By Tom Hoepf
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – A jubilant Woody Straub took a moment to bask in the afternoon sunlight on opening day of the Ann Arbor Antiques Market on April 22.
“We had a record gate today,” said Straub, who manages the antique market with his wife, Nancy. “We’re so excited. It’s almost like a rebirth,” he said.
Like most antique shows, Ann Arbor Antiques Market has felt the lingering effects of post-9/11 downturn. With the start of the 38th season, however, Straub has reason to believe the worst is behind them.
“We want to see young people at the show. Just look at all the strollers,” he said. “Isn’t this wonderful?”
Only a few years ago dealers groused about baby strollers clogging the aisles at shows. Not any more.
Straub noted another indicator that business was good: a line of customers waiting to use the ATM machine installed at the show site, the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds.
“They’ve waited until the last hour of the show to make a decision on a major purchase,” he said.
Traditionally, the April opener is the biggest market of the season, which runs through November. Ann Arbor Antiques Market is held the third Sunday of the month, with the exception of two-day events in April and September (16-17) and the finale on Nov. 5.
In addition to increased advertising in local broadcast media, said Straub, the opening show benefited from ideal weather.
“This is the best weather we’re seen here in years,” said Dorothy Fels of Pittsburgh, who has set up at Ann Arbor in April for the past 20 years. Fels shared a booth in a livestock barn with a friend, Zita Reis, who noted the interesting variety offered at Ann Arbor keeps them coming back. “We still find interesting things we don’t see in Pittsburgh,” she said.
An example of the highly unusual items exhibited at Ann Arbor was a pair of 17-inch Pewabic Pottery floor vases in a mottled sky blue glaze. Bearl Moses and Ron Metter of Warren, Mich., said the vases originally belonged to the secretary of Pewabic founder, Mary Chase Smith. The circa 1930 vases were priced $6,000 apiece.
Moses said he was impressed with the large number of shoppers at the April market and the renewed interest in art pottery, their specialty. “Pottery is on the move again. It’s good to see it coming back.”
Christiby’s of Traverse City, Mich., hauled enough rustic furniture to furnish a lake lodge. Robert and Sharon Markey’s recent find was a bar ensemble made of pine by Rittenhouse of Cheboygan, Mich. The set consisted of a 6-foot back bar, an 8-foot bar and four barstools. Markey said they paid dearly for the rare set, which they offered for $6,500.
The Markeys had a fine selection of vintage Old Hickory furniture. A 36-inch square table with arched leg supports and an oak top, manufactured in Martinsville, Ind., was available for $795.
“We look all over the country for (old Hickory). It’s popular out east and there’s even more demand here,” said Markey.
A booth crowded with people is usually a sign a dealer is having a good show, and Dennis Raleigh’s space was especially popular. The Ann Arbor opener marked the Midland, Mich., dealer’s last antique show before moving to his summer home in Wiscasset, Maine.
He hoped to sell a 28-inch rooster weather vane from the early 1900s for $2,150, a painted red hanging cupboard with towel bar for $1,150, and a pair of 6-inch carved flame finials for $350.
“I’ve had a good show,” said Raleigh, handing over a small painted table to a customer, who had paid $695.
Jim and Bette Lynn Nowka of nearby Northville, Mich., are longtime Ann Arbor Antique Market Exhibitors.
“We’ve done the show for years and it’s always been good,” said Betty Lynn.
Their merchandise included a 1930s hooked rug, which pictured a sailboat at sea, and a cherry chest of drawers having mahogany veneer drawer fronts and turned feet. The rug was priced $575 and the chest was $650.
Sharon and Claude Baker of Hamilton, Ohio, can be counted on for fine Americana. Their centerpiece was a 12-pane tiger maple step-back cupboard of Ohio origin, which was tagged $9,800. With its bold striping, the nearly 7-foot cupboard was an impressive sight.
The Bakers had sold a writing-arm Windsor chair, a bucket bench and a watercolor painting.
“We’ve done well,” said Claude, adding he was encouraged by the big crowd.
Jerry Nagel of Auburn, Ind., was also impressed by the opening-day attendance, but disappointed that his 1830s Lancaster, Pa., dough box in red wash had not attracted more attention from the younger crowd. Featuring mortise and tenon construction, the dough box and stand was priced $1,595.
Unlike when Ann Arbor Antiques Market opened at 5 a.m. and former promoter Margaret Brusher strictly enforced a no early dealer trading policy, the show now begins at a civilized 8 a.m. Showgoers waiting in line for the gates to open can often be overheard telling their favorite Margaret anecdotes or their adventures of combing through outdoor booths in the dark, flashlight in hand.
For more information, phone (352) 771-8928 or visit the Web site www.annarborantiquesmarket.com
Top Right: Daylight brings out the striping of this tiger maple step-back cupboard. Sharon and Claude Baker of Hamilton, Ohio, presented it at the Ann Arbor Antiques Market priced at $9,800.
Bottom Left: These 17-inch Pewabic vases were once owned by the secretary of Mary Chase Smith, who founded the pottery. Art pottery specialists Bearl Moses and Ron Metter of Warren, Mich., priced the sky blue vases at $6000 apiece.