Dealers across the North appear to be enjoying a busy summer tourist season with reports of strong sales of kitchen items, industrial and cottage décor accessories.
In Rapid City, S.D., Corey and JoAnn Keller, owners of Keller China Restoration, say business has been very good this summer. Although they are not an antiques shop, their 17-year-old restoration business has seen an uptick thanks to dealers looking to repair “on display” china, pottery, porcelain and glassware.
“People are holding on to memories more, restoring rather than buying new,” JoAnn Keller said.
The Kellers said they enjoy working on sentimental items more than inventory.
John and Cindee Haddix, owners of the Burwell Butter Factory of Burwell, Neb., said business has still not returned to levels prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The company’s slogan, “Invest in the past, buy memories that last,” seems to ring true for shoppers. Collectible items such as cookie jars and license plates have emerged as breakthrough best sellers.
Surprisingly, cornerstone inventory lines of clear glass, milk glass, Fenton and “shabby chic” primitives don’t seem to sell anymore. The Haddixes aren’t letting the economic downturn draw all the fun out of their business. The two have come up with an innovative promotion to increase shop traffic: free margarita drinks on special occassions. They even allow customers to keep the glasses. The idea has taken hold and plans for a “margarita garden” are taking shape.
In Omaha, Neb., business is brisk for fine art glass, porcelain, and Chinese art, say Andrew Hotz and David Shaw, owners of Antiques and Fine Art. The two keep their shop stocked with a broad array of merchandise, usually made up of private purchases made across the country rather than local estates. Hot sales lines include “everything from the ‘50s Mod to Deco to ancient items and Native American.” The two currently have an unusually large collection of interesting unused hotel soaps – “You never have to shop for soap again!” jokes Hotz.
Their trend is to move away from collectibles and feature traditional antiques displayed in a main gallery accented with period room furnishings.
Customers of Midland Arts and Antique Market of Indianapolis are seeking art and décor items based on industrial or traditional French motifs. In fact, owner Shannon Moody said she has seen an surge in interest in French antiques.
The 15-year-old shop has carved out its own niche of catering to urban shoppers with a penchant for Mid-Century Modern design concepts, Moody said. She is moving away from stocking oak furniture and elements for traditional interiors.
Joann and Kim Ege, owners of the Ozark Market Basket of Ozark, Mo., are seeing “green shoots” in the economy when it comes to their 35-year-old business. Business is coming back and customers are looking for “wonderful” prints and fresh-to-market items recently uncovered from area estates. The shop specializes in wicker furniture, country and farm collectibles, antique scales and garden antiques.
The two have relied on four annual heavily advertised open houses which remind customers they are a source for unusual items. In May, Kim started a blog at the shop’s Web site to alert tourists and customers of fresh merchandise and special promotions or events.
Sharon Murath, owner of Southwind Antiques of Mall of Colby, Kan., said business has been good for items ranging from farm tools to kitchen dishes, such as Pyrex. Colby, population 5,500, is located in the Northwest corner of Nebraska. The shop has been open for five years. Murath stays open seven days a week and works to carry a large variety of inventory.
Business at Bear Trap Antiques has been slow said owner Rose Pedersen. The shop is situated in Walnut, Iowa, one of the must-see antiques destination citites in the Midwest. Although the city has just 888 residents, customers from as far away as Norway, Sweden, Australia and Japan travel here to shop Walnut’s 15 antiques shops. Although she said people aren’t spending a lot of money, items such as kitchen utensils are selling well. The shop, now in its 24th year, specializes in Aladdin lamps and furniture.
Milwaukee’s Riverview Antique Market has seen steady sales of a wide variety of antiques – ranging from primitives to Modern. Many customers are in the market for artwork from Wisconsin artists. Even furniture, lamps, mirrors and chandeliers are selling well. Mary Smith, one of three owners, said the 15,000 square foot shop carries everything from elegant to funky décor items. The 45 different dealers who rent booths there offer vintage clothing, art pottery and glass.
Smith said the 8 year old shop is located in a “hip, trendy area of Milwaukee.”
“People in this economy are looking for things that have utilitarian value,” said David Aeh, owner of Main Street Antiques of Ishpeming, Mich. “They have to justify a purchase with it having a practical value, now just a space-filler.” The six year old antiques shop is housed in a former turn of the century movie theater. The atmosphere makes the shop ideal for interesting costume jewlery, pop culture and kitschy collectibles.
Aeh said business has been excellent in the 6,600 population mining town in Michigan’s central Upper Peninsula. Better selling items include farm and cottage décor; “anything formal or fancy is dead.”
Jewelry is selling at Long Lake Antiques, a 10,500 square foot shop in Spicer, Minn. Owner Allen Molenaar, 77, said the store is more hobby than career. He caters to the tourist crowd and sells fine gem stones, primitives, books, porcelain, china and flatware. He opened the shop nine years ago.
“You like to have people come and look,” Molenaar said, “and if they find something that’s great! You have to be an optimist in business. You can go 100 different directions and still be in antiques: from a rusty horseshoe to a diamond ring.”
Karen Ellingson, owner of Townhall Antiques of Christine, N.D., located roughly 20 miles from Fargo, said she is supplementing shop sales with eBay listings. Traffic is down at her shop, housed in a former 1880s blacksmith shop in Christine, with a population of 150 people. Items selling include advertising, glassware, primitives, Norwegian-themed items and German glassware.
In the next issue: A look at the East.