WATERVILLE — At Heirloom Antiques and Vintage, customers are often greeted with more than a cheery smile from the store’s owner, Nicole Sulea, who prides herself on pairing customers with a unique vintage item that matches their personality and style.

“I found a jacket that would be great for your brother-in-law,” Sulea said Wednesday morning to one of her regular customers, Waterville librarian Sarah Sugden, as Sugden perused a display of 1950s style pillbox hats and fur caps.

Sulea’s dog, an English mastiff named Gracie, pokes her head up from behind the store’s counter at the same time to greet customers as they walk in.

It’s that kind of personal feeling and effort to get to know every customer that Sulea says has helped her store succeed for the last 3 1/2 years.

“A lot of vintage pieces are sort of obsolete, so I like to match them with someone that will wear them well,” said Sulea, 47. “I love that.”

Heirloom Antiques and Vintage, with its quirky display of vintage dresses organized according to color and towers of antique hat boxes, was named recently to a list of the Seventeen Best Attractions in Maine’s Inland Cities by the Huffington Post alongside the Colby College Museum of Art, the Maine State House and Stephen King’s home in Bangor.

The publicity came as a surprise to Sulea, who said she was approached a few weeks ago by Malerie Yolen-Cohen, who writes the blog Getaway Mavens, but didn’t expect the review to also pop up in the Huffington Post, for which Yolen-Cohen also writes.

“I’m totally shocked,” said Sulea, who lives in Anson. “I’m kind of really amazed. (The author) just posted she loved my store and that I don’t gouge the customers. I thought it was a huge compliment.”

The Waterville boutique is the only retail store on the list aside from Friar’s Bakehouse in Bangor.

Jennifer Olsen, executive director of Waterville Main Street, a downtown economic development group, said Yolen-Cohen first approached her asking for ideas about places to visit in Waterville for a blog post, and Olsen directed her to the Temple Street shop.

The original blog post on Getaway Mavens includes a longer list of places to visit in Waterville, although just three spots — Heirloom Antiques and Vintage, the Two-Cent Bridge at Head of Falls park and the Colby College Museum of Art made it into the Huffington Post article.

“The collection Nicole has is something that’s really unique and it’s really cool in Waterville, so I thought that might be a good fit,” Olsen said. “I think (Yolen-Cohen) was looking for places that were less predictable than the Maine coast, the lobsters and lighthouses kind of thing. I think that’s why she found Waterville to be a good subject.”

Originally located in the Concourse, Heirloom Antiques and Vintage moved to its 19 Temple St. location about two years ago.

Sulea’s husband, Adrian, owns the Universal Bread Bakers bakery next door, and visitors to the vintage shop can smell the aroma of freshly baked bread wafting through the shared parking lot.

“I like to come in here because you never know what you’re going to find,” said Sugden, who walked out of the store with a plaid L.L Bean bomber jacket, a fur wrap and matching fur cap on Wednesday. “I come here for special occasions, and I always find just the right outfit.”

Sulea’s love of vintage clothes is something she said dates to her childhood in Massachusetts when she would wear hand-me-down clothes from relatives and spend her time after school in thrift stores and antique shops.

She’s also worked at high-end retail and department stores such as Filene’s and Neiman Marcus while living in Boston.

Many of the pieces in the Waterville shop have been bought from local residents or estates, and they reflect Waterville’s bygone manufacturing era.

“Waterville used to be a big retail center,” Sulea said. “It was the place to come to go shopping besides Portland or Boston.”

On Wednesday, Sulea showed off some of her favorite pieces to come into the store lately, including a 1950s gray-and-yellow dress suit from Sterns’ Department Store, which previously had locations in both Waterville and Skowhegan, and a pillbox hat adorned with peacock feathers from Alvina and Delias, another Waterville department store that has closed.

Sulea said she thinks her prices — which range from $20 to $50 for most pieces — may be part of what attracted the attention from The Huffington Post article’s author, as well as other out-of-town customers, of which she says she has many. Most of the items for sale she purchases from local residents or estate sales, and she aims to re-sell them at affordable prices, often giving repeat customers discounts.

“I love being able to do this in Waterville,” she said. “I wouldn’t be able to do it in Boston. The rent is too high. I’m just glad I’m able to do it here.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.