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Still in my rearview mirror 02-25-2011

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Quilter’s paradise or luscious lunch…or both?

By Rog Patterson

On our way to some-place-or-other recently, we just happened to find ourselves in Trenton. No, we hadn’t gotten side-tracked as far afield as Trenton, New Joyzee, this was Trenton, Florida. And I’ll tell you shortly how to get there on purpose.

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I’d read this town featured a historically and photographically worth seeing railroad depot built back in 1900 when things were really hopping in Trenton. So it didn’t take much effort to slow down to have a quick look.

Well, there it was, just north of the town intersection of State Road 26 a few doors north on U.S. Highway 129. And, it just happened to be near enough lunch time for my co-pilot to suggest we try the Suwannee Rose Café right next door, endorsed by a crowded parking lot. How lucky we were to become.

Greeted by our hostess, we heard the day’s specials. A quiche suited my bunkie and I asked for a Rachel. Our waitress barely blinked before asking what it was, learned onions replaced a Reuben’s saurkraut, and immediately asked if I preferred them raw or grilled. Wow! Both arrived on plates crowded with potato salad and fresh fruits…and delicious. Good enough to prompt investigating the dessert menu, so we shared a chocolate raspberry square and an absolutely incredible 6-layer chocolate torte. By that time, it was obvious this gem deserved being shared with South Marion Citizen readers. So I spoke to our hostess, who turned out to be Stephanie Metts, co-owner with hubby Paul, of not only the Suwannee Rose Cafe but lots, lots more.

For years, Stephanie and Paul drove through Trenton regularly on the way from home in Gainesville to their weekend cottage on the Suwannee River. Passing what was originally a Coca-Cola bottling plant for 50 years before closing in 1975, they “…thought it was a shame for such an old treasure to sit idle, looking rather unloved with its windows broken and boarded up”. So, in 2003, they bought the place and spent seven months turning it into the Suwannee Valley Quilt Shoppe. Today, this building offers over 5,000 bolts of fabric, assistance with student quilting projects, a library-reading room of more than 400 quilting books and also houses the Suwannee Valley Stained Glass Works offering over 15,000 pounds of stained glass bit and pieces.

The success of that undertaking began further expansion with Stephanie and Paul purchasing the 1910 Wade Building, a former grocery store just south of the railway depot and, more recently, the Crystal Ice House. These three historic buildings have been beautifully renovated and remodeled to house the original quilt shop plus antique gallery, stained glass studio, frame shop, cross stitch shop and the café for a delightful opportunity to while away many hours before or after your delicious lunch. And I certainly can’t leave out the special treats of chocolatier Linda also makes available. Their www.suwanneeshops.comwebsite provides a seemingly endless photo tour as well as much information for quilters, antiquers, stained glassers and just plain hungry people.

Suwannee Valley Shoppes are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. during Monday through Saturday, with the Suwannee Rose Café serving lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Choose from chef/baker Ragena Ransom’s quiche options, salads, hot and cold sandwiches or soups, plus a tantalizing dessert menu of baked wonders including eight different pies or nine cake choices

These shops and the Trenton railroad depot are also the location for the annual Suwannee Valley Quilt and Old Time Craft Festival every second Saturday in March. As you will see in the above website, every available railing, wall or racks of any kind are draped with hundreds of quilts in all sizes, shapes and colors. Other handmade crafts, antique cars, demonstrations of quilting, spinning and bed-turning on Saturday, March 12, plus the Antique Roadshow and Bar-B-Que the Friday evening before. More details from Stephanie at 352/463-3842 or Kyle Stone at 352/463-3467.

So…if you want to enjoy a memorable lunch with a tour of the quilting facilities plus antique, stained glass or gift shops and perhaps have a chance to peek in on chocolatier Linda dipping her exquisite confections or see Shirley tending her computerized quilting machine, here’s the most direct route. Go north on U.S. 27 past Williston and just beyond Bronson you’ll turn north on County Road 339. This takes you right into Trenton and becomes U.S. 129 after crossing State Road 26 at the light. Just keep an eye out for the depot flanked by Suwannee Valley Shoppes on your left. Of course, you could just whiz up I-75 to Archer Road exit 387 and simply head west on SR 26 to Trenton, but where’s the fun in that?

We found the Suwannee Valley Shoppes a remarkable opportunity to enjoy such a wide variety of crafts and skills so well organized and displayed in a most friendly atmosphere. Discovering the Suwannee Rose Café is a truly outstanding restaurant for lunch was a big plus. So, the March 12 quilt and craft festival seems like the right place to be for quilters and you‘ll only be 52 miles from the Corridor.