Veteran antiques dealer and show promoter Robert W. “Bob” Armacost died Friday, February 11, at his home. Born April 26, 1937, he ran Armacost Antiques Shows for more than 20 years, which is known for its shows in Annapolis and Alexandria, Va., the Brandywine River Museum Antiques Show in Chadds Ford, Penn., and the Hunt Valley Antiques Show in Timonium, Md.
A memorial service, organized by the show committee and dealers, is planned to take place during the Hunt Valley Antiques Show, which was one of the flagship shows he ran and described by an associate as his “pride and joy.” The show is running this weekend at The Crowne Plaza.
After retiring from his first career in schools administration in Baltimore, Armacost became an antiques dealer in the 1970s and did many shows under Peggy Stewart in the mid-Atlantic area, recalled Bob James, who owned and operated Armacost Antiques Shows from 2007 to 2010, at which time Armacost bought back his company.
James believes that when Stewart was ready to retire, circa 1984, she approached Armacost to propose he take over her shows. Armacost ran the shows ever since until 2007, when James took over. The company was 40 years old that year and its Alexandria, Va., show is its longest-running event at around 60 years old.
“Bob ran shows all over the country: East, West, North, South. He was all over the place. People always associate his shows with a very definite look. His shows were very elegant high-end midmarket shows,” James said, noting that a review of early show catalogs indicates several of Armacost’s early dealers went on to do shows like The Winter Show.
The most common word used to describe Armacost by friends and dealers seems to “gentleman.”
“The trade has lost an eminently kind and considerate individual. People who knew Bob Armacost never seemed to fail to add the word ‘gentleman’ when referring to him,” said James.
Dealer Joy Ruskin Hanes said she has known Armacost longer than her husband, as their friendship dates back to 1978 when both were doing shows. “We are devastated; he was the quintessential gentleman and a pleasure to be around. As a show manager, he couldn’t have been more fair or gentle with the dealers. He was always, always trying to improve everything, he was very conscientious,” she said.
Her favorite memory of him was in the early 1980s when both were doing a show out on Nantucket and with time to kill, the two went for a long and pleasant bicycle ride around the island.
Early on, Jay Eicholtz was a police officer and started doing security for Bob’s shows in 1981. Jay went on to work for Bob and started doing his booth construction in 1987. “He was just a prince of a man. Of everybody I worked for, he was the most talented, most efficient show manager&o likeable and so even tempered.”
Dealer John Fiske described Armacost as “a dealer’s dealer.” “He understood what a dealer wanted, needed to get from a show,” he continued. “He was also one of the show managers who enforced his quality rule. I’ve seen him take many a piece off his show floor because they didn’t meet his standards,” he said. “He was always low key but always approachable. He spent all of every day on the floor; you could always find him if you needed him.”
Joel Fletcher was a veteran of Armacost’s shows for more than 35 years. “He was always very professional, we were very sorry when he retired [in 2007],” he said. “He put on very high quality shows, he knew the business well.”
Funeral arrangements were pending at press time and are being handled by the Mitchell-Wiedefeld Funeral Home in Baltimore. Interment will be in St Paul’s Episcopal Church Cemetery in Chestertown, Md. ⁁VV