MT. DORA, Fla. — Visitors and vendors streaming onto the grounds of the Florida Renninger’s Antique Extravaganza Jan. 15-17 enjoyed temperatures topping the high 60s – a far cry from the freezing temperatures that slammed the state into a deep freeze just days before.
“It was five degrees when I left the airport in Maine,” quipped one shopper, adding “this sunshine feels wonderful.”
Dealer Dave Dent, who splits his time between Detroit and Sarasota, Fla., is known for refinished fine oak pieces, and didn’t disappoint shoppers for the Renninger’s show. Dent pointed to a massive 7-foot-tall 1880s quartersawn oak printer’s cabinet with 78 numbered drawers, cast iron door pulls with dove and tulip design – and a price tag of $3,385. “It’s the first one I’ve ever seen in this size,” said the dealer, adding, “it’s also unusual to find it in quartersawn oak.” Pointing to other wood pieces in his booth, he quipped, “Some people can’t tell their oak from their ash.”
Still more fine oak pieces could be seen at the booth of George Long, Winter Haven, Fla. “All my antique offerings are from my recently sold Hallmark Card & Gift Shop,” said Long. A spindletop 12-foot-long, 95-inch-tall oak department store cabinet with inlaid side panels and original glass could grace your home or store for $15,000. Many folks stopped to admire his Civil War-era handmade oak, curly maple and pine 7-foot-tall corner cabinet priced at $3,500.
Many people did a double-take at the 19th century 6-foot-tall metal knight-in-armor suit shown by Robert McKnight Antiques, Mt. Dora, Fla. The piece, which was patterned on 16th-17th century designs, was stunningly restored by the dealer’s son, a welder, over a two year period and was priced at $4,700 at the January show.
Toy wagon and primitive item collectors were drawn to the display of Brian Blewett, Avon Park, Fla. Drawing lots of attention was an early 1900s 3 1/2-foot-long toy ice wagon with removable copper insert. The “Teddy” wagon could go on display at your place for $1,600. Blewett said he had other models for sale at $300 to $2,000 each.
You could speed off to the lake with a Penn-Yann 16-foot lapstrake mahogany Sea Liner outboard motorboat offered by Roger Steinhauser, Tequesta, Fla. The water-ready craft, built in 1958 and complete with ’99 Merc motor and trailer, was package priced at $7,500. The dealer traveled three hours to the show for the second year, saying last year “was very, very good.”
High end glass collectors hovered around the booth of R.S. “Scotty” Burns for a closer look at his 7-inch-tall R. Lalique Beliers opalescent ram’s handle vase, priced at $3,995. Others “oohed” and “ahhed” over an 1860s 22-inch-long bronze creeping tiger figure priced $1,850. Burns, of Eustis, Fla., called attention to a “regular base of good customers” as part of his 16-year success at Renninger’s.
It was a 1600-mile trip for John, Chris and Mike Lord traveling from Wells, Maine, for what one family member called “a working vacation.” Radio collectors were drawn to a pair of late 1930s Addison Catalan radios priced at $1,000 and $1,500. Vintage advertising collectors liked the 30-inch-oval reverse painted two-sided light up sign for a dentist in near perfect condition for $1,250.
“They call me the Fiesta Lady at Renninger’s,” said Penny Exline of nearby Leesburg, Fla. The 22-year veteran estimated that she displayed over 300 pieces at the January show. Among them were two limited production Fiesta vases including a sapphire color for $170 and a lilac color for $375. A metal street sign labeled “Fiesta Drive” showed the way to her booth at Renninger’s.
Two unusual original paintings created for printing covers of Harlequin paperback novels were featured by Steve Hallett, Scottsville, Ky. The dealer noted the book cover production notes and details on the back of each 20- by 30-inch oil paintings by Danny Crous, an artist who died in 1992. The paintings for the book titles “If Truth Be Known” and “Firing Line” were priced at $950 each. At the same spot, a series of 12 different 1880s pickle casters were offered for $850 to $1,400 each.
How were pickings for collectors? Show regular Eddie Kunkel traveled 1,300 miles from Tillsonburg, Ontario, Canada, looking for “snap-type watch fobs.” When all was said and done, he said he found a couple he didn’t own adding, “Its hard though, because I now have over 4,000 in my collection.”
Darell Swick of Ludington, Mich., a breweriana collector, said there were several items he had his eye on at the show and purchased some collectables for his booth at Coles Antique Mall, also in Ludington.
Swick added he was spending about three months in Florida with wife Addie and is a five-year veteran Renninger’s visitor.
The population in and around Mt. Dora, Fla., the site of the show about 30 miles north of Orlando, swells during the three November, January and February Antique Extravaganzas. Many businesses around the area profit from the thousands who visit.
Cathy Hoechst, president of the Mt. Dora Chamber of Commerce, said the antique visitors’ impact are from two sources, the day trippers who come to spend the day and the weekenders who “come to make a weekend of it.” She admits that the economy has shrunk visitor numbers in recent years but points to a healthy business core that compliments those coming to shop the antique market.
“We’re celebrating our 100th anniversary as a town this year,” said Hoechst, and “we’re looking forward to welcoming visitors.”
“We’re sold out on extravaganza weekends,” said chamber member Alex Cook, director of sales and marketing at the Holiday Inn Express in nearby Tavares, Fla., about 15 minutes from Mt. Dora. He said many guests are seen carrying “antique treasures” to their rooms after shopping at the market.
Cook admits that it makes for a busy time but adds “I’m a people person, and serving those antique collectors is a pleasure.”
Renninger’s Market Manager R. Doyle Carlton said he was encouraged by dealer numbers in January but admits like most in the industry, “It’s not like the old days.” He said the November Extravaganza show numbers were better than last year.
“This economy is like a wave,” said Carlton, “we’re all swept up in it as it swells and drops, but I think this year will be better than last year.”
Dealers reported the usual mix of good and not so good comments on business, but as one said, “This show is the best thing I’ve got going this weekend, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.”
Photos courtesy Jack Kelly.
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