Published: May 24, 2022
Review & Onsite Photos by Madelia Hickman Ring, Z.G. Burnett, & Rick Russack
BRIMFIELD, MASS. – Rarely does an edition of the triannual Brimfield Antiques Flea Market take place without some form of weather event and for the spring 2