Published: March 15, 2011
Gaylord’s Opryland USA was ready with full support for the February 17‱9, Heart of Country Antiques Show in spite of massive and destructive floods last April, when water was as deep as 30 feet in some areas of the complex. Susan Kramer Hunkins, show owner and daughter of the founders Elizabeth and Richard Kramer, attended the reopening of the facility in December and was pleased and a little relieved at the work done by Gaylord, its workers and contractors who had the hotel and convention center in what appeared to be full service at show time.
The show, according to Hunkins, was at its best of the last few years with more than 60 exhibits and a large audience, assisted to some degree by having the other shows of this famous Nashville Antiques Week again on the same weekend. “It seemed that everyone was so happy,” she said after the show, “with great antiques, good sales and just having a really good time!”
“There was one woman at the front of the line who has been to every show for the 30-year history and she comes from Anchorage, Alaska!” Susan reported.
Many dealers were polled during the show and soon after with reports that agreed with Susan. Tex Johnson Antiques, Adamstown, Penn., was represented by her son, Kris, who said “Nashville was more this year than last. With the promoters getting together, there were more people here than last year, more antiques for them to choose from, and there was a lot more buying.” Their sales were dominated by small antiques, as that has been their collection for many years.
A newcomer to antiques shows as a dealer instead of as a manager, Bettianne Sweeney, Williamsburg, Va., was selling large items with large values. One sale she directly attributed to her ad in Antiques and The Arts Weekly was a spring mechanism child’s hobby horse that was shown in her own advertisement in the February 4 edition. A customer came to the show looking for it and did in fact buy the $3,500 item. Sweeney also sold a valuable early Massachusetts or New Hampshire tap table and several hooked rugs. Sweeney is not new to the business as she has been running an antiques show in Williamsburg, Va., for nearly 30 years.
Simply Iowa had an “amazing show,” according to the owner, Barb Connor. From Fairfax, Iowa, she has been exhibiting at Heart for ten years, but this was according to her, “The best show I’ve ever had in my life.” She sold a very large Swedish corner cupboard, circa 1750, the sofa sitting upon the table, which she said was from the Amana Colony in the later part of the Nineteenth Century, among other items.
Athens, Ala., exhibitor Brenda Daniel sold a large variety of baskets, tagged at various prices up to $4,000, several carved wooden bowls in original paint, many smalls and a room size braided rug. She even sold an unusual tool, called a frog splatter, for, well, splatting frogs to be used as bait. It was a curved stick about four feet long, hardwood, flattened at one end to best do its job.
Although their exhibit was focused on the big furniture in a room setting, Judy and Charles Warren “did well selling smaller things,” Judy said. Trading as Stonecrop Antiques in Mount Crawford, Va., with a shop on the well-traveled Route 11; they sold several very significant pieces, including a Virginia writing cabinet and a miniature Chippendale chest of drawers.
Driving together and sharing one exhibit space were David Proctor, Brookfield, N.H., and Steve Cirillo, Montgomery, Mass., two dealers who both collect and trade in early primitive American furniture and accessories. According to Proctor, their sales were “good, very good. We sold the wall during the preview opening Thursday evening, several wall boxes, early lighting and also the blanket chest.” He added they continued selling right up to the closing Saturday evening when a small William and Mary-period drop leaf table sold.
Typically this annual event brings together exhibitors from at least half the country with slightly different tastes and styles for their inventory. The Buckinghams, Burleson, Texas, usually have early painted furniture. At this show, they showed an early tall cupboard in old blue paint. Coming from the Chicago area, Susan and Rod Bartha had a good collection of Nineteenth Century furniture and accessories. One of their largest pieces was an early hutch or dining room cabinet decorated with antlers.
From Baraboo, Wis., Walter Scott was selling early Remington firearms and even an early iron sign from the Remington factory. Sandy Worrell, Houston, was showing her early hunt board and a small hutch, both Southern pieces, although probably not of Texas origin.
Susan Kramer Hunkins has been maintaining some of this show’s traditions as well as building the marketing activity for the show. One feature she has reinstituted is the “Under $200” booth. Managed by a few people, it is a large exhibit space in the back corner of the show where dealers consign antiques for sale priced under $200. This was always a very popular feature in the past when it was begun by her mother, Libby, the show’s founder, and it proved to be a big hit again this year. Many customers went dashing into it as the show opened Thursday evening to check out what the bargains were, and there were many.
After a few years of the Nashville shows not being held at the same time, togetherness was a very good thing this year, according to customers and dealers alike, prompting more antiques and more attendance at all the shows. Heart of Country and the Nashville Expo Shows will again be in February next year, but early, February 2‴.
For more information, www.heartofcountry.com or 314-962-8580.
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