Published: March 26, 2002
By Fran Kramer
MIAMI, FLA. – January – In the antiques world you are either in New York City or Florida. It’s the Big Apple and its core of high profile antiques shows and auctions or the Sunshine State and its sunspots of 50 shows (as listed in the Antiques & Art Around Florida magazine, and do not leave for Florida without it), from Naples to Jacksonville. Where would you rather be?
For South American and European antiquers, for American “snowbird” dealers and collectors, the choice often was Florida, at one of the Big Three in the Miami area, the so-called “Beach Show,” the Miami National (Radisson) Show and the Coconut Grove Show.
Usually one full week in Florida gets you the Big Three, but this year, for various reasons, they were spread out throughout the month of January. There was problem number one.
Then, unstable economies in the Southern hemisphere, coupled with Europeans’ reluctance to fly to America, not to mention problems with the US economy and the country’s reluctance to fly, all combined to make attendance down and selling modest. Those were problems two, three and four.
One dealer who preferred not to be named told us that the antiques market was at a crossroads. It was becoming a survival, not a challenge. Older people came to Florida shows to see how much their things were worth and younger people were only looking at price tags with little knowledge of quality.
Another dealer told us that over the past five shows he lost money and felt he was working only for the promoters.
Yes, there were rays of light, as some dealers at the four shows we visited the last full week of January, like Orkney & Yost of Connecticut, told us that they almost sold out their booth at a Naples show.
The first show we visited, the D.C. Clarke Miami Antiques Show at the Coconut Grove Convention Center, January 24-27, did not start out well. The show was scheduled to open for a two-day early buy at $25 per person, a partial benefit for the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, according to the ads. The weekend before the show, however, promoter Bud Maron ran corrected ads in the Miami paper – “Due to circumstances beyond our control, the show will open to the public on Saturday, January 26, and there will be no early buying days.”
Why? According to Maron, a conflict with the schedule of another monthly antiques event on the site, and having to wait so many days after it for his event. He explained that because the first two days of his show were not technically open to the public, but only to the trade, he thought he would be within the rules.
But other promoters did not agree and the Convention Center said Maron’s show could not officially open until Saturday. Some exhibitors learned of this a few weeks prior, some learned as they arrived to set up.
What about patrons? Well, a lot of people showed up Thurs-day morning. Maron says that those who were “invited” by exhibitors or by him, that is, “known” to exhibitors or to him, were allowed in, contributing the early buyer’s fee.
Needless to say, it was very confusing and did not make for very good PR. In addition, only about 150 of the usual 750 exhibitors showed up, citing reasons from the economy to not making enough money at the earlier January shows to pay their booth rent ($900 to $1,500) at the Grove.
Maron has been a promoter for more than 20 years and says everything sold at his shows has a money back guarantee. He says that this year has been “crazy,” but one has to roll with the punches and carry on.
“This may be the first show I have every lost money on, but you have to think positive,” he said. His show was a typical large Florida show, with tribal and Oriental art, jewelry, lots and lots of china and porcelain, fancy accessories and linens.
Some specialties included vintage eyewear and sport memorabilia, and some rather unusual dealers like Dynamic Deco, Carlisle, Penn., who sells to moviemakers and was doing only his fourth show ever. His 1909, 101-foot-long oak barber counter built by J Lane and Company, Baltimore, attracted a lot of attention. Actor Andy Griffith bought it. We do not know if he got any discount from the $9,500 ticket price.
Next was the Zita Waters Bell Boca Fine Arts and Antiques Show at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, which ran January 25-27.
This small (33-dealer), high quality show, in its third year, had a preview party January 24. A benefit for the Inventors’ Society, of which Zita’s daughter is the president, it offered room setting booths in two large areas of a college campus building.
Zita told us that she promotes only three shows, and is trying to develop the Boca venue, which caters to young affluent collectors with developing tastes. She admitted the location was tough (finding the right building was a bit of a challenge for patrons and construction did not exactly create an aesthetic environment).
Zita has had a long run with very fine small shows in Florida and so when we asked the possibility of her retiring, she said, “When I am 90.”
Dealers came from New York, Virginia, Texas, Ohio, Maryland, California, Georgia and Canada with the majority from Florida. Persian carpets, fine art, rare books and vintage linens were available. The Linen Merchant, Walnut Creek, Calif., told us a great story about a prominent collector who came to his booth last year in Palm Beach and inquired about a rare Italian turn-of-the-century tablecloth. When told the price, $38,000, she demurred, only to call later and find it had sold! Then the buyer purchased the three sets of matching placemats for another $4,200.
At noon January 25 we were in Pompano Beach, for Bob Smith’s Dolphin Promotions Pompano Beach Winter Antiques Show.
The venue, the Civic Center, was an old friend from the days when promoter Henrietta McClellan ran great county shows there. But Henrietta is living the good life now, no more show promotion, and you know the old saying, “You can’t go home again.”
Smith’s show had about 36 dealers and lots of table-top merchandise, including oak and china, dolls and jewelry, and collectibles.
One of the few furniture dealers, The Colony Shop, Fayetteville, N.Y., was very candid. He said that he was trying to figure out where the business was going since September 11. “The business is there, I just have to find it. I have to change my way of doing business. Dealers are not buying, so there are some really good deals out there.”
The Colony Shop is a long-time Syracuse area dealer, emphasizing formal Empire and Victorian furniture and accessories.
The last show in this long weekend was the Scott Antique Markets January 25-27 event at the Fair Expo Center west of Miami.
Referred to by another promoter as the “swamp show,” because of its proximity to the Everglades, the event offered 20 to 30 dealers outside and another 100-plus inside. The Expo Center is large, well-lit and offers a lot of space. Once again, however, it is “location, location, location,” and most Miami area collectors do not associate this venue with an antiques show. It was close to the Miami airport and an interstate, but this did not help the show traffic.
Don Scott, a personable promoter best known for his Atlanta markets, admitted the venue had been a gamble. He said it was his first and probably his last time there, although he said the Expo Center personnel had been very supportive. Scott feels good about his January 4-6 Tampa show and said it was mobbed.
Notable at this show was the quantity of furniture, especially in proportion to the number of dealers. Mostly imported English/Continental formal pieces from Atlanta-area dealers who do Scott’s other shows. Atlanta must be hot for large formal wardrobes and tables and sideboards.
Florida offers another 40-plus antiques events in February, and hopefully the sunshine will lure more patrons. But, as one dealer told us (and he does NOT make a living at antiques), he was here for the sun and sand, and if he sold, fine. If he did not, well, there was always the sun and the sand. But not all dealers live in sandcastles.
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