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  • Tara Crutchfield

From the UK, With Love

Edward and Ednamay Wales bought a 120-acre property in Lake Alfred during the 1950s. They moved their family from Winter Haven to live among the massive pines and sprawling pastures of the country. 


Around 1960, Ednamay, described by her great-granddaughter, Ansley Wales, as “a force of nature,” decided the local children needed something fun to do during the summertime. Edward, a citrus broker by day, built a lodge and locker rooms to start a day camp called the Lazy W Ranch. 


At its height, the camp hosted 450 elementary-aged kids each summer, busing them in from all over the county for activities like horseback riding, swimming, arts and crafts, archery, fishing, and riflery. 


One camper turned counselor was Winter Haven Mayor Brad Dantzler. He attended the Lazy W as a camper in the mid-70s and returned after high school for a summer job. Asked about fond and funny memories, Dantzler remembered, “Me and another girl were the horseback leaders, we would teach horseback riding.” They would put eight kids on horses in each ring to ride. “On Fridays, we had trail rides. Susanne Lindsey would be in the front, and I’d be in the back, and we’d have 16 children on horses between us.” They would ride all over the swamp and through the woods. “One particular bog we went down had a stream through it. We had this one horse, his name was Shortstop, and every time we went in that bog, he would roll over and try to roll in the water.” He laughed, “We had a running thing all week about what kid we were going to put on Shortstop.” 


“I will tell you, the counselors enjoyed nap time more than the kids did because we all wanted to take a nap, and the kids never did,” he recalled. 



At the end of each day, they had a fishing session at the pond, and Dantzler was the fishing guide. “I think they must have stocked it because everybody always caught a fish. All the kids wanted to keep their fish and take them home. We would catch these little fish […] and wrap them up in newspapers, and they would take them home to their parents. I just know they got home and had these little smelly fish wrapped up in newspaper they didn’t know what to do with.” 


You likely know someone who went to camp at the Lazy W. They’ll tell you all about crafts, camp songs, and competitions along with Backwards Day, Dessert Feast, and Watermelon Day. “Kids would eat watermelon as fast as they could and see how many pieces they could eat. It became a big competition to eat 42 pieces of watermelon in five minutes,” said Drew Wales, grandson of Ed and Ednamay. 

A high honor at the Lazy W was earning your sheepskin branded with the camp insignia and camper’s name. “If you came all seven years, you earned your sheepskin,” said Drew. 


After about a decade of running the camp (which ran for 35 years), Ednamay passed it down to her son and daughter-in-law, Tom and Jan Wales. “It was like the end of an era when that thing closed,” said Mayor Dantzler of the Lazy W. “It was such a moment in time that they could never recapture again.” 

Then Ednamay set her sights on the subsequent ranch venture – an antiques shop.


THE BARN ANTIQUES 


 “I can remember when my grandfather built the antique shop. I have memories of the beams going up,” said Drew. Just as he’d done with the camp, Edward built The Barn with his bare hands for Ednamay. “It was basically one room of antiques in the middle of orange groves and cow pastures with nothing else around.” The Barn Antiques opened for business in 1969. 


“She always wanted to do antiques – that was her passion after she retired,” said Ansley Wales, who runs The Barn with her parents, Dick and Susan Wales. Ansley is a procurer of all things beautiful and a generational antique dealer. She’s been in the family biz since she was two. 



“She was as driven as could be,” said Ansley. She took a moment to think of how best to describe Ednamay. “She had high expectations for herself and other people and was generous and fair with everything she did. […] She set the precedent for our business to be ‘what you see is what you get.’”

Church, family, and running her business the right way were all of the utmost importance to Ednamay. Well, that, and fishing from her dock in the pond every day after work. When she was 88, she broke her arm, reeling in a big catch. 


“That does direct how we do things. I want it to remain the way she would have run it because we all respect how well she did things,” Ansley said of her great-grandmother.  


Ansley remembers traveling to England with her father and Ednamay each summer to collect antiques to ship back to Lake Alfred. “She would give my brother and me a pound each, and she’d say, ‘Go look for something you can buy, and when you bring it back, we’ll talk about what it is and if I think you could sell it.’” 


After attending school in South Carolina, Ansley returned to work in the antiques shop with her family. “I go to England about every six weeks and buy from people whose grandparents my grandmother bought from,” she said. 



