Economic recovery coming to a cow pasture in Texas – don’t miss it

The March 31-April 4 Marburger Farm Antique Show invites America to jump-start the economy, starting in tiny Round Top, Texas. Hey, it has to start somewhere. Where better than springtime in Texas?

From coast to coast, almost 400 antiques dealers in the sold-out mega-show have spent the winter pondering, “How can I succeed in a business that I love, in spite of the economic mess de jour?” Armed with the knowledge that the Texas economy is the strongest in the nation, they will soon converge on Marburger Farm, each with a particular plan for plunder.

Tony Sirianni of West Palm Beach describes his plan: “First, I’m staying positive. People need beautiful things to stay sane – they’ll come. Second, I’m bringing only the most unique and one-of-a kind pieces from every stylistic era and taste. Third, I’m keeping a wholesale attitude. I will sell ‘statement pieces’ at prices that allow my buyers to still make money. That’s good business and it’s good for the economy.” For the spring show Sirianni is bringing “killer” antique folk art and a ten foot by ten foot Victorian industrial cabinet with lettering and Eastlake era pulls on the drawers. “Further to the left,” as he puts it, will be a pair of slipper chairs with every inch covered in feathers. “We are what makes life interesting,” he concludes. “People will come.”   

The strategy for some Marburger exhibitors will be to widen their price range. Michigan fine art dealer Tom Hampton reports, “I’m taking high end pieces, but also lots of art well under $500.” California dealers Carol and Richard Machtolff agree. “We all wish we had a crystal ball that told us what to buy,” says Richard Machtolff. “Our decision for Marburger is to buy for a wide range of prices. We will cover the spectrum.” The Machtolffs will bring Americana, decorative Vienna bronzes and textiles, including antique European linen.

David and Mary Lee Snuffer of Bedford on the Square Antiques in Pittsburgh, Pa., applaud the “flight to quality” investment advice of late. They will focus on Marburger shoppers from the United States, Japan, South America and Europe who “think it’s a good time to invest in the fine European and American antiques, silver and paintings in which we specialize.” One shift in their plan has been to buy this year from long-time American estates and collections instead of shopping in Europe. “Great Americana,” says Mary Lee Snuffer, “is out there. In a buyers’ market, the best antiques will sell, without hesitation. These are good investments.”     

Lowell Dunn of Canterbury Court Antiques in Corsicana, Texas agrees about investments, but he plows through the English countryside looking for oak and mahogany furniture, Staffordshire and other antiques that are “a good value, in good condition, that people can use immediately. Marburger shoppers are gutsy,” says Dunn. “They know that antiques are good investments – and that antiques are functional items to enjoy now and pass on to future generations.”

“Marburger dealers are pros and pro-active,” says show co-owner Rick McConn. “They are shopping by flashlight in San Francisco. They are negotiating better prices in France. They are digging deeper to find the most exciting and quality antiques at the very best investment value.”

Americans today, he notes, are spending more time at home. They want to enhance the comfort and beauty of their homes and gardens and porches. To reach them, Marburger Farm has ramped up its advertising to include upscale magazines such as Veranda and Texas Monthly. “Just those two,” McConn says, “reach over three million people.” The nine giant show tents also have been upgraded to larger and brighter tents. Twelve historic Texas buildings shelter other exhibitors.

Some Marburger dealers have held back choice antiques for a rainy day. In a deluge of economic bad news, these vendors are peeking into inner sanctums. Indiana dealers Jon and Peg Van Dyne of French Vanilla Antiques had a box truck full of such items, as well as two storage units of antiques held back just for Marburger. The contents coming to Texas include large architectural and garden antiques, French and industrial furniture, plus a three foot tall circa  19th concrete gargoyle with a four foot wingspan. While that fellow takes four men to lift, Peg Van Dyne’s strategy for Marburger is “to stay light-hearted and to bring the best and most unique things.”

Many expect the current national fix to begin thawing with spring weather and Americans will be eager to enjoy themselves at a beautiful outdoor venue such as Marburger Farm. “The bluebonnets are worth the trip,” says show co-owner Ashley Ferguson. “But lots of shoppers, especially interior designers, will bring serious shopping lists. The word is out that you can buy the most unique antiques at the best price in the shortest time at Marburger Farm.”

As a treat for shoppers, famed re-purposer Sue Whitney will tour the show, awarding prizes for the best antiques to buy and the most creative re-purposed antiques. Whitney will sign copies of her new book, Junk Beautiful: Outdoor Edition (Taunton Press 2009). Other treats include breakfast and lunch in the Marburger Cafe with food from Ellen’s Cafe, Connie’s Coffee Bar, the Methodist Men’s Barbecue and Rio Verde with an authentic home-cooked Mexican menu.  Marburger Farm also offers a wi-fi area, free parking and air-conditioned restrooms.

Iowa’s Sundie and Brad Ruppert of Vintage Sculpture will exhibit their stable of folk art horses, cowgirls, wall niche boxes and other assemblages built from vintage items. Sundie Ruppert’s spring strategy is to come eager to buy as well as to sell. “I encourage everyone to come to Marburger Farm with a reasonable budget and to have fun shopping. Pay it forward,” she says. “It will all come back to us.”

So gird up your gusto and get to the Marburger Farm Antique Show Tuesday, March 31-Saturday, April 4. Your $10 admission is good all week. Early buying runs from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Tuesday, March 31 for $25, with regular $10 admission from 2-5 p.m. that day. Shop on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday  from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

See information on vendors, travel, maps, lodging, shipping and special events at www.roundtop-marburger.com or call Rick McConn at 800-999-2148 or Ashley Ferguson at 800-947-5799.

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