A World of Her Own - The Reliable Trading Post Will Transport You to Another Time
And ask about the ghost who has been named Herman...
Judith Benmosche has been collecting antiques since she was 16, growing up in Monticello, New York. She won't say how long ago that was, but in between then and now she moved to Boston to attend Boston University, she had a five-year career teaching mentally challenged students, then spent 30 years as a probation officer.
Retired from those professions, the longtime Brookline resident now makes a daily drive to West Roxbury's Reliable Trading Post, the antique shop she opened in 1999. It's a place filled to the gills with collectibles and tchotchkes, a place she refers to as her own world, one where she can dress up in bonnets and pinafores, paint her long fingernails a bright red-orange, look around at her Wedgwood and Hummels, listen to Caruso 78s on her old Victrola, catch up on her reading (Nora Roberts, Fern Michaels, and James Patterson are current favorites), or bask in the constant aroma of burning incense.
How did you happen to open this business?
I got the idea in 1982. My son Daniel, who was 12 at the time, was walking around our home with a pencil and paper. I asked what he was doing and he said, "Well, when you die, I want to know what this stuff is worth, so I can sell it." I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, but all of a sudden I thought, what a fantastic way to retire – open up an antique store so he wouldn't have to bother selling it.
Why do you call this a trading post instead of an antique shop?
I have the only authentic trading post in New England. A trading post was a place you went in the 16, 17, and 1800s, and if you needed something, you brought them something they needed, so you could get it. Money didn't necessarily need to change hands. I do sell things here, but sometimes it's an equal trade. A man came in once who wanted a copper pot I had, and he had some original Caruso records that I wanted. So we did an equal trade.
How did you happen to pick West Roxbury?
It happened as a kismet. Someone I loved very dearly died – Judge David A. Rose. He was one of the appeals court judges. I went to the funeral and then to the cemetery over on Centre Street to bury him. My watch stopped at the cemetery, and I remembered the House of Leslie [jewelry store] in West Roxbury. I went there but they were closed because it was a Sunday. On the way home I took a right hand turn on Lagrange Street, where I usually took a left, and there was a sign on this building that said for sale. It was built it 1894, and was a funeral parlor and a livery stable back then. It looked like it was falling apart, but I had a feeling. So I called up to see how much it was, told my broker friend to get it for me, and I bought it. That was in 1996. I couldn't retire at that point, but I kept it till I was ready to do some work here. I started repairing it in 1998, and opened when it was finished. The thing that impressed me the most about West Roxbury was how clean this part of Boston is. The people were nice and it's a very family-oriented town. And it felt like being back in the '50s in Monticello.
What can people find here?
Everything, but only things that existed or could have existed in the 1800s or before. Trixie, the carousel horse in the back room, has been here since I opened. She's not from the 1800s, but she could have been.
Who comes in here?
The ones I love most are the single digits or 10- year-olds. When they come in, it's like going through history for them. One kid borrowed an Indian headdress for a play he was going to be in. Another kid couldn't read, so I taught him how, then I gave him a nice gift when he came back with a good report card.
Is it true that you have a ghost?
Oh, yes. We named whoever it is Herman. Sometimes the music boxes on the other side would start playing. Once the bathroom door was locked and there's no way it could have been because you can only do that from the inside. And a couple of lamps go on on their own once in a while.
Are you happy here?
I could use more business. But my reason for doing this was that I didn't like the world out there anymore. I've got a perfect world here because it's my world, I created it. I'd have to be insane to want to do anything else.
The Reliable Trading Post is at 115 Park St., West Roxbury. Call 617-325-9599 for operating hours and information.