Monique Shay is the matriarch of the family-run business, Monique Shay Antiques and Designs, located in Woodbury and established in 1980. We went along to visit with Monique at her beautiful barn store and to learn a little bit about French-Canadian antiques – her nationally recognized expertise.
Monique was born in the Normandy region of France and has such a lovely French accent. Swing by and say hello next time you’re in the area (and say hi to her adorable dog Gigi too)!
Monique was also kind enough to give us a peek inside her home (on the same property) which has been showcased in many designer magazines.
How did you come to start Monique Shay Antiques?
I was doing a trip in Quebec in 1964 with my children for vacation and then I talked to a farmer, I went inside his barn and I happened to see an armoire and things like that, and didn’t pay much attention. Then I went to an antique shop and saw pieces that looked just like it. I went back to the farmer, and so it started.
I loved the French-Canadian furniture. It was done by the people – the farmer himself, or the cabinet-maker of the village. They would build these pieces for a special place in their home. I also bought from convents.
We love your accent, when did you leave France?
When I was very young, it was 1953 and I had all my children here in the US. I go back every year to France, sometimes twice. I have a lot of family over there. I went to school in Versailles.
And why did you move over here?
Have you been at this location for a long time?
I’ve been here 36 years.
Tell us a little bit about the pottery you have here.
Many of them are French, 19th century – Normandy, Provence, and so on.
Tell us more about French-Canadian furniture and becoming an antique dealer.
Nothing is made like this anymore. When I started, the people didn’t want them, they were getting rid of these things, to have something new. I loved it for myself. I started small. I actually started in Stamford, slowly. I was teaching French at a school in New Canaan, and selling furniture just for fun.
I was a teacher for about 10 years when my children were growing up. Furniture was a hobby at first. I loved it. And then when my children left for college I said I was going to do something that I love, and I chose to come here to Woodbury and open Monique Shay. It was going to be in Litchfield, then I saw this place. I saw the barn was falling apart and I restored it.
Can you still find pieces like this in Canada?
It’s very rare to find it anymore, and people ask a lot of money.
When can customers find you here?
Only on the weekends. My daughter is here the rest of the week. She really takes care of everything.
There’s a lot of restaurants around here, do you have a favorite?
Well, of course, Good News Café, and John’s Café is very good.
Why do you think there are so many antique shops in Woodbury?
Well, years ago, the Mill House Antiques started the whole thing. And many people came for them. They were English, they had a lot English furniture, and French, and a very beautiful place, 5 miles away from here. A very lovely store.
What a pleasure it was to meet Monique and hear a little bit of history behind many of the pieces she has in the showroom. Like Monique said, they don’t make furniture like this anymore. Scoop it up while you can folks.
920 Main Street South, Woodbury, CT 06798