Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Worth the Wait

Worth waiting for...The Antiquarian in Duncans Mills is only open Thursday through Monday, like many small-town shops.

I'm often asked, why do antique stores keep such odd, limited hours? It's not unusual to see small-town stores that are only open weekends, or one weekend a month, or only by appointment. Often stores seem to be keeping bankers' hours, not opening until 11 am.

We're not talking about the big malls and collectives, with plenty of dealers to keep regular hours, but the mom-and-pop shops with only one or two people available to keep the doors open.

Today a fellow blogger at Diary of a Mad Antiquer expressed the reason better than I ever could:
"People often ask why I am only open 4 days a week and my unuttered response is 'you think this stuff just MAGICALLY appears?'"
Store owners are regularly away replenishing stock at estate sales, homes where large antiques are for sale, shows, closeouts of other stores, rummage sales, yard, attic and garage sales... Their stock is one-of-a-kind merchandise, usually vetted personally by the dealer. They don't have the luxury of sitting at their desks ordering by the gross from a catalogue.

Or they're show dealers and it's a big show weekend. Another explanation is that they have day jobs during the week to supplement their income because their shops are more a labor of love than a big money-makers.

Antique store owners live a feast-to-famine life, either having lots of sales (which means they have to scramble to build up their merchandise again), or going days without sales (which starts them wondering how long they'll be in business). Under the circumstances, it's amazing so many stores have been in business for decades.

Some stores enlist the help of antique pickers like Ed Welch, who wrote about his work in the Journal of Antiques and Collectibles. But reliable pickers who know what they're doing are few and far between. (Looks like a fun job, though if you like to travel--and maybe drive a hybrid.)

It's always a good idea, if you're traveling any distance to visit a particular shop, to call first and confirm hours. And if you pass an interesting store during regular business hours and you're disappointed it's not open, cut them some slack. The dealer might just be out there finding that perfect treasure for you.


Lynn@ The Vintage Nest said...

I really enjoyed your link article about pickers and wholesalers. When I used to be part of a brick and mortar antiques shop we had a picker who dropped by once a week or so. His prices were excellent and he would come up with the best stuff. He was also a very colorful character. I recently heard he discovered eBay. Our shop was only open Wed-Sunday when I was a part of it and now they are only open Friday-Sunday because of slow business. The shop has been around forever. I hope they don't have to close up. On the other hand there is an antique shop nearby that stays open 7 days a week. When he goes to auction to restock he has someone cover the shop for him. Have a super great day. ~ Lynn

The Cochrans said...

Yes, I think especially now that gas is so expensive a good picker who knows his stuff would be worth a lot. I'd like to interview one sometime, though I wouldn't expect him to give away any secrets!

Weekend hours during vacation season are really cutting back, maybe too much. People are traveling through all week (if your town is a vacation destination or on the route to one. It seems to me to be sort of "giving up" to be closed so much. But I know it's hard to sit in a store when nobody comes in.

Sue Jackson said...

Thanks for the nice comments, and I was really surprised you guys live in Mexico!! Good for you and thanks for adding me to your blog. I couldn't figure out "why" you couldn't get Romantic Homes magazine. When the issue comes out in March, I'll have to send you a copy. I don't put much of my house on my blog because it makes me feel really vain, and I also just don't see it the way others do. Again, thanks, Sue