Published: July 24, 2012
The July 10‱5 session of Brimfield, the unique trading mecca for antiques enthusiasts, was heating up in more ways than one with good collections from the exhibitors and reasonable buying from the customers. Summer Brimfield, as this installment of the thrice yearly collection of about 20 shows is called, draws its own group of sellers and buyers, many of who consider this a vacation week, in many cases taking time off from regular jobs to shop and hang out, to mix and mingle with friends while collecting fresh merchandise, collectibles and inventories to take home or put into their own shops.
Collections for the week were ready for the summer buyers, who, according to a group of dealers in discussion, were “more of a retail crowd, people buying to take the pieces home to keep.”
Jared Chicoine, Woodsville, N.H., shared a booth in the Vermont Tent at Green Acres with his friend, auctioneer Josh Steenburgh from Pike, N.H. Chicoine had as one of his key pieces a Nineteenth Century child’s chair in black paint. Steenburgh was showing several large pieces of furniture, including a long raised bench and several places of primitive furniture.
Grand Trunk is a relative newcomer, as the field has only been in business for a few years. Even so, with good frontage on the main street of the Brimfield shows, there was good activity early in the week.
Natalie Warner’s 1843 House Antiques, Springfield, Mass., was selling from a streetside tent. Her collection of small antiques included early copper and iron kitchen equipment, early food choppers and granite ware.
Central Park opened Tuesday morning at first light. Offering early American home furnishings, some newcomers were filling in at spaces in this large show. Blue Dog Antiques, Stafford Springs, Conn., was showing its updated collection, which now focuses on early small home accessories with just a small amount of furniture. The dealers, Sy and Jude Stallmach, collect a good deal of early woodenware, and there was an assortment of early brooms.
Nearby, Carl Fuller, East Falmouth, Mass., was showing early furniture with an emphasis on early paint. Rich Fuller, Royalton, Vt., was showing a collection of primitive furniture, which was selling well early in the show.
Faxon’s Midway is the field next to Faxon’s Antiques Center, which is open all year. The field, opening for the week on Tuesday morning, has been a fixture for many dealers for more than 20 years. Livio Cillo, Darlington, Md., was showing some of his collection of early firearms. Wilbraham, Mass., dealer Doug Burr was in a streetside tent there selling early New England furniture and accessories.
In total, about a dozen fields opened at dawn on Tuesday with no admission charge. At 11 am, Dealers Choice opened its gates for a large crowd with about 300 exhibiting dealers and their collections ready to sell. Lori Faxon, manager and co-owner with Tom Faxon, said her gate was typical for July, with more exhibitors than last year at the same time.
Mark Hughes, a new dealer to the show from Kent, Ohio, was busy selling furniture and small antique décor accessories. Business partners Bill Grotheer and Brandon Levine, Huntington, N.Y., had early furniture and accessories. Levine has been building his inventory in Chinese Export porcelain and also porcelain and glassware from Austria and Czechoslovakia.
Sandy Jacobs, Swampscott, Mass., was offering a collection of miniature paintings from the first half of the Nineteenth Century at the Shed in Dealers Choice. Stuart Magdefrau, Ellington, Conn., sold several early Windsor bowback chairs there. Fishers Antiques, Fishers, Ind., sold several pieces from a collection of smalls, including several early Nineteenth Century toys and miniature brass candlesticks.
Brimfield Acres North opened as usual at 1 pm with a good rush from the waiting crowd of hundreds of shoppers. The field, now managed by Robert Hopfe and his daughter, Suzanne Rohrbacher, was also at typical summer show capacity with several hundred exhibiting dealers.
Near the front was Sean McGann, Manchester, Conn., with a collection of early country décor and a large room-size braided rug in red, white and blue.
The whole Straight family was at its usual spot in front of the gate with a variety of colonial era furniture and accessories. Dave Straight is also an auctioneer in Sturbridge, Mass., with periodic sales conducted at the Host Hotel there; next sale is July 30.
Mario Pollo and several friends were sharing a couple spaces across the aisle from Straight with their early furniture, folk art and even a few pieces of Outsider art.
It was a “July-size” crowd, according to Marie Doldoorian, show manager at New England Motel, and enthusiasm was high as shoppers streamed through the gates and onto the field at 6 am. The hot and humid weather forecast for later in the week held off for much of the day, so both dealers and their patrons were comfortably conducting commerce in this first of the Wednesday fields to open.
As the day got underway, Janet and Virgil Andrews of New Bedford, Mass., who do business as Digger’s Antiques, were getting a lot of interest in a barn find they had recently acquired at auction in Andover, Mass. “There are hundreds of specimens in this butterfly cabinet,” explained Virgil Andrews as he pointed out a late 1800s cabinet featuring some 60 drawers, each with several mounted butterfly specimens mounted under glass. “Some of the butterflies have labels starting at 1905,” said the dealer.
The age-old challenge of how to draw customers in was being met creatively by Cora Brown, Cross Century Antiques, a silver specialist from Sudbury, Mass. She was set up in one of the three covered pavilions at the Motel, and had placed a table just outside the pavilion entrance with a great gleaming heap of unmatched flatware and serving pieces and a sign that read “$1 each †6 for $5.” “It’s a draw,” she said, “a conversation starter.”
