Michaan family growing California’s Alameda Point Antiques and Collectibles Faire

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 alameda point california antiques show
From left to right, faire owner Allen Michaan, faire manager Randie Bradley and Sandra Michaan take a break from the busy job of running the successful Alameda Point Antiques and Collectibles Faire. 

From its inception in 1998, the Alameda Point Antiques and Collectibles Faire has lived up to its mission to encourage people to buy and sell treasures from the past. Allen Michaan, the fair’s founder and president, recognized a great opportunity for a wide-ranging antiques event when the Alameda Naval Air Station closed in 1997. 

Across a wide channel from the Port of Oakland, one of the busiest in the world, Alameda Point is situated on the San Francisco Bay with a spectacular view of the City’s skyline. The old airfield runways provide easy access to the vendors as they race to set up their booths for show time. There’s even plenty of room to park the truck, van or SUV close to the assigned space. With 950 dealers anxious to prep their 15 foot by 20 foot sales areas ($125 rental fee), the First-Sunday-of-the-Month Faire runs like a Rolex. “It’s 13 years old today,” Michaan said, “and it gets bigger every month!”

That growth is a direct result of Michaan listening to vendors and visitors, hearing what they say, and then making improvements. Here are some standards that keep the show popular with both customers: Items sold must be at least 20 years old. (Reference materials and collecting supplies are the only exceptions.) The vendors themselves police this and report any offenders. A four-tiered entrance structure includes $15 for adults from 6 to 7:30 a.m., $10 from 7:30 to 9 a.m., $5 from 9 a.m to 2 p.m. and no charge after that. Children enter for free. No pets are permitted. Tickets are available on line or at the gate.

Promoters cater the event to customers

“We are now listed on city tour packages and frequently get a bus full of international visitors who have a great time.” Michaan said. Indeed, French, Chinese, Spanish, Tagalog, German, Polish, Japanese, Persian languages and accents . . . all could be heard down one of the wide aisles.

Banks of portable restrooms and hand-washing stations exist along either side of the sales tents. ATM machines are available at the gate and in the vending area. A refurbished trailer serves as a 40-foot-long customer lounge, offering all visitors soft chairs and quiet place to relax. There are even a few portables strategically placed out in the vast parking areas.

With 12,000 tickets sold for last month’s faire alone, parking could be a nightmare, but not at Alameda Point. The Fair’s management has regular shuttle buses running from the entry gate through the parking lots up to the main entrance. When one lot is full, it’s closed and shoppers are directed to another lot. The lots are monitored throughout the day. When space is again available, gates reopen.

“We have an International Food Court,” Michaan said with pride. The 40 food stalls offer tacos and tandoori ovens, souvlaki and sausages, kniches and kettle corn. A health inspector is employed to make certain the highest standards are kept. Picnic tables and chairs are set in designated eating areas. Rentable shopping carts and dollies are available to move purchases out to your car. The aisles are spacious and the event never feels crowded.

Turnover (and vintage) is the name of the game

Typical of September, the weather started out foggy but burned off by midday. Kristen and Michael Page went back to their San Francisco home new owners of a $170 dresser. Half Moon Bay residents Grace and Jennifer got their desk for $125. A glass fronted china cabinet rode out to the parking lot for $100. The 19th century pie safe ($420) and cloverleaf-vented cupboard ($460) hadn’t found a taker by 3 p.m.

The Alameda Point Faire is the spot for vintage clothing and plenty of shoppers looked for that designer label, that trendy style, that  je ne sais pas que. “The Eighties are in.” one magenta-haired shopper told me, “and you can still get something good for $5 and I wear these dresses every day.”

“High end, well-made clothes like Pendleton, Woolrich, the functional stuff, always sell well.” one shop keeper admitted. Several attended the faire modeling their past vintage buys.

California pottery

A vintage Coke cooler sold for $120. An iron garden table frame fetched $20. A cast-iron transom grill destined to ornament a garden wall went for $90. A hand-carved wooden Chinese horse trotted off to Orinda, Calif., for $350 — $100 less than the sticker price. Blake Weston of San Francisco was offering a Singer Featherweight for $225. “I have a better one at home. Here’s my number: 415-826-4364!”

An attractive genre painting by Czech artist Anton Ebert (1845-1896) of Hasidic scholars from a Tahoe estate sale was offered for $2,200. Vendor Mark Lang was selling several large and colorful advertising posters for around $1,000 each. His number is 805-895-0646. A grape or apple press capable of authenticating a tasting room was tagged $1,275, but a large metal Federal star could be had for $25. Antique copper sheeting and ornate tin ceiling tiles were recycled into large mirror frames ($375). An early 19th century solid wood trunk from Brazil could be had for $675 from importer Pete Gonzalez, whose website is www.AccentBrazil.com.

A leather World War II gun case got more attention at an equestrian-theme booth than any other item, but was still on the table at the end of the day. “I know I can sell it on the Internet for $350," the seller confided. "Anyway, I made my money today on $15 feed sacks.”

Two old wooden ship wheels ($95 a piece) leaned on an island of glass fishing net floats. “They’re good fly catchers,” said one customer looking through the hand-blown globes explaining, “If you open the air hole, place something syrupy on the edge, the flies land on it and fall in, and are too stupid to get out.”

San Francisco Area items included metal peace signs going for less than $50, a 60’s era Hawaiian surf board marked $200 (an onlooker told me that price was coconuts!), antique saddles used as decorator items were offered for $195, plenty of handsome cowboy boots were selling for less than $35, and a table of Gold Rush-Era glass bottles, each with a beautiful patina, ranged in price from $35 to $68.

With so much focus on the folks who matter, people of great diversity and charm, the Alameda Point Antiques and Collectibles Faire organizers are planning on many more years of bringing people in for a safe landing at its grand place on The Bay.

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