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Antiquing Your Way To The Beach

Nov 09, 2010 05:14PM ● By Anonymous


But the real excitement is the antiquing that takes place along the way, as all the women look for various treasures to furnish their homes or add to their collections.
“Everyone has their own agenda,” says Johnson, “and it may vary from year to year. For me, lately, I have looked for furniture to fill a recent addition to my house. Others go looking for specific items, such as jewelry, roosters, primitive pieces, or holiday presents.”
Whether you’re on your way to spend the night in Ocean City, a week in Rehoboth, or a month in Lewes, what kinds of antiques can you expect to find?

The Changing Market

“There are very few available pieces of true antique furniture items that have not been fixed, changed, or refinished,” says Crumpton resident Ralph Russum, who co-owns J.R.’s Antique Center, an 6,500-square-foot store in Queenstown, located next to the Prime Outlets. Russum, first started his career as an antique dealer working at Dixon’s Furniture Auction, and has been buying and selling antiques and running a wholesale business for over 20 years. He opened the store at the former location of the Chesapeake Antique Mall with his son J.R. two years ago. “We try to sell quality,” he says, “and furniture pays the bills.”

Most of the furniture he and J.R. sell—along with assorted smaller items that include silver, china, and glassware, some on consignment from other dealers—is not officially antique. “It is fine furniture in beautiful condition—the antiques of the future,” Russum exclaims. Custom mahogany sideboards, banquet tables, large sets of Chippendale- and Hepplewhite-style chairs, chests of drawers, and china cabinets with fruitwood inlay and beveled glass have price tags of two, three, four, and five thousand dollars, as compared with their antique counterparts that might sell for 20 or 30 thousand dollars. “Those custom pieces by companies such as Biggs, Kittinger, Baker, and Henkel Harris will increase in value. These are the antiques of the future,” he reiterates. “Plus, people feel comfortable using these pieces, whereas they worry an antique is too fragile.”
Taylor Wells, a decorator with clientele stretching from Washington, D.C., to Annapolis and St. Michaels, has an antiques shop in Lewes. He agrees that the quality reproduction antiques made by Biggs, Kittinger, Baker, and Henkel Harris are good investments but disagrees strenuously regarding the availability of antique furniture. “It’s true that the European pieces have become scarce and way overpriced,” he says, “but the American market for antiques is coming back. You can find nice pieces from the mid 19th century for two to three thousand dollars. People buy the new stuff for the same price, so why not have an antique? I use my antique pieces and enjoy them.”
The popularity of “Antiques Roadshow,” which educates the public as to the value of antiques, has caused prices to rise. The influx of antique reproductions made in Taiwan, Italy, Mexico, and China that have flooded the marketplace over the past 30 years means that much of the merchandise displayed in antique stores is not necessarily antique. To a person born in 1980, the rich, red-brown mahogany furniture popular between 1920 and 1950, which was used to decorate the new homes that became part of sprawling suburbia, appears antique—even if it isn’t yet 100 or even 75 years old.
The distressed bureaus, cabinets, tables, and rocking chairs covered in faded white paint and described as “shabby chic” are not officially antique either. But with price tags of $100 and $200, they appeal to the shopper who is looking for decorative furnishings that are different from today’s standard furniture-store fare, and are easy on their pocketbook as well.
“It’s really important to build a relationship with an antiques dealer,” says Wells. “Visit them often and ask the right questions so you understand what you’re buying.” One place he’s found good values is at Tea Tyme Antiques in Seaford, Delaware. He also likes to check out the consignments at Tharpe Antiques in Easton, which is run by the Historical Society of Talbot County. While in Easton, you’ll also want to visit Lanham Hall Design, which handles lamps, decorative mirrors, and jewelry. Customers are always looking for the unusual and unique, so merchants often combine displays of antiques with newer merchandise. Discerning shoppers learn to read the tag descriptions carefully.

The Hunt

Three-hundred-year-old marble mantels are standard fare at DHS Designs, located next door to J.R.’s Antique Center. Columns from a Renaissance church, Aubusson French tapestries, and 18th-century Venetian chaises are also standard fare in the large store first opened in 1995. “Many people do not expect to find these kinds of items here,” says manager Greg Smith. “It's quite a collection.”
But even amongst the 300-year-old antiques that sell for tens of thousands of dollars, one can find newer pieces such as plaster busts from the 1960s, contemporary framed black-and-white photographs, and antique stone flooring tiles from China that have cleverly been made into coffee tables. With clientele from around the country, DHS also enjoys the influx of walk-in traffic during the spring, summer, and fall. “Fine antiques are harder and harder to find,” says Smith.
Another store that handles large-scale antiques is Gatsby’s Collection in St. Michaels. Large statuaries for the garden and major sideboards are among the many unusual pieces they handle that date from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Also in St. Michaels is London, a store that combines antique garden décor and artwork with gift items. And if you’re traveling far off the beaten track in pursuit of the unusual, there is Sherwood Antiques, a few miles before reaching Tilghman Island, which specializes in furniture, china, and chandeliers.
The enthusiastic group of 25 women who start out on their antiquing journey from Annapolis have no trouble finding an assortment of treasures. They do their traveling in the fall. “We go mid November for several reasons,” explains Johnson. “It’s pre-holiday rush, crisp and beautiful on the Eastern Shore in the fall, and between sports seasons for most of us working moms.”

To get the best deals, they use the power of numbers, according to co-organizer Natalie Hucke. “It helps to contact the shops ahead of time to let them know that our group is coming—and they have come to stocking their booths ahead of our visit and offering us discounts. We use name tags to ID our group members. Everyone is delighted with the deals they get. Kristi [Bleyer Johnson] has been thrilled to find several unique side tables and odds and ends like old copper wash buckets and wooden buoys.” According to Johnson, “One of Natalie’s favorites is an oversize dough bowl because of its price and authenticity.”
There are several shops between Easton and Salisbury that the group likes to stop at. These include: Foxwell’s Antiques & Collectibles in Easton, Packing House Antiques in Cambridge, Goose On The Roof Antiques in Hebron, and Feldman’s Market Street Antiques and Season’s Best Antiques & Collectibles, both in Salisbury. The women always eat lunch at the Market Street Inn in Salisbury on their first day. It’s a tradition.


Why not start an antiquing tradition of your own? Whichever route you plan to take to the beach, remember to travel with blankets for protecting furniture against scratches, ropes to tie purchases to the roof of your vehicle, and maybe an extra box and soft padding for fragile small items.
Start early in the day and pace yourself. Plan to revisit if contemplating a major purchase. Many stores can ship items and will sell on layaway. Always request detailed descriptions of items on the receipt to use for future reference when documenting what you’ve purchased. Take your time and enjoy the journey. What you find is only part of the fun—how you find it is the adventure.