Published: March 22, 2011
A dapper-looking Darien Antiques Show, the 44th annual, once again attracted a large and appreciative crowd over the weekend of March 4. Kicking the event off with a well-attended preview party, the show not only enjoyed a steady gate over the course of the next two days, but also steady sales.
In the very capable hands of volunteer management, this show has evolved into one of the most formative antiques events in lower Fairfield County. Co-managed by an enthusiastic trio of volunteers from the First Congregational Church of Darien, Patricia Hedlund, Molly O’Brien and Janet Soskin, the show takes place in the rambling church school facility. Hosting just under 40 exhibitors, the Darien show is diverse in its offering, all the while catering to the affluent local crowd.
The Darien Antiques Show opened to a large crowd of supporters on Friday evening and the managers were pleased to report that it was not strictly a social event, that there was also a good deal of buying going on around the floor. Hedlund reported more than 250 in attendance and said that among the notable sales was a set of Georgian silver flatware selling from the booth of Martin Chasen and going to a local couple. She also noted, aside from a large assortment of smaller items, a “significant bauble” that sold from the stand of Southampton, N.Y., jewelry dealer Brad Reh.
Hedlund was “thrilled” with the outcome of the show, even more so with its appearance. “The antiques market has shifted away from the brown furniture that was popular many years ago and this show has evolved with the times,” she said. “There is a regional aesthetic in our area and we work very hard to make sure it is well represented in our show.”
Dealers and management echoed that the people who come to the Darien show are not likely to be seen elsewhere, a select group of affluent local people looking for chic additions for their homes and/or summer houses. Many are local supporters, but, as everyone agrees, it is a quality crowd that is genuinely interested in the merchandise on the floor.
“We have a wonderful mix of dealers,” stated Hedlund as she glanced around the entranceway where there was a selection of formal, traditional, modern and country furniture displayed in one of many areas that house the show.
The trio of managing ladies are energetic to say the least, covering every promotional and facilitative angle imaginable, everything from home-cooked food for the café to innovative ways of attracting new clients to the show. More than 100 volunteers come together to make the event a success. Looking to expand the show’s audience, interior decorators and architects from Connecticut’s Gold Coast were sent letters inviting them to attend the show and exalting its virtues. Hedlund also noted that real estate agents were seen on the show floor with clients in tow. “And they bought,” she said.
The first of the rooms to attract shoppers was a small room adjacent to the show’s entrance that was occupied by David and Donna Kmetz of Douglas, Mass., and local dealer Jane McLane. Art was featured in the Kmetz booth, with a good selection of paintings depicting a variety of land- and seascapes. The other side of the room was occupied by McLane, who displayed a variety of silver. The wife of the late antiques promoter/enthusiast Hal McLane, Jane announced through management that she would be retiring and that this would be her last time exhibiting at Darien after showing there for the past 25 consecutive years.
Another participant in the show who has also been exhibiting in Darien for more than 25 years is Patricia Barger. The Fairfield dealer brought along a good selection of period furniture that ranged from slant lid desks to tall case clocks, and also a variety of paintings. Barger was another to announce her last appearance in Darien due to retirement.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, two dealers new to the show circuit made their first appearance at Darien, Find Weatherly of Stamford, Conn., and North Haven, Conn., dealer William Macina. The latter, an owner of a group shop and a flea market manager, displayed a wide variety of materials that ranged from historical blue Staffordshire to a graduated set of painted pantry boxes. The dealer was seen making numerous sales, including a rare Roseville flower vase and early Stieff animals, as the doors to the show opened to the public.
In an adjacent room, Find Weatherly was set up with a variety of furnishings ranging from a swell front chest to a tiger maple Queen Anne highboy. Folky items in the booth included a large eagle weathervane and a hooked runner that featured a variety of vignettes ranging from the barnyard scenes to sailing ships at sea. A Manhattan attorney for the past 20 years, Find Weatherly proprietor Ann Wilbanks was clearly enthusiastic in regard to her first show.
While having exhibited at numerous bottle and glass shows, Orange, Conn., dealer Bruce Mitchell was displaying at his first traditional antiques show. The dealer, who is also the current president of the Westchester Glass Club and a graduate of the Yale Divinity School, was seen “wrapping stuff for customers all weekend.” Blown three-mold decanters, pressed glass compotes and canary Sandwich candlesticks were reportedly popular items in the booth.
Orleans, Mass., dealer William Nickerson reportedly “almost sold his booth out,” according to management, with sales starting on preview night and ending just prior to packout.
One dealer whose sales extended beyond regular show hours was Macon, Ga., dealer Donald Bethune. Management reported a customer returning to the show to reconsider an item after the show had closed late Sunday afternoon. “This person showed up at the door five minutes before we officially closed and said she wanted to look at a pair of plates in Donald’s booth,” stated Hedlund. “We looked them over and she ended up buying a wonderful pair of tobacco leaf pattern plates.”
Another attraction to the show was a free appraisal provided by Norwalk auctioneer Christine Downing. All of the proceeds from the Darien Antiques Show are donated to charity; this year’s beneficiary was St Luke’s Lifeworks.
“Every year this show has grown stronger and stronger,” said Hedlund, who without a hint of doubt in her voice proclaimed, “and it will be even stronger next year.”
For further information, www.darienantiqueshow.org or 203-655-0491.
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