Pull into Greens and Things Nursery & Landscaping near North Canton and you’ll find greenhouses filled with colorful garden-ready plants and mountains of mulch, just as you’d expect.
But take time to leisurely explore the five-acre property at 4004 Applegrove St. NW (on land that spans both Jackson and Plain townships) further and you’re liable to make some unexpected discoveries.
An inviting and garden-like area with walking paths mixes greenery with statuary, carved stone pieces and iron gates and fences, much of it architectural salvage from churches, barns, public buildings and private homes.
John Proach, owner of Greens and Things, thrives on hunting down artifacts.
“Most of what you see is old and authentic,” he said. “We sometimes make things out of old stone pieces.”
Two barnstone garden posts have designs carved into them by Proach that replicate windows at two area Catholic churches, St. Peter in Canton and St. Joseph in Massillon. The latter took him about a month to complete, he said, much of it done with hammer and chisel.
Asked if these are for sale, he paused then said, “Probably not, but money talks,” then added, “I may use them as my tombstone, who knows?”
One salvaged stone piece, reading Canton Bible Institute 1953, was a cornerstone from a building demolished at 12th Street and Walnut Avenue NW. A piece of stone with intricately carved cherubs was located in Pennsylvania. An elaborate iron gate, 130 years old, was found at a garage sale in Bucyrus. A massive sandstone lintel inset with a mosaic of individually cut tiles that reads ALCHAMBRA came from above the doorway of an apartment complex in Cleveland.
“There was a gorgeous house in Chester, West Virginia, we got a lot of stuff from there,” said Proach, who launched Greens and Things 40 years ago.
His frequent companion on these search missions is Bob Strain, the retired and knowledgeable former owner of Legacy Stone in North Canton. “Me and Bob will jump in the truck and go find stuff,” Proach said.
“We’ll sometimes leave at 4 in the morning and not get back till 9 at night,” said Strain, who enjoys hanging out at Greens and Things, setting up displays and giving occasional tours.
The most-asked-about item on the Greens and Things lot is a sphere sculpture created by an artist in Holmes County from 140 pieces of stone, all hand-carved.
Asked about his customer base for the salvaged garden pieces, Proach said, “It’s people who love unique things and don’t want to shop at the big box stores. The other day a woman bought a concrete flower stand that was probably 80 years old because she really loved it. I get people from Akron and Cleveland, word-of-mouth.”
The patina these older stone pieces have is cherished here.
Also on the lot is a selection of bricks made all over the area: Zanesville, Wooster, Strasburg, Carrollton. The Nelsonville pavers have a sheen and distinctive designs featuring stars and bullseyes.
Inside a large garage building marked ‘Welcome Antiques’ is an eclectic hodgepodge of collectibles, many of them local, that would make the guys on TV’s “American Pickers” salivate.
From a county home in Lisbon, came five lavatory sinks joined together with iron legs. There’s a vintage mint-green soda fountain bullet mixer, a tin doctor’s cabinet, numerous wooden fireplaces and a hand-painted Hoover Co. sign.
There are colorful neon signs for Borden’s Milk, Sandwich Bar and One Day Cleaning. On the back wall is a large red neon sign for The Villa, in cursive script. In an adjoining garage is a weathered Fishers Foods sign from the now-closed Cherry Avenue store. From Canton boxer Tony Conde is a red satin robe and boxer shorts.
“I love the Canton and North Canton stuff. People love seeing it and remembering it,” Proach said.
One of the most striking pieces is an 8-by-12 stained glass window with an image of Jesus at its center.
“It came from a church in a little town in Indiana,” Proach said. “Someone from California bought the church and took out all the windows. I love church stuff.” Some suspended light fixtures in the mid-century modern style were salvaged surprisingly from a church.
Proach has branched out into salvage and vintage collectibles extensively over the past decade.
“The first 30 years, it was mainly landscaping and plants,” he said. “But then you want something more interesting. I don’t want to play bingo on Sunday nights.”
His advice for finding unexpected treasures? “You never take the interstate, always the back roads.”
Reach Dan at 330-580-8306 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @dkaneREP