South Carolina offers many reasons to stop, stay longer and buy great antiques and collectibles

As a cold north wind rattles the windows, our thoughts turn to South Carolina: sun, sand, surf and antiques. Yes, antiques.

For a taste of it all, let’s begin this week’s Retro Road Trip in Myrtle Beach, one of the state’s top tourist attractions. The steady stream of visitors to the famous coastal resort city prompted Lee and Michelle Camp to purchase Fox and Hounds Antiques Mall in April 2004, having been dealers there for several years.

Located at 160 Rodeo Drive, off U.S. Highway 501, Fox and Hounds Antiques Mall has 70 dealers and consignors occupying 8,600 square feet of space. “People tell us all the time it’s one of the best laid-out and organized malls they’ve been to,” said Lee, who credits manager Trish Komerosky for its neat appearance. “She does a great job of working with our dealers and keeping it organized and looking good. We rearrange the whole front end every 45 to 60 days to keep it fresh,” said Camp.

Customers can expect to find everything from fine antique furniture to vintage toys and estate jewelry at Fox and Hounds. “We have an array of merchandise that comes from anywhere up and down the Eastern Seaboard, because we have dealers from Pennsylvania and Maine, not just from South Carolina,” said Camp.

Camp said 2006 was a good year overall, “but we’re always looking for ways to attract more people to the mall.” Fox and Hounds Antiques Mall is air-conditioned, well-lighted and open daily.

Charleston, which was one of America’s most populous cities in colonial times, still ranks high as a destination for vacationers and antique shoppers. For the best in English furniture and furnishings, visit Livingston Antiques, 2137 Savannah Highway, in Charleston. Trip Livingston said his father, John Livingston, started the business in 1969. Today Trip and his mother, Elizabeth, operate the 30,000-square-foot store loaded with 18th- and 19th-century antiques.

“Our customers are typically people looking for nice things to put in a downtown Charleston home or — we get a lot of out-of-state business — a New York apartment. People with second or third homes, beach houses, country homes, things like that, like to peruse some of the pine and oak pieces that are a little less formal,” said Trip, who handpicks everything they sell.

For fine American antiques, Trip recommended Moore House Antiques at 150 King St. in downtown Charleston. Owner Bryan Riddle claims to offer the Southeast’s largest selection of Charleston-made furniture.

A long-standing attraction in downtown Charleston is George C. Birlant & Co., which specializes in 18th- and 19th-century English furniture, porcelain, silver, crystal and brass. Birlant, a prominent antique dealer and estate auctioneer, founded the famous store at 191 King St. in 1922. The business is still run by members of the Birlant family.

Charleston’s first and best antique mall, according to Travel & Leisure magazine, is Terrace Oaks Antique Mall, 2037 Maybank Highway (State Route 700). Camille Wish was one of the original dealers when Terrace Oaks opened in 1988, and bought the mall in October 2005.

“We have added 12 new dealers since I purchased the mall, and some dealers have taken extra space,” said Wish, adding that most of the dealers have been at the mall for eight or more years. “The staff is extremely knowledgeable and helpful. All customers are greeted when they enter, and cookies and drinks are always available to the customers,” said the Charleston native.

Terrace Oaks Antique Mall has a reputation for offering a wide variety of high-quality antiques and for prohibiting flea-market goods. Wish said 2006 was a great first year for her as owner, with sales increasing 15 percent.

Thirty miles west of Charleston is Walterboro, which has about eight antique stores in its historic business district. “It’s an attractive little downtown about three blocks long, with oyster-shell sidewalks and lots of parking right in the middle so no one has to walk far,” said Sylvia Dukes, co-owner of Antiques & Collectibles of Walterboro. The town is close to I-95 at either exits 53 or 57.

She and fellow dealer Norman Ketchie purchased the multidealer store more than two years ago. “The owners were ready to retire and neither one of us wanted to see this great old building be closed, so we took over,” said Dukes, who gave up her career as a journalist to go into antiques full time.
Located in a former department store built in the 1920s, Antiques & Collectibles of Walterboro has 21 dealers and a waiting list of others hoping to move in. “We don’t usually have someone leave. Most of our dealers want to expand,” said Dukes, who wishes she had more space after recently opening two more rooms.

“Because we have 21 different people buying we have a great variety,” said Dukes. Her business partner, Ketchie, is an avid pottery collector and offers the largest selection of Roseville in the Southeast.

t said she considers the other shops in Walterboro not as competition but as neighbors, helping to make the town an attraction for travelers. “Local and state newspapers have run features on Walterboro as a destination. It’s really begun to pay off. Word of mouth is helping us tremendously,” she said.

In addition to being home to a group of antique shops, Walterboro is the site of the South Carolina Artisans Center, the official folk-art and craft center of the state. The center is housed in a restored eight-room Victorian cottage and showcases the work of more than 200 of the finest juried South Carolina artisans.

Another town boasting a concentration of antique shops in a historic downtown district is Newberry, located off I-26 between Columbia and Greenville. One of the latest additions is As Time Goes By, which Jeff McDonald and his mother, Mary, opened in October 2005.

