Road to Round Top: Capital region residents head to Texas for one-of-a-kind finds
Jeanne Hendrix knows she’s made it to Round Top once she hits the traffic.
It’s bumper to bumper for several miles approaching the Round Top Antiques Show. White tents bursting with furniture and décor line the dusty cow pastures on both sides of Highway 237.
A green roadside sign welcomes visitors to this tiny Texas town. Population: 90.
As cell phone reception starts to get spotty, Hendrix beams out her car window. This is the promised land: the 20 miles surrounding Round Top are bustling with 70 venues to explore. Who knows what treasures she might find buried inside the tents?
Hendrix is one of the 100,000 people drawn to the twice-annual antiques show. The few nearby hotels and cottages book up at least a year in advance. The crowds are so thick, some travelers wear matching T-shirts to keep track of each other. And the inventory runs so deep, vendors stockpile it on semi-sized moving trucks. Shipping containers from Europe are loaded with high-end linens, vintage clothes and ornate décor. Vendors buy in such high volume, you’re just as likely to find a gem for $3 as you are to find one for $300 or $3,000.
That’s why Hendrix doesn’t mind making the six-hour trek from her home in New Roads to this destination about midway between Houston and Austin. And she seems to be one of a growing number of Baton Rouge-area residents making the drive. Sometimes, she’ll park at the event and immediately recognize a friend’s car.
“If you walk through any given day without seeing someone from New Roads, you must have walked through with your eyes shut,” Hendrix says.
Hendrix’s theory is that New Roads restaurant and antiques shop owners Georgia and Buddy Morel, who often brought back goodies from Round Top, turned locals onto the show. But anyone with an appreciation for design would enjoy the event, she says.
The crowd includes a mix of men and women of all ages shopping for their homes, as well as professional designers shopping for clients. Hendrix once entered a booth that had just had its entire inventory purchased by Chip and Joanna Gaines.
In the high-end venues of the event’s Marburger Farm Antique Show, shoppers dressed to the nines make a beeline for tables of vintage Chanel or Parisian jewelry. Around the Warrenton area, the “junk fields” are a digger’s delight. Hendrix found antique brass and milk glass light fixtures here for $5. In between it all, modern furniture lines set up shop. There’s truly something to appeal to every style and demographic.
A Round Top regular for the past decade, Hendrix has become a pro at loading her U-Haul rental with special finds like a French sideboard with a marble top, an Eastlake bed, a Welsh sideboard and a bathroom vanity. She always brings a budget and a wishlist, so she doesn’t overspend or get overwhelmed when shopping for early 20th-century antiques to match her 120-year-old home.
Her strategy is hitting the fields early, as soon as the venues open.
“The saddest feeling on the face of earth is finding a piece you love—and then flipping over the price tag and it says ‘sold,’” she says.
Karen Colvin has the opposite strategy. She and her friend Cindy Ciaccio have traveled from Baton Rouge a handful of times—and they always make it a point to go toward the end of the event.
“Vendors don’t want to lug back all this stuff back home, and they’ll really bargain with you,” she says.
Colvin and Ciaccio, who are in their 60s, meet up with Colvin’s 30-something niece, who lives nearby in Katy. They make a fun, long weekend of it. They browse casually throughout the day, fitting what they can into the backs of their SUVs.
At night, they clean up at a friend’s cottage and head to dinner in one of the region’s hilly towns. They’ve even attended Junk Gypsy Junk-o-Rama Prom, a retro-Western dance party at Zapp Hall. Another year, they got autographs and photos with Duck Dynasty cast members.
Colvin’s favorite find was an alligator leather suitcase in excellent condition and a cane end table. Ciaccio collects breadboards in all shapes and sizes.
“At the end of day, our trunks are full, and we’ve forgotten half of what we bought,” she says. “We love to look through and compare our finds.”
For Jody and Angela Hammett, the trip is equal parts work and play. Jody runs Après, an interior design and project management business. He often has his eye out for pieces he thinks his clients might like.
The couple will cram more things into the crevices of their Suburban than you might think possible, and Angela says they always manage to get at least one prize for themselves. They’ve scored everything from vintage mink coats to rare Graham Harmon paintings, which they say they paid a few hundred for and are now worth thousands. They once found a German antique brass and bamboo coffee table and were sure the price tag was mistaken. Shouldn’t it have a few more zeros? But they took it home for $60.
They’re drawn to an eclectic mix of funky ’70s-style pieces. They’re on enough of the same wavelength that they can look at each other, shout “that!” and both are referring to the same piece.
“By time we fill the Suburban, our money is gone,” Angela says with a laugh.
The Hammetts say Round Top is exciting and tiring, quirky and refined, freezing and sweltering, muddy and polished—all in the same trip.
One minute you’re dirty, sweaty and exhausted from shopping, and the next you’re sitting in a field eating a gourmet dinner at a pop-up restaurant by a Houston chef.
“We drink the whole time because it’s the only way to make it through,” Angela jokes. Although sipping Champagne in a vendor’s tent—or packing your own portable bar and ice chest—is not uncommon.
Everyone who attends agrees it’s an unforgettable experience, the kind you should be taking so many pictures of to capture every moment along the way.
But some of the best memories are carried home in the trunk.
“It’s why I love antiques,” Hendrix says. “You just think about who’s touched it, who put their things in it, who’s used it, in all of its hundreds of years.”
And when the antiques fair returns to Texas this month, those antiques will travel once again to new homes and become part of new lives—maybe for hundreds years more.
Round Top Antiques Show
October 15 to November 1
After the spring show was canceled, the fall show returns with new dates and COVID-19 restrictions and safety precautions in place. Find information and venue location info at exploreroundtop.com/antiques.
Round Top Tips
Travel in a large vehicle or rent a U-Haul. You will fall in love with something and won’t want to have to leave it behind.
Book accommodations ahead of time. Hotels and rental homes are limited and are reserved months, if not years, in advance. It’s difficult to find accommodations day-of.
Arrive with a budget. Prioritize your shopping list so you don’t run out of money before finding your must-have.
Pack clothes for all kinds of weather. Round Top weather might be 100 degrees one day and freezing and sleeting the next. Wear comfortable, closed-toe shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty. Wear a backpack instead of a purse to keep your hands free.
Bring cash. It is the preferred payment method for many vendors. Although most do accept cards, they might make a better bargain with cash.