I don’t think someone just wakes up one morning and says, “I think I will open an antique shop.”
That was certainly true for my wife, Jill, and me; it was a thought process that occurred over a period of time.
While I was the rowing coach at Oregon State University, I thought that if I ever did something different it would be in a smaller town with some character — like on the Oregon coast.
When my mother retired and closed the Shady Lawn Creamery we began to think “what about Walla Walla?” Our kids could be near their grandmother, we have partial interest in a family cabin up Mill Creek, Jill graduated from Whitman College and there is an Emigh family tradition at Shady Lawn.
Prior to coaching, I taught woodworking classes to Industrial Arts majors at Washington State University, so I had developed some woodworking skills.
By the time my mother retired, our house was full of antique furniture that I had restored — so why not open an antique store? It would be the perfect marriage: an antique store in an antique building.
People often ask us how old the buildings are. I’m not sure that will ever be determined exactly. Walla Walla 2020 conducts research on historical buildings and they determined that the Shady Lawn buildings were in existence in the 1880s. During a recent fire inspection I was told that Walla Walla Fire Department records indicate that they date to the 1860s. In any case they are the oldest wood-framed commercial buildings in Walla Walla.
The Emigh family has owned the Shady Lawn Creamery buildings since 1897. This is the 116th year that a family business has operated in the same location. In 1897 my great-grandfather, Ward Emigh, made some cheese in North Yakima and then sold it in Seattle. He used that money to purchase the existing Walla Walla Creamery.
Ward operated the business as Walla Walla Creamery until his death in 1922. My grandfather, John Emigh, took over and it was renamed Shady Lawn Creamery. People often ask where the cows were located — but we never had any cows. Dairies have cows (and could do production), but creameries were production plants and purchased their milk from dairies and even farmers with just a few cows.
My 70-year-old mother, Mary, churned the last batch of Shady Lawn Creamery butter and retired in 1992. Jill and I then purchased the buildings and opened Shady Lawn Antiques in 1994. The family tradition continues.
Dave Emigh, a fifth-generation Walla Wallan, writes about antiques and life in the “Valley of the Two Wallas” on his blog, wallawallalocal.wordpress.com.