Published: April 2, 2002
By Gordon S. Converse
ALEXANDRIA, VA. – The first week in March heralded the sixth annual , an antiques show held at the Episcopal Academy field house in Alexandria, that Northern Virginia town across the Potomac from Washington, D.C.
There are two things worth mentioning about this young and successful show: the attainment of its goal to draw customers from a distance and the committee’s success in crafting an exhibitor list of excellent diversity.
This year, the show’s very active committee set the goal to draw visitors from communities outside of Alexandria. Judging from this exhibitor’s sales book, their activities were successful. Besides writing up customers from the immediate Northern Virginia area, there were addresses ranging from Fredericksburg and Richmond, Va., the District, and its outlining Maryland suburbs, as well as more distant towns such as Kensington, Md., and even Indianapolis, Ind.
“We relied strongly on some new advertising in trying to create an image of our show as a destination point, drawing customers from further distances,” stated Bill Burleigh the show’s publicity director. Some of the new advertising included spots on two radio stations.
While walking the floor of this show, one could not help but to notice the diversity of the exhibitors’ offerings. Many shows today seem to emphasize certain specialties of the antiques or fine arts with little attention to other areas of collecting. This could be because of the difficulty managers have in finding quality exhibitors to fill the large exhibitor halls or the fact that certain groups offering folk art, or paintings, etc seem to gather about each other.
But Alexandria’s 60 dealers offered a dazzling variety of antiques and fine arts and never at the expense of quality. Besides American and English furniture and their accompanying standard decorative arts, a diversity of Continental antiques and folk art examples were offered. So were rugs, fine arts and prints, porcelain and majolica, silver, jewelry, barometers and scientific instruments, clocks, garden furniture and even colonial lighting.
Many categories were represented by more than one dealer, such as rugs, with Peter Pap and John Murray; paintings, offered by David Brooker, James Kochan and Hollis-Taggart; prints by Russ Gurari, Fletcher-Copenhaver, Graham Arader and Charles Puckett; and clocks by Time and Strike and Gordon Converse & Co. Some dealers, such as Woldman and Woldman, had handsome displays and specialized in a certain area of Americana, such as the Empire period.
There are always mixed opinions about how successful shows are regarding both the exhibitors’ sales and the attendance, but it is safe to say that Alexandria was successful in both areas.
Almost everyone who reported about the show said they were pleased with how sales were shaping up. No negative reports were heard. From this dealer’s viewpoint, having exhibited in five shows since January, most dealers are now enjoying a gradual increase in sales, a good barometer for the economy, which many are now saying is on the rebound.
It was reported by one of the committee members that by noon on Friday, March 3 (opening day), attendance was already above the level it had been for the entire day of the previous year. Attendance, in fact, was especially strong throughout all the three days of the show.
The choice of having the Leigh and Leslie Keno talk on “Hidden Treasures” on Saturday gave attendance a further boost. The talk was sold out with standing room only two days prior to the event. Speculation has it that even though the cost of the lecture was more than $12,000, it was a moneymaker for the show. Oscar Ryder, the show ‘s chairperson, reported in a phone interview that show attendance was 3,200, up 60 percent from the previous year.
The fine loan exhibit, “The Flowering of Fashionable Taste,” which featured textiles and design influences of the colonial era, was expertly displayed by Ms Newbold Richardson and became the focal point of many of the visitors. “Newbie” is a legend in Alexandria as an expert in dressmaking.
Since there was a total of only eight first-time exhibitors and the floor plan was modified to accommodate four new dealers, we would conclude that few dealers want to drop Alexandria, even though there are other good shows competing for this busy weekend.
New dealers included the Finnegan Gallery, specializing in garden furniture and accessories; Russ Gurari of the Gurari Collection, offering prints; Jerry Hayes from Oklahoma, offering majolica; Ile de France with French provincial rdf_Descriptions; James Kochan with military rdf_Descriptions; Port ‘n Starboard Gallery from Falmouth, Maine; Sommerville House Antiques from Burlington, Vt.; and Dana Tillou fine art. We wondered if Dana (who reported excellent sales) is not trying to follow in the footsteps of his nephew Jeffery Tillou, a return exhibitor.
Alexandria is definitely a show to watch in the future. The exhibitors are diverse, the attendance grows every year, and those energetic committee members seem to endlessly succeed with their ambitious projects.
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