Pieces in the store hail from England and some continental European antiques, including French, Dutch, Belgian, and Italian. Most items at The Barn date back to the early 1800s through the 1940s.


Ansley has a knack for curation. She gets it from her great-grandmother. When considering a piece for procurement, Ansley thinks of her taste and that of her customers. “I’ve been working here for 10-15 years now, so you see what people like and what they gravitate towards,” she said. Ansley has recently branched into Mid-Century Modern furniture, a new style to the shop. 


When the hand-picked pieces arrive from across the pond, they’re inspected, cleaned, polished, and restored as needed to ensure the quality of their original condition. “We aren’t going to sell anything that isn’t ready for your home,” Ansley said. “We try not to do too much stripping and full refinishing, but if we need to, to make it usable, we will.” 


Walking through the four showrooms spanning 7,500 square feet is a curated labyrinth of handsome pieces from centuries past. Beyond writing desks and couches, wardrobes, and chests is a navy door. Through this door is a sun-drenched room sparkling with rows of hundreds of stained glass windows, also hand-picked by Ansley. Outside this stained glass sanctuary, dogs Henry and Ruth keep The Barn’s craftsmen company as they sand, polish, and tighten. 


The Barn closes every year for the summer and reopens at the beginning of October. October 7 marked the opening of their 54th season. “Our opening day is always really big,” Ansley said. Folks travel from across the country to visit The Barn both for its vast and stunning selection and its prices. “Our prices are such that we have dealers who are able to buy from us, and they pay the same price as everyone else.” Because of Ansley’s regular travels to the English countryside, “Each week you come in, you’ll see a lot of different pieces and different styles.”


Over the pandemic, Ansley worked to introduce an online shop for those uncomfortable shopping in person. “It’s been the best form of growing while staying true to the initial concept,” she said. 

“Our customers are amazing, so it’s fun,” said Ansley. Some even say, “I was there the first day Ednamay opened.” “I think to the people who come here, it’s important too,” she said. “It’s a neat feeling that there’s a lot of years behind this and that the family has kept it the same.” 

 

The Barn Antiques 
167 Co Rd 557A, Lake Alfred
(863) 956-1362
FB: The Barn Antiques
IG @thebarnantiques

THE STABLE, SEASONS, & THE BACK YARD GARDEN SHOP


Over the decades, The Barn became much more than an antiques haven. It’s grown to include several boutique gift shops and an on-site restaurant. When Ednamay opened The Barn, Tom and Jan started making Christmas ornaments and handcrafts to sell there. “That grew into all the gift shops,” Drew said. That includes The Stable Home Décor, the Seasons Gift Shop, and the Back Yard Garden Shop. 


Drew’s brother, Justin Wales, and husband, Matthew Rudman, run The Stable and Seasons. Drew and his wife, Adrianna, orchestrate the Back Yard Garden Shop and the Back Porch Restaurant. 


The Garden Shop, draped in flowers at every turn, offers yard flags, statement pieces for the yard, concrete urns and benches, as well as seasonal plants like mums in the fall and poinsettias during the holidays. 


Justin Wales described The Stable as a seasonal decoration shop with home accents and a home accents store with seasonal decorations. Table linens and floral arrangements are big sellers. “We have an in-house floral design staff that makes grape vine wreaths, table arrangements, all from scratch,” Justin said. 


Aside from being surrounded by beautiful things all day, Justin’s favorite aspect of the whole operation is the people. “We enjoy coming to work every day,” he said. “To count those people as friends, as well as hard-working wonderful decorators, is great. Then you throw that in with the customers that have been coming by for sometimes 40 years, makes the day go by so much better.” Retail may be challenging work, but Justin says the folks on both sides of the counter make it enjoyable. 


Many of the family, including Tom and Jan, Drew and Adrianna, Ansley, and her parents, still live on the ranch. “Mom and Dad are still involved. Dad is more involved in cheering for the Florida Gators, but Mom is still coming in whenever she can and decorating. That is her passion,” said Drew. 


Aside from the Wales family, the establishment is staffed with folks who are happy to be there, some of whom have worked there for 25-30 years. “We’ve got a lot of creative, talented people that work for us, and we consider them part of our family,” Drew said. 

 

Photographs by Amy Sexson


The Stable Home Decor
101 Co Rd 557A, Lake Alfred
(863) 956-1363
FB: The Stable Home Decor
IG @thestablehomedecor



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