So who shops for unmatched silver tableware? “I have one customer, an artist from upper New York State, who buys 10,000 pieces a year from me to use in his sculptures. I recently had another customer, a woman, who selected unique vintage pieces for place settings at a wedding dinner,” she said.
Another interesting display was pair of bergere chairs from the 1920s-30s that had been stripped down and reupholstered with fabric repurposed from antique US laundry bags, unmistakably stamped “US” in stenciled black lettering. Melody Morales and her husband Ed of Jefferson, Md., have created a business taking antique furniture and reupholstering it with fabric that is not only repurposed but also lends an air of American pride.
Heart-O-The Mart, the second of the Wednesday fields, opened at 9 am, part of the synchronization of shows that keeps shoppers crisscrossing Route 20 during the week and augmenting the week’s 4,000-exhibitor extravaganza.
Owned and managed by Pam and Don Moriarty, the show is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, having joined the Brimfield collective in July 1982. Back then, there were just six exhibitors set up along the spot on Route 20, according to company lore, but today it claims to be Brimfield’s third largest with about 500 exhibitors.
Out on the field just before the show opened, Ron Fennick, a New York City dealer who specializes in vintage luggage, trunks and cases, was fine tuning a unique display of vintage studio recording gear that brought to mind images of Perry Como and Frank Sinatra. Among his treasures were RCA microphones from the 1940s, including an iconic 44-BX ribbon-type mic and another model that was attached to a boom. A highlight was an original RCA 44-BX body mounted to a stand that was once the property of the late West Coast broadcast executive Walter B. Lake, who passed away this past January.
At noon sharp, David Lamberto, owner of Hertan’s Antique Shows, rang the bell just outside the show office for the 18th time (the late Jean Hertan, wearing her traditional white hat, had commenced each show by ringing the bell until her passing in 2006). The bell’s pealing set dealers and shoppers alike into action. Exhibitors are prohibited from displaying their merchandise until the show officially begins, so as the bell rings, popup tent sides and tarps are pulled up to reveal the day’s treasures.
Hertan’s is the last of the Wednesday fields to open, and one can find more in the way of Americana, country furniture and primitives here. M&J Antiques of Pomfret, Conn., showed an antique foot warmer with a great punched tin design and a folky sailboat weathervane that initially caused some head-scratching. The directionals were rendered N, S, W and D. D? The dealer explained that the vane had been created by a grandfather for his grandkids, whose initials those were. Jack and Dirinda Houghton, owners of Turnpike Antiques, Madison, N.Y., filled their space with early cupboards, primitives, country furniture and accessories, while Samuel Herrup of Sheffield, Mass., displayed a rare cedar sugar box from Louisiana, circa 1840s, constructed with an array of tiny holes in the base and a drawer to catch the sweet morsels as they fell through.
The day started out hot and if the crowds seemed a bit light, then rest assured it was serious buyers who made up the greater part of the crowd traversing the field. Running or jogging inside as soon as the gates opened at 9 am, buyers quickly made their way to a specific destination.
The lure of the merchandise quickly set down on tables at M.A. Storck, Portland, Maine, stationed as always along the main corridor about a 10-second’s sprint from the entrance gate, proved to be too great to resist. Within minutes, a queue of buyers fanned in front of the table, ogling cases of smalls, silver and estate jewelry. The dealers were soon peppered with queries and offers.
The mix of merchandise throughout Brimfield is eclectic in July, less heavy on Americana perhaps, but always interesting. Choice offerings spotted ranged from the old tin track toys with windup cars some of us can recall playing with as a child to a finely carved blanket chest and country quilts.
A sprinkling of Americana could be found in several booths. Steve Smoot Antiques, Lancaster, Penn., offered a quartet of fine tramp art boxes along with nice game boards in good paint, while a funky ampersand sign was an attention grabber; over at Greg Kramer, Robesonia, Penn., a carved wood handled bowl from the early to mid-Nineteenth Century, formerly property of a New Jersey museum, was featured. Jewett-Berdan, Newcastle, Maine, highlighted several fine hooked rugs and a good sampling of primitives, smalls and fine quilts.
It was all smiles for Jill Lukesh and Judith Mathieu as the crowds began forming lines under sunny skies on Friday morning at the entrances to the J&J Auction Acres. The vast majority of the field was brimming with quality merchandise ranging from kitsch and cool to good and grand. A good crowd was on hand for the opening with collector Joel Schiff once again leading the charge as the shopper at the head of the line. At 8 am it was off to the races as the crowd descended onto the field.
Dealers seemed to be selling well, and a wide variety of material was being toted off the field by a host of porters. Several dealers we spoke with reported good sales throughout the week, with the highlight being the J&J market. Specialty items such as art pottery found a good audience with Scheier pottery in the booth of Good Vintage Collectibles, Swampscott, Mass., selling well. The dealers also offered a good selection of works by other regional studio potters as well as a selection of Rookwood and Roseville.
Vintage New England, Canton, Conn., offered up a good assortment of early painted furniture and Paul Smith, Harlan, Iowa, displayed a collection of colorful children’s sand buckets with lively litho decoration.
The small town of Brimfield has returned to normal, the town the locals love, for the time being. It will return as an antiques mecca, the town collectors and dealers love, from September 4 through 9. Additional information may be found at www.brimfield.com .
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