It was ‘old home week’ at Tailgate in Nashville

By Linda Kunkel – Antique Trader Associate Editor

It was like “old home week” at the Tailgate Antique Show, held Feb. 22-25 at the Fiddlers Inn in Nashville, Tenn. It’s obvious that when customers walk into a booth and give the dealer a hug, that the relationship between buyer and seller is much more than just handing over a credit card to pay for a purchase and getting back a receipt and the merchandise in exchange.

For many who visit this show, it’s like going home, and sharing the events of the past six months with family. This show has such a strong following of this type of customer, that in three of the first 10 booths I visited, I found the buyers sharing stacks of family photos (mostly of grandkids) with the dealers.

Relationships like these are built on trust, and the friendships that develop are an unexpected bonus for many.

Steve and Barbara Jenkins of Jenkins Management promote the four-day show, which is part of what is often called “Heart Week” in Nashville, with the Heart of Country Antiques Show, the Music Valley Antiques Show and this Tailgate show, comprising three events where approximately 600 antique dealers set up within walking distance of each other.

Buyers came from as far away as California and Oregon. Dealer Tom O’Hara, who is also a correspondent for Antique Trader, came from Connecticut to set up a booth here and was seen discussing the merits of a table with a customer.

Gary Vaughn of Jelly Cupboard Antiques, Kingston Springs, Tenn., had another table, circa 1840, which he described as his favorite piece. “It’s a rare and odd folk art table, which came out of a collection in Kentucky,” he said. Vaughn specializes in Southern furniture and Tennessee pottery.

There was an excellent selection of pottery in the booth of Jerry and Sharon Tebbano of Ohio. The booth was so busy, we couldn’t get in the door.

Van Deest’s of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, brought a child’s wooden horse, circa 1880, and an early bean bag or ball toss game, with eyes that moved when the bag was tossed in. The ball toss game was marked sold shortly after the show opened. The Van Deests bought lots of merchandise they bought from the Ed Kelly sale in Galena, Ill., earlier this year. Paula Van Deest referred to it as a “great sale which not many people knew about.” Many of those items from the Kelly sale were on display here.

A two-piece walnut secretary highlighted the booth of Alice Dewey Antiques of Temperance, Mich. She also brought a colorful tea store tin with the name “Imperial” on top, which was priced at $395.

The center figure in the booth display of Datha Doolin Antiques, Lancaster, Ky., was a Southern pine table, scraped to its original green, with the base pegged. Other items in her booth included a bucket bench from the Amana Colonies in Iowa with a peg rack above. Doolin said she sold her best piece, the greatest dry sink she’s seen, with the sides dovetailed into the top, earlier in the day.

Al and Dee Wilhelm Antiques of Grand Blanc, Mich., specialize in miniature furniture and just about anything unusual. The couple has been collecting for 40 years, and in business for 20 years. Among the many miniatures they brought was an 1850 miniature jelly cupboard from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, that was grain painted on all sides, with a faux raised panel on the door, which was unique, according to Al. “When traveling to shows,” Dee said, “I find that merchandise that’s hot in one area isn’t necessarily hot in another area, you never know. I don’t buy at auctions because I don’t want to compete with my own customers.”

Rick and Jay Davis of “Ugly Rick’s” Collections, Grand Rapids, Minn., had a Skookum doll that was 34 inches tall and all original. “Most Skookums you find are faded,” Jay said. “This one is not.” The Skookum had a papoose in the back, and was priced at $3,200. An unusual item in their booth was a salesman’s sample laundry wringer, marked American Wringer Co.

Yankee Tavern Antiques, owned by Jack Hickman and Devra McCabe of Springfield, Ohio, showed a pie safe, very old, circa 1860, all original, for $1,400. Jack said he finds a lot of his merchandise at auctions in Ohio, particularly sales at Delbert Cox Auction in Hamilton, Ohio. Also in the booth was an unusual circa 1700 turned baby walker, English, very rare, for $850. There were so many unique and unusual items in this booth, that I hoped the couple didn’t tire of me asking “What is this?” or “What would you use this for?”

“My booth looked different this morning,” Laura, of Antiques for the Home & Garden said, referring to the fact that most of her merchandise had been sold and replaced with new items very early that day. “I had a circa 1820-1840 miniature Sheraton chest that sold in minutes this morning.” One standout piece remaining was a two-piece blue corner cupboard found in upstate New York, all dovetailed, and unusual in that it was only 12 inches deep. Laura described it as a very functional piece with pumpkin color paint on bottom.

The wonderful dry sink found in the booth of Hill’s Country of Cleves, Ohio, was about 7 feet long, from the early 1900s. It had a hand-worked copper top with buffet. Hill’s Country specializes in country furniture and folk art.

Later in the day, Don Cruise was manning the booth for Tom O’Hara for a few moments while O’Hara stepped out. Cruise showed me an impressive 1880-1900 copper eagle, which he said was from the Hudson River Valley. The eagle was then turned over to a furniture restorer on Cape Cod to produce something unique to display it. The result was a beautiful piece, with the eagle perched on a mahogany stand, which can now be put with Federal furniture and it won’t look out of place, according to Don.

Dennis & Dad Antiques, had a pair of Staffordshire lions, circa 1820, on lustre bases, priced at $7,500 for the pair. Among the other items displayed was a Spode pitcher and footed plate.

While rain dampened the show on opening day, the crowds ignored the rain and bought anyway.