Concrete Sanctuary

Woman’s lawn ornaments career stems from love of collecting
Dec. 03, 2012 @ 05:53 PM

A heavy-set woman pushes her baby boy in his carriage through what seems to be an outdoor grocery store. Only instead of groceries, knick-knacks of all shapes and sizes line the aisles; an extravagant maze filled with items from iron-rusted gates to delicate mermaid figurines. The wide-eyed baby giggles as he points to a tiny, red-cheeked lawn gnome. “He loves this,” she remarks to the owner.

The scene at the Oak Hollow Market is not what you would expect while driving down Eastchester Drive in High Point – a typical Southern drag scattered with banks, home-cooking food chains and gas stations. Yet, as you pass through the 311 intersection, a parade of statues appear, lining the road to welcome those who pass by.

Nearly an acre of land is home to a plethora of trinkets from an enormous cast-iron rooster to baby blue, paint-chipped window panes. In the center of the chaos lies a tiny shop, no bigger than 40 square feet around. This shop was long ago home to a local Southern convenience store, owned by a couple that could not keep up with the rent.

Luckily for Julia Thornberry – “Yes, Thornberry as in The Wild Thornberry’s,” she points out to her customers – she was able to purchase the spot for next to nothing nearly 20 years ago. That was the moment that the Oak Hollow Market was born.

Today, she sits in the comfort of her cluttered shop, resting in the center of one of the largest selections of concrete statues in the Triad, often known as a concrete sanctuary. Thornberry smiles cheery-eyed, sporting a soft pink polo shirt, a 73-year-old woman with white wispy hair. “What are my favorite things out in the yard? The weird lookin’ ones,” she says about her selection of lawn ornaments, as a soap opera plays on a 13-inch television behind her.

When driving past this concrete sanctuary, you’ve got to wonder if Thornberry loses much to thievery in the night. “We’ve had a few steals in the past, but it’s not as bad as people might think,” says Thornberry. The last case she could remember was a statue of a hunting dog. “A man came up to barter with me and got mad cause I wouldn’t sell it real cheap. The next day it was gone.”

The aged and weathered look of the objects are oftentimes exactly what decorators are looking for, so they’re willing to spend a bit more for the authenticity of it all. Some come in and try to get it cheaper.

Jake, Thornberry’s grandson, a 17-year-old high school senior, is responsible for all of the dirty work. “It’s pretty fun, I reckon,’ ” Jake says in reference to coming around the shop and seeing all the newest items. He’s in charge of intricately zigging and zagging around the lawn with a mower as well as unloading the truck whenever they get in new shipments. “There’s so much stuff, I can’t keep track,” says Jake.

A truck pulling a 15-foot trailer pulls up in front of the shop. Two men hop out and immediately pinpoint two large flower planters to purchase. Thornberry takes care of the money as Jake grabs the dolly and helps to load up the truck. Just as quickly as the men pulled in, they pull out with nothing but a trail of dirt left in their path.

“Those are my favorite types of customers,” remarks Jake. “When they’ve got a woman with them, now that’s when they take a few hours.”

As Jake walks to the yard, he glances up at giant iron skeleton of a rooster. “She gets carried away sometimes. Me and my other cousin are always giggling at some of the stuff she ends up with,” he says.


Erica Allaby is a High Point University junior from Bethel, Connecticut. She is studying Communications with a concentration in Journalism, as well as double minoring in Spanish and Anthropology.