Sweet Success Story

Blonde Sugar and Honey on First Friday opening night.

The newest store in Swarthmore sells some of the oldest stuff, also the newest, and sometimes both new and old in one piece.

Blonde Sugar and Honey is a business and a couple, and it’s hard to separate one from the other. They met a decade ago — “one date that’s gone on 10 years,” they agree. He says, “When I first met her I said she looked like a cup of blonde sugar … and then she started calling me honey… .” The nicknames stuck, and now they are emblazoned on the storefront at 104 Park Avenue as well as the vintage Ford pickup truck that you may find parked in front of it.

Blonde Sugar is Michelle Radabaugh, who grew up in Wallingford, where the couple now lives. Honey is Joe McEneaney, a Camden, N.J., native and a plumber for 30 years who started traveling as a project supervisor after the couple bought their Wallingford house. She says, “I was staying home, messing with antiques and furniture … I started finding all kinds of good stuff in the trash, furniture I couldn’t believe people were throwing away, and bringing it home, re-doing our house through that and thrifting and Goodwilling… .”

The house filled up, but Michelle’s passion for finding and refurbishing or repurposing old furniture continues to grow. Her taste skews toward vintage stuff — not fancy or fashionable but sturdy and with potential she unlocks through decorative repainting, decoupage, and improvising new uses for good old pieces — for example, the Nether Providence schoolhouse hutch now at Blonde Sugar and Honey, refinished to serve as a butler’s pantry; a sewing table that’s now a colorful vanity; and the “heavy, dark antique buffet” that, now recast in light blue paint and whitewash, is in use as a lucky Swarthmore baby’s changing table.

With a shop already at Hidden Treasures Antiques in Gradyville and a workshop in Chester, Michelle and Joe spread themselves a little thinner with this enterprise. In June, the couple took over the Park Avenue store (until this spring, the home of Finely a Knitting Party) and began work to lighten, brighten and reconfigure, with Michelle as the designer and Joe as the contractor. (“I had to dial back the beachiness,” he says.) The result, unveiled during September’s First Friday, is a lively space that accommodates the good old stuff made new, along with new housewares, furnishings, handmade and unique finds that fit the casual aesthetic.

The opening continues a busy year in which Michelle and Joe filmed an episode of Flea Market Flip, the HGTV show in which teams compete, using their flea marketing savvy to maximize profit as they buy, fix up or restore, and then sell items. In addition to a good eye and good sense, “It’s all about personalities; they want you to be over the top,” Michelle says. That’s good news for Blonde Sugar and Honey, who aren’t allowed to reveal the outcome of the episode, which should air sometime this fall. Check the store for broadcast dates.

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