By Carol Sims
FARMINGTON, CONN- Farmington Antiques Weekend on September 1 and 2 brought together about 11,500 shoppers and 495 dealers from all over the Northeast as well as a few dealers from the South and the Midwest. It was a magnificent weekend of enterprising commerce. The selection of antiques was impressive, in spite of the built-in weather hazards of doing an outdoor show.
With two gorgeous 72-degree days, breezy but not windy, the weather was made to order. According to John Jenkins of Jenkins Management, about 1000 people came between the hours of 7 and 10 am for early buying on Saturday. Regular admission beginning at 10 am on Saturday brought in enthusiastic shoppers by the thousands. Jenkins stated that ”the turnout on Sunday was phenomenal.”
Some new dealers brought in rdf_Descriptions that have not been seen at the show in years past, making for some pleasant surprises. For example, Buckboard Antiques, of Westville, Mass brought beautiful buggies, sleighs, and wagons. Because of the size of their merchandise, the dealer waited ten years to get a space on the parking lot edge of the show before trying Farmington. Every sleigh and buggy he offered was fully operational.
Returning dealers, who make up the bulk of the show, imbued it with a sense of continuity and cordial familiarity. For most of these folks, Farmington is a relaxed and worthwhile show. Shoppers could navigate the well-marked polo field and seek out dealers with a particular type of merchandise by using the show’s buyer’s guide.
Dealer feedback on the show indicates that most dealers were very pleased with the show. Court Smith of Greystone Cottage Antiques, Winchester, VA ventured back to Farmington for the first time ”since the big storm” and was glad to have returned. ”I had a lot of dealer sales from dealers heading to Brimfield on Sunday and pushed my show totals to a let’s say ‘I can’t wait for the next Farmington Show.’ ”
”They put so much effort into making it a win-win for the dealers and the shoppers, like the new set up, porter service, happy people working for them, willing to do what it takes to make the show a success,” Smith continued.
Cassandra and George Gorton of Hodge Podge Lodge – ”A Little Bit of Everything,” Durham, Conn. sold sterling flatware and hollowware and several lamps. Since they only do four shows a year and two of those are Farmington, they were a little concerned after hearing from some dealers that shows were way off this year. It turned out that they had an excellent show. ”Sunday’s sales were without question the strongest we’ve ever seen at Farmington,” wrote the Gortons after the show. ”Strong as the gates and our sales were, there was, however, a noticeable absence of both New York and Boston area shoppers,” reported the Gortons.
Jackie and Michael Robinson of Miller-Robinson Antiques sold to the trade and to private collectors. ”We sold a wonderful Windsor chair to a dealer, and a large, four-gallon Norton and Fenton jug to a collector. Both those sales occurred on Saturday. On Sunday, we retailed a cupboard, and placed some yellowware with the trade.”
Doug Schmitt from Lake Ariel, Pa., sold 13 pieces of furniture. ”At Farmington I sold furniture for the bedroom, dining room, parlor and office. Things have been moving quite well for us this month and I hope that it is a sign that the economy is holding strong in the antique market.”
Schmitt specializes in restoring and refinishing old oak furniture. He is of the camp that believes in giving furniture a new life by stripping off peeling paint and bringing back a glossy wood surface that you can run your hand over without fear. ”People are so afraid of refinishing anything that’s old. Some pieces shouldn’t be touched. The pieces that I sell are not in that category.” He sells pieces that are about a hundred years old.
Ellen Ruck of Colony Farm Antiques, Chester N.J. had a ”GREAT” Farmington. She said, ”we appreciate the knowledgeable shoppers from local Connecticut vicinities who live in period homes and have a natural eye for antiques and countryside, with disposable income to spend.”
Colony Farm Antiques sold Eighteenth Century pewter mugs and plates, advertising tin cans, a woolly Welsh sampler, brass spring pocket scales, medical inhaler, wood trade signs, figural trade signs, and woven Jacquard coverlet pillows.
”One thing that surprises us but we got a hint of in June [at] Farmington was our sales in the special area of English black and white transferware of pot lids, ointment cups, apothecary rdf_Descriptions, toothpaste containers, and remedy jars. These beautiful transfer under glaze wares found in Victorian underground dumps are hot collectibles on today’s market and we have to hustle to keep the best and rarest on demand. One woman swooped in and scooped up six of the most expensive rdf_Descriptions in this category ranging from $100-350–as did others. A Grimwade pudding mold was sneaked home for a Christmas present in green transfer. Some of these rdf_Descriptions are so scarce, I may only obtain one or two examples in several years of searching–and they always sell, first time out,” continued Ruck. One of the secrets of their success might be that they bring two cargo vans, replenishing merchandise 5 pm on Saturday.
Tom and Beth Snyder, Bethany, Conn., are hopeful that the new owners will bring back the glory days of the show. ”It has always had an energy and excrdf_Descriptionent associated with it. I’d love to see that recaptured, and I hope the new promoters are up to the challenge.” They pointed out that the number of dealers is down. ”Farmington has not really bounced back from the storm of a couple of years ago in June,” continued Tom, who also feels that the economic climate in Connecticut is still affecting sales.
Michele Piccolo of Dusty’s in Holland, Mass., is new to Farmington. (June of 2001 was her first show). She specializes in vintage textiles and was set up in the textile tent, something that Laurel Mckenny of Jenkins Management started. When the Jenkinses invited her to exhibit at Farmington in June she readily agreed, having done shows with them in Nashville, Ohio and Indiana. ”If these folks hadn’t bought the show, I never could have tried it. The old management had a policy that you couldn’t exhibit until a dealer with like merchandise left the show.”
According to Piccolo, the textile tent brought in new customers who hadn’t ever shopped Farmington before. She sold lots of her white linens. On sale at the end to the summer season were her brightly colored tablecloths, towels and handkerchiefs from the 40s and 50s. These were wonderful. After World War II there was a great deal of optimism and people wanted happy colorful textiles. Motorists collected textiles with icons printed on them as state souvenirs. The cloths are mostly bright white, with brilliant colorfast dyes used for the designs.
Textile dealers weren’t limited to the textile tent. Many wanted to keep their traditional tent spots. There were five dealers selling rugs, four selling samplers, about eight selling quilts, etc. Shoppers had a good selection. ”We have a real camaraderie,” said Piccolo, ”if a customer was looking for something specific that we didn’t have [in the textile tent] we would direct them to the right dealer.”