If ever a business positively reflected the town it’s in, it is the Tomato Factory Antique & Design Center.
Much like Hopewell — a charming old town that lends itself to modern tastes — the half-century old establishment at 2 Somerset St. mixes classic tradition with modern hipness, and an eclectic variety of items to choose from.
“This place has history, this town has got a reputation with its restaurants and the people here are appreciative of the good quality we supply and offer here,” said Donna Rago, who runs the European & Antiques Center with her husband, Tom. “The variety is amazing. What every dealer brings here is fantastic.”
When it was suggested that it seemed there are tens of thousands of different items on sale, owner Mary Ann Browning said, “At least.” From paintings to furniture, books to magazines, jewelry to knick-knacks, The Tomato Factory is a virtual nirvana for those wishing to spend hours browsing. The downstairs features traditional antiques, while the upstairs, which is operated by the Umbrella Company, deals with more modern items.
The driving force behind it all is Browning, who is 85 going on 35. As charming and elegant a woman as there is, she answers her cell phone “Browning!” like some grizzled foreman on the back of a loading dock.
But her sophistication belies that greeting, and her ability to adapt to the times is uncanny.