A Passion for the Past

Cradled on a country farm outside Mobile, Alabama, one family’s thriving antiques and architecturals business proves that long hours and heavy lifting yield great rewards—and loyal customers.

Charles Phillips got his first taste of antiquing when he was merely 2 years old. Fathered by a marine-turned-physician history buff, Charles grew up exploring auctions and antiques shops with his family. From battlefields to scuba dives, they hunted for treasures high and low.

At age 8, Charles was buying and selling Civil War currency, and by age 12, he expanded to mail order. “I was fascinated by the stories behind these items and found great joy in the business side of it, too,” Charles recalls.

During his college years, Charles’s parents and his future wife, Sue, encouraged him to follow his passion rather than settle for the more “boring” career paths he’d considered. From that point on, Charles studied history, and he and Sue spent their free time traveling by truck to buy for their budding shop.

For 38 years, Charles Phillips Antiques & Architecturals has attracted customers to this “big small business” in Theodore, Alabama, where an ever-evolving inventory of furniture, accessories, architectural elements, collectibles, linens, and custom creations fill six brimming buildings. Located off meandering shell driveways under soaring oak trees, this isn’t your typical antiques shop experience. It’s so much more.

Thousands of shutters and doors mix with collections imported from around the world. Customers browse for hours, some all day, and they’re certain to enjoy a chat with the two or three generations of Phillips family on the property at any given time. “We can honestly say we raised our family here,” says Sue, recalling a lifetime of sweet memories made in the shop. Three of Charles and Sue’s six children work in the business today. Their son Luke uses salvaged materials and beautiful cypress and pine to fashion custom swings and daybeds. Susan specializes in sales and refinishing, while Audrey is an accomplished painter and faux finisher and store manager.

“This isn’t a business; it’s a passion,” Charles says, referring to the love that has inspired 30-plus years of six-days-a-week work. Sue smiles, echoing his sentiment, “Whether they make a purchase or not, when customers come, it’s our hope that they feel blessed by the experience.”

For more information, call 251-973-2885 or visit charlesphillipsantiques.com.