts, sets us a part from the higher end antique stores you might find in Memphis. We have furniture starting at $25 to $2000 and we like that range because all ages can afford it.
You have a great eye for pretty pieces and unique designs. What would you say is your design style?
That is hard for me to say because it seems to always evolve. I tend to lean more towards eclectic with comfort foremost in fine design. It might look pretty, but if it is not comfortable or does not create a sense of home then it will not work for me. My mother always told me that you need to have a place for your eyes to rest. Meaning don’t have every nook and cranny filled.
Favorite Flea Markets or Markets in general for finding great pieces?
I can always find something unique at Scott’s Market in Atlanta. I have been going there for almost 15 years and never leave empty handed. Any time I see flea markets along the interstate, I am tempted to stop. The more out of the way the better.
I am really proud of Cooper-Young with it’s diversity and so many successful small businesses. I really can’t think of another area in Memphis that has residential, retail and restaurants work so well together to create such a unique part of Memphis.
Favorite meal in Memphis?
There are so many great restaurants in Memphis to choose from and I have had many great meals in Cooper-Young but recently came across Marciano’s on Brookhaven Circle and enjoyed the best seafood risotto. It was definitely one of those Ah Ha food moments!
Any favorite Memphis haunts?
I love sitting by the fire at Mollie Fontaine’s and eating their lobster mac and cheese with a cocktail. Any place in Cooper-Young – Mulan’s Sushi, Sweet Grass Shrimp and Grits and Mojitos at Alchemy.
What are your hobbies?
Good books and travel, when I have a few days off. Whether it is a weekend getaway or international, traveling is a great way to unwind as well as get inspired.
Everyone has them, so we have to ask. What are your guilty pleasures?
The Beach, vanilla vodka and shoes…But I don’t really feel guilty. Is that OK? <smile>
Favorite vacation spot(s):
Ocean Isle Beach, NC, is where my family has grown up vacationing for over 35 years. I have created my most favorite family memories there.
Would you share with us your ideal dinner party play list:
Ellie Goulding, Adele, Kings of Leon, a little beach music – Chairman of the Board, James Blunt, Diana Krall, Jack Johnson and of course James Taylor!
What is the greatest piece of advice you have been given?
Believe in yourself and never give up.
What are three things you can’t live without (excluding friends, family and God):
My iPhone, music and my morning cup of coffee
Thanks Dana! And thank you, Christen Jones, for the beautiful photographs!