Making new friends, and keeping the old at the Brimfield Antique Show

The Buck Stops Here column

One of the best things about the Brimfield Antique Show is the anticipation, much like picking out your wedding day and then planning every minute down to the last detail. Excitement builds. Tension rises. I make hotel reservations months in advance, analyze the openings of the fields to plan my walk-about and salivate while thinking of the lobster I’ll eat for lunch and dinner.

Melanie Thomas (left) with one of her “golden oldie” friends, Yvonne Idell of Idle Bird Antiques. (Photo courtesy Melanie C. Thomas)

Melanie Thomas (left) with one of her “golden oldie” friends, Yvonne Idell of Idle Bird Antiques. (Photo courtesy Melanie C. Thomas)

Besides the pleasure I get from treasure hunting, I also look forward to seeing familiar faces from past shows: dealers I’ve known and bought from over the years that I only get to see in the spring. These brief meetings are homecomings of a sort, where we catch up with a quick gossip fest.

I woke at 4:30 a.m. to doors slamming in my hotel, dealers rushing out to set up booths for the 6 a.m. opening of their fields, mindless of the rest of us who did not need to rise so doggone early.

Unable to fall back asleep, I decided to get up and get moving. Parking spots at the Brimfield show are no easier to find now than any other year. Like hundreds of others, I shivered while standing in line for the opening of May’s Antique Market. It was an unseasonable 28 degrees, and we were all hunkered down in our jackets. Thank goodness I had the foresight to I dress in layers, knowing I could shed my hat, sweater and jacket as the day warmed, leaving them in the booths of friends.

Editor’s Note: *Weather experts are predicting a much more seasonable July Brimfield Antique Market – which begins July 9 and runs through July 14. Learn more about the July show >>

At the stroke of 6 a.m., the line started to move, but not quickly enough for me. Besides stomping my feet to keep warm, I made like a racehorse, pawing the ground waiting for the race to begin, in a useless effort to get the line moving faster. Patience has never been one of my virtues.

After getting the obligatory stamp on top of my hand to prove I’d paid an admittance fee just to be allowed to shop, I sprinted down the first line of booths, rounded the corner to my shopping destination and came up short.

Newfound friends are as precious as the old. Columnist Melanie C. Thomas is forging new, long-standing relationships with young dealers, such as Craig Ringstad. (Photo courtesy Melanie C. Thomas)

Newfound friends are as precious as the old. Columnist Melanie C. Thomas is forging new, long-standing relationships with young dealers, such as Craig Ringstad. (Photo courtesy Melanie C. Thomas)

The two dealers I expected to see, who were normally set up across from each other, weren’t there. My favorites were AWOL! They were the reason I’d gotten up at zero dark thirty! Not believing my eyes, I marched up and down, back and forth, covering the same terrain three times before soaking it in and processing that they were truly absent. I immediately thought the worst.

Let’s face it. Like it or not, I’ve reached an age when things start happening to people. Bad things that no one likes to talk about. I can recall at least one dealer per show over the past few years that has either passed away or been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Old friends with whom we have a history, close acquaintances who helped get us started in the business, mentors who patiently answered our questions, allowing us to soak up as much of their expertise as we could. Friends we may have taken for granted and may never see again.

So I stumbled around May’s Antique Market trying to regroup. Maybe I will see the two missing dealers next year, at least I hope so. Only time will tell.

I had to make lemonade out of lemons, because I was in Brimfield to buy, not mope around looking for old friends and acquaintances. And though the pace of my spending was curtailed for a few frustrating minutes, I regained my composure. Soon enough, plenty of greenbacks disappeared. And guess what? I met some nice, new dealers, folks I’d never seen or bought from before.

In essence, I made new friends and contacts simply because the old ones were missing; I opened myself up to the possibility of doing business with new people. Thankfully, I can now boast about several new acquaintances who I hope to see again next spring.

Did I replace my old friends with the new ones? Absolutely not.

A pristine chrome kitchen table with pink Formica top, accompanied by pink and white vinyl chairs, was looking to cozy up a new kitchen. (Photo courtesy Melanie C. Thomas)

A pristine chrome kitchen table with pink Formica top, accompanied by pink and white vinyl chairs, was looking to cozy up a new kitchen. (Photo courtesy Melanie C. Thomas)

Which brings me to my point. For those of you who were in the Girl Scouts, you may remember the song, “Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other, gold.”After my attitude adjustment in the middle of May’s Antique Market, I discovered a young woman showcasing a vast selection of cameos. And she blew me away, not only because of her knowledge, but with her enthusiasm.

As I left her booth with my purchases, I shook my head in amazement. How could someone this age, a kid really, know more about cameos than I did? Well, she grew up in an Italian family that still makes them, that’s how.

Learning from this “kid” was a humbling experience and made me realize how much I still had to learn, not only about this ancient art form, but about being an antique trader in general. Lucky for me, I found a new expert in Brimfield on that brisk, spring day, someone I might have missed had I been shopping with my AWOL friends.

With the antiques business going through such a metamorphosis, can we afford to ignore these new (read that as younger) dealers? Absolutely not.

Renew and repurpose was a common theme at the spring 2013 Brimfield Antique Show, including this old wicker couch sporting a new paint job. (Photo courtesy Melanie C. Thomas)

Renew and repurpose was a common theme at the spring 2013 Brimfield Antique Show, including this old wicker couch sporting a new paint job. (Photo courtesy Melanie C. Thomas)

This up-and-coming breed are the silver from the Girl Scout song. And making new friends doesn’t imply disloyalty to the old ones. Our old friends are priceless, like gold to us. But we need to make room in our lives for some new friends, too, because one of these days, we may turn a corner and find all our gold is gone.

So let’s embrace this new generation and the technological changes they bring with them. Let’s learn how to use mobile devices and keep our eyes and ears open for ways to cultivate additional contacts. Does this mean I won’t go back to May’s Antique Market next spring and look for my two missing dealers, the golden oldies? Absolutely not.

But I’ll be looking for those new silver ones, too.

Hot Topics in Brimfield: Renew, Reuse, Repurpose
Three themes were prevalent at this year’s Brimfield show: renew and repurpose, advertising memorabilia and pieces from the 1950s.                                                         • Industrial tables with new tops made from butcher block, glass and other materials stood out as potential kitchen islands. Plenty of old wicker sporting new paint jobs was seen.
• Advertising paraphernalia from several types of industries abounded, from oil and gas pumps to tavern signs.
• Formica kitchen tables in those fabulous ’50s colors popped out from every field, in pink, green and turquoise.
• The most colorful display, however, proved to be one of the most controversial: Stuffed peacocks adorned one booth, to the amazement of some and the disgust of others.

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