Route 85 dinosaur entrepreneur turning his energies to antiques

Roger Phillips watches the music roll come to an end last week as he prepares to place another roll in the 1880s player piano for sale in his new PAST Antiques Market, located next door to his other business, the Dinosaur Place in Montville.

Montville - Salem businessman Roger Phillips turned a passion for fossils into Dinosaur Place; now, his collection of old machines and other unusual items has morphed into a new store on Route 85 called Nature's Art Village: PAST Antiques Market.

Phillips and his wife, Linda, have collected old machines and other antiques for 40 years. Now they have a store stocked in part with items from their personal collection, with space for 40 vendor booths on the lower level.

While giving a tour of the store during its first week, Phillips couldn't stand still, running from one old machine to another to demonstrate its proper use.

"Everything was so mechanical," Phillips said. "That's what I find so fascinating."

Machines are a passion of Phillips, who has run a successful construction company for years. Phillips likes to demonstrate his player piano, using foot pedals to play music recorded by punching holes in a roll of paper.

The antiques market, though, has more than machines: It's filled with jewelry, furniture, dishes, toys, even a wedding dress. Overlooking the whole scene is a reminder of the business next door - a giant green dinosaur, the corporate logo of Sinclair Oil Corp.

Later this year, Phillips will open the PAST Antiques Museum (PAST stands for Preserving Antiques and Saving Technology) in a room adjacent to the store. It will be packed with objects from his collection that demonstrate the last 100 years of American technology. The motto of the museum is "From Steam Engine to Search Engine."

"Steam engines are his baby," said Laura Rush, marketing manager at Nature's Art Village.

The museum's floor will have to be cut up to fit in one of Phillips' favorite pieces, a 35-ton steam engine with a 14-foot flywheel. Phillips said he has a calling to "preserve as many industrial artifacts as possible for the education of our youth and the uninformed public."

Until the museum opens, PAST is mostly about shopping. Rush said PAST is the largest antiques market in the area, providing a "unique destination" for residents throughout the region.

If you go

Nature's Art Village: PAST Antiques Market
Where: 1630 Hartford-New London Turnpike, Montville
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Phone: (860) 443-4367
Facebook: TheShopsAtNaturesArtVillage


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