THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
Posted In: Culture, Community Profiles, Biography, From Issue 934 By: Robert E Martin
25th August, 2022 0
“I quite like antiques. I like things that are old and the history they bring with them. I would rather fly to Morocco on an $800 ticket and buy a chair for $300 than spend $1,100 on one at Pottery Barn”
- Walton Goggins
Perhaps one of the most enticing attributes that encompasses the world of antiques is how it shares a similarity to the lottery: there’s the chance that a regular Joe can come in with something and walk out considerably enriched both aesthetically and financially. In short, it comes down the thrill of the find.
When partners Jean Quinn and Pat Mallery first opened The Antique Warehouse, little did they know they would become architectural pioneers for creating a 20,000 square foot Shangri-La that would serve as a haven for all variety of objects that possess history, durability, and value.
The Antique Warehouse was first opened by Jo and Wally Strobel on October 2nd, 1982 on N. Michigan with nine dealers and in 1986 Jean and Pat bought the business from the Strobels. “We rented a huge billboard on I-75 and the salesman tried to convince us that it wouldn’t work, but we pointed out to him that when people into antique hunting see a sign that says ‘Antiques’ it calls out to them and they have to go. We rented that billboard back in 1986 and have had it there ever since.”
From there things started expanding. Not long after renting their first building, the building next door became vacant and the owner was going to rent it to the Saginaw Flea Market located on Genesee. “Pat and I said, ‘We can’t have that’, so we took that building over and blew out an entrance from one building to the other.”
“In 1999, John Strobel came in one day and said he had an offer on his building and was going to sell it,” recalls Jean. “We still had five years on our lease so the big question was whether we were going to retire or keep going, but both of our husbands encouraged us. We negotiated a price for the time remaining on our lease”; and by March 4th, 2000 this dynamic duo opened a brand spanking new building located at 1122 Tittabawassee that 40 years down the road still features 70 quality antique dealers offering furniture, glassware, china, lamps, jewelry, toys, coins, comic books, clocks, collectibles and more, all under one spacious air-conditioned roof where people can also shop one of their specialty Shoppe’s and enjoy lunch in their K-Wall’s Kitchen at Memory Lane Café.
Jean’s interest in antiques began back in college days. “My husband and I couldn’t afford new furniture,” she explains with a smile. “They called it ‘junking’ at that time and as we started accumulating different items, an older couple who were avid antique collectors influenced both of us. “Having bought our first house, money was scarce and those friends sent us to a furniture store in Grand Rapids that did reproduction antiques. Not knowing how much we should spend on an antique table that was priced at $300, we would look and see what a new table was selling for then look at the antique and weigh the options.”
“We had moved from Detroit to Saginaw and besides loving antiques, I was not a happy camper,” recalls Jean. “I moved into an established neighborhood and it was a lonely time. I had three teenagers and a brand new baby and used to go to Jacobson’s in downtown Saginaw because the clerks would converse with me. A friend of mine called and said she heard an antique place was opening, so I went and looked at it and later when my husband got home he asked, ‘What did you do today?’ I told him that I had spoken to Jo Strobel and was thinking of opening a space for selling antiques for $100 a month and he said that was fine, because it was less expensive than going to a therapist. So that’s how I truly got started!”
“People think antiques are too expensive to bother looking at, but that simply isn’t true,” states Jean. “As a general rule you’ll spend much less than you could ever buy a brand new piece of furniture for and it’s a quality piece, if not better. Plus you need to look at the recycling component involved when you purchase something used. In addition to saving money, you’re also preserving a piece of history. I worry about how much as a society we throw away and what kind of planet our young people are going to inherit.”
Jean says the idea of starting a cooperative endeavor for multiple antique dealers came from a professor at Michigan State University who had opened the Williamson Antique Mall and did consulting work. “They were the first ones to use this concept and pointed out how many antique dealers are independent and often open during odd hours; this way people could experience a variety of antiques 7 days a week.”
In 2017 Jean’s partner Pat decided she wanted to retire, so they decided to liquidate the gift shop because along with the warehouse, it was more than Jean could handle. Now she rents that space to artisans in the Loft Gift Shoppe.
When asked what’s changed the most about the antique business over the past 40 years, Jean laments how different the demographics have become.
“Avid antique collectors like me are dying off and young people don’t collect as much as people did from my generation,” she notes. “It’s interesting because if you look at magazines today like Better Homes and Country Living, you’ll see a lot of reproductions of antiques as opposed to the real thing. However, we have seen more young people over the last couple years, only they want to buy things from their own era, such as Star Wars memorabilia and other items, so we go with the flow.”
Antique furniture certainly rode the tide back in the 1980s and ‘90s and sold like hotcakes, however the popularity of some furniture has somewhat diminished. Items most popular in the Antique Warehouse are advertising memorabilia, jewelry, oak furniture, and coins, which are hot right now. We have several coin dealers in the Warehouse. Compared to prior years, mid-century (1950’s) furniture and accessories are seeing a resurgence in popularity.
In terms of the more valuable items Jean has come across in her 40-years, she quickly references a chest of drawers they discovered in their younger years. “The chest came with its contents and we found a collection of political buttons in one of the drawers for Eugene Debs. (Editor’s Note: Debs founded the American Socialist Party and ran for president five times between 1900 and 1920.) “I think we sold them for $300 at the time.”
Forty years down the road Jean still enjoys her passion. “Every day is a new day and as a collector you never know what types of items you will see coming through the door. There’s an old saying: if you see a piece you like, you better buy it or say put a hold on it, otherwise someone else will grab it. You have to be a little bit impulsive and follow your instinct when a piece is calling out to you.”
She says her biggest challenge these days is keeping everybody happy. “You have to be a people person and because we have 70 to 80 people essentially in business for themselves, every area of the warehouse reflects a different inventory and personality. Plus, the Internet has widened the scope of the services our vendors provide. We had people calling from Indiana the other day interested in some of the glassware one of our vendors had for sale on our website.”
“This is truly an interesting business,” concludes Jean. “I love antiques and sharing the experience with the customers. It’s still a fun business, which is why I’m still here after 40 years. Plus, we have vendors like Carol Clark, who has been with us since day one. John Maher is our largest dealer and has the area across the back of the warehouse. He has an old John Deere refrigerator now and usually showcases a lot of unusual pieces.”
The Antique Warehouse & Loft Gift Shop will be celebrating their 40th Anniversary on Saturday, September 17th with their annual FALL FESTIVAL that will run from 10 am to 5 pm. Patrons can receive 10 to 40% Off specially marked items, experience an Outdoor Flea Market, and view vintage cars on parade. The festival will also feature pumpkins and mums for purchase, popcorn, book signings, food, door prizes, and a Scarecrow Contest. If you’re interested in making a scarecrow for the contest or showing a vintage car, please call (989)753-5719.
The Antique Warehouse is located at 1122 Titttabawassee in Saginaw and you can reach them by phoning 989-755-4343 or visiting saginawantiquewarehouse.com. They will also be offering free antique appraisals on October 15th.
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)