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Published on March 25th, 2021 | by Nature Humphries


You Can Find Pieces of History at The Depot Antique Mall (And some pretty cool furniture, too!)

When you walk into The Depot Antique Mall, look to your right, and you will see Brock Smith’s booth dedicated to Native American arrowheads, antique weapons, and other relics. When we visited recently, a tidy row of vintage guns lined the far wall behind his display area.

“I do a lot of Civil War era [items], and normally I don’t have this many guns,” Brock said as he gave us a tour of the impressive old firearms.

Brock Smith with some of his collection at The Depot Antique Mall.

Brock and his business partner, John McCurdy, met through a mutual interest in arrowhead collecting. Along the way they founded a website, arrowheads.com, and they now publish The Official Overstreet Indian Arrowheads Identification and Price Guide. Bonding over their mutual interests, the two formed a partnership. They eventually bought The Depot from Ben Haynie in 2014. The store first opened in 1998, making it one of the oldest antique stores in Oxford.

“I’ve always been interested in anything old,” Brock said. “Even as a kid I have always been into collectibles and antiques and history.”

Arrowhead hunting has been a lifelong hobby for Brock. You can find them “pretty much anywhere,” he told us. As a child he would go three or four times a week, wading through the creek beds and streams where the items tend to wash and settle to the bottom. Sardis Lake used to be a popular place for arrowhead hunters to scout for treasure, but the government eventually put a stop to that. Despite the popularity of arrowhead hunting, there are still a surprising number of them to be found across the United States.

“Pretty much every state, every county has at least some sites. Certain ones are a little more plentiful than others, but if you look hard enough you can find them just about anywhere,” Brock said. A diverse field of collecting, arrowhead trade shows occur two or three times per month across the Southeast.

“It’s one of the few collectibles that you can find yourself,” he said. “That adds a fun element to it.”

But The Depot is more than just old guns and arrowheads.

With over a hundred booths, shoppers can find items ranging from custom furniture to vintage Ole Miss memorabilia to charming bric-a-brac and even movie posters.

At the back of the store, The Book Nook boasts what is likely the largest inventory of used books in Oxford. A few of the classics we found were Ole Miss Yearbooks from bygone eras, cookbooks, various fiction, and several old editions of William Faulkner novels.

The store functions much like a flea market. Booths, mostly 5’ x 10’ or 10’ x 10’, rent for a monthly rate, and tenants can sell just about anything their hearts desire.

“That’s one thing that I like about doing the store in this format—it’s like a little microcosm of the free market. You get to see everybody try their own thing,” said Brock. “We just never know what we’re gonna get. Sometimes people just walk in [with a collection to sell]. It’s about like Pawn Stars in here sometimes.”

Furniture generally enjoys a faster turnover, but Brock said that primitive items, “like cast iron and old tools and implements,” also sell quickly. And if you go in the store and don’t find anything you like, just try again in a week or two and you’ll likely have a new set of inventory to shop. Or, you can just chat with Brock. He has plenty of good stories to tell.

“One of the coolest things we’ve found was an ancient dug-out canoe that was carbon dated to 1430, so it was actually pre-Columbus.”

One day a man contacted Brock and his partner through their website. He had been keeping the canoe in storage for years. His father found it in the 1960s around Natchez, Mississippi. The father was a fireman and, after a big flood, took part in a search and rescue mission on the Mississippi River. When investigating something large floating in the water, the team discovered the canoe, which had washed off the bank in the flood.

“It was pretty cool,” Brock said. “It was big, and at the time we didn’t have space to set it up here. And I was afraid people might be touching it and messing it up, so I kept it at the house where it sat on my kitchen table. It was probably 14 feet long, so it took up my whole kitchen for months. But eventually Bass Pro bought it and put it in their museum. It’s in [Bronson, Missouri] Table Rock Lake, where they [now display] it in their museum.”

Brock told us about another incredible find—an old 19th-century police badge from Brooklyn that he bought in a $3 jewelry bin at a market. The engraved badge commemorated the officer for saving lives in a deadly theater fire. Brock immediately recognized the value of the piece and sent it to Heritage Auctions in Austin, Texas.

“That thing brought in $8,000. It was a pretty significant piece. So yeah, you can run across things like [what] you see on Antiques Roadshow. It can be surprising what they’re worth and how rare they are.”

In a town where plenty of big box stores have opened in recent years, shopping locally can sometimes be a challenge. But Oxford also has a good many antique stores where you can find unique and fun items of all kinds. Next time you are searching for that perfect piece, or you just have some time to kill and want to look around, stop by The Depot. The store is located at 709 North Lamar Boulevard, in the Midtown Shopping Center next door to Sears. Or maybe you have a desire to rent a booth and sell some things. Give the store a call at 662.236.1979. Happy treasure hunting!

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About the Author

Nature Humphries is Editor-in-Chief of The Local Voice. Nature is originally from Vicksburg, Mississippi, but moved to Oxford in 2004 after spending time in the United States Navy. She has also worked in the restaurant industry for many years as a server and a bartender. Nature graduated from Ole Miss in 2007 with a degree in English and Modern Languages.

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