“We have an eclectic mix of rustic primitives, Eastlake Victorian, lamps, pottery, glass and bottles,” said Jeff, who finds owning a business appealing. “This was convenient. My mom had the knowledge and different connections. I wanted to be my own boss,” he said. Mary McDonald is a longtime collector of folk art, which she now offers for purchase at the store.

As Time Goes By is located in a former clothing store at 1300 Main St. The store has 1,500 square feet of space shared by three other dealers. “There’s been a lot happening here lately,” said Jeff, noting the opening of the Newberry Antique Mall and recent restoration of the Newberry Opera House.

 South Carolina’s headquarters for high-style Continental antique furniture and decorative accessories is EuroLux Antiques, also located on Main Street in downtown Newberry. Owners Aimee and Greg Talbot take an intensely personal interest in the merchandise they sell, hand-selecting their goods in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy. In addition to grand furnishings, Eurolux’s inventory includes antique and vintage kitchenware, barware, crystal hand-painted ceramics, fine lighting and mirrors.

 Greg is a firm believer that antique furniture will only continue to appreciate, in contrast to new furniture “which loses its value as soon as it leaves the showroom.” The Talbots looks for intrinsic signs of quality in the furnishings they buy, such as dovetail joints, hand-carved ornamentation and solid-wood panels and drawers. Greg said examples of well-made European furniture of the late-19th century are still “quite reasonably priced considering the level of craftsmanship and age.”

 But aesthetics should factor in right alongside quality of construction, said Aimee. “We believe you should buy what you like – what you fall in love with the moment you see it. It should delight your eye and bring joy to you every day. A gorgeous hand-carved French armoire or a bookcase with old, wavy glass can become a stunning focal point for any room, and with antiques, you don’t worry about your neighbor down the st reet having the exact same piece.” With this ethic instilled in every item the Talbots purchase and display, their Eurolux gallery is a tastefully elegant drawcard for small-town Newberry, where local patrons often bump into big-city buyers.

Ingrid’s Antiques & Collectibles Mall is benefiting from increased exposure after moving in 2005 from tiny Elloree to the Santee Outlets, exit 98 off I-95. “We just expanded from 5,000 square feet to 7,500 square feet,” said owner Ingrid Jacobs, who rents space to 35 dealers.

“We have everything from 18th-century furniture all the way to shabby chic and Mickey Mouse collectibles,” said Jacobs. “We’re in the outlet mall. I think people like it because it’s bright and laid out well. You can get around easily if you’re in a wheelchair or have a stroller.”

Jacobs said small items are big sellers at the mall because so many of her customers are motorists traveling the interstate, which stretches from New England to Florida. “We always have fresh coffee brewing,” said Jacobs.
The Greenville Extravaganza Antique Show & Sale has been one of South Carolina’s top events for the past 17 years. It returned home to the Palmetto Expo Center in 2006 after a four-year run in neighboring Spartanburg.

 “The Palmetto Expo Center is one of the nicest facilities we have. It’s downtown and easily accessible to the interstate. The show floor is spacious. In fact, our spaces are larger there than any of our other shows,” said promoter Susie Clodfelter. She teams with her son, David, and lifelong friends Bob and Alice Adams and their son, Bryan, to produce antique shows in Virginia and North Carolina, their home state. “We’re entering our 30th year,” said Clodfelter.

“All our shows are diversified, from small, old collectibles up to high end,” said Clodfelter, a former antique shop owner. The Greenville show is their smallest, with about 100 dealers. “By being away for a while the show is still growing,” she said. The next Greenville Extravaganza will be March 16-18. It is also held in October.

Among the biggest names in the auction business in the Southeast is the Meares family. Larry Meares, who founded the auction service 33 years ago, operates Meares Land and Auction Co., which specializes in real estate auctions.  His sons, Darron and David Meares, have operated Meares Auctions Inc. since July 2003. Darrron, 34, last year was elected a director of the National Auctioneers Association, possibly the youngest person ever to be on the organization’s board of directors.

Including estate auctions, the Meareses conduct about 70 antique auctions a year, said Darron, adding that 2006 was one of their best years. “We did 19 auctions online with Proxibid. Ten were with antiques and collectibles, and the other nine were coin auctions,” he said.

Meares Auction Center is in Pelzer, 15 minutes south of Greenville and directly between Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C. “We have a 70-by-100-foot building that is set up to handle up to five auctions per week. We have it fully Internet capable, and the back is geared to shipping,” said Darron. “Furniture doesn’t do as well as it used to, but the smaller pieces — anything that can be put in a box and shipped across the country, cookie jars and things like that — are better than the larger items.”

The Meares family also operates the Southeastern School of Auctioneering, which Larry Meares founded in 1983. “It’s the only full-time auction school in South Carolina,” said Darron. “We run a week-long session four times a year. We usually like to keep it to about 20 students to get better one-on-one instruction,” he said.

Charlton Hall Galleries, established in 1929, is South Carolina’s foremost antiques and fine arts auction house. Located at 912 Gervais St. in Columbia, South Carolina’s capital, Charlton Hall Galleries has scheduled its Six Centuries of Fine Art sale for Feb. 3, and a Southern Americana auction for March 31 and April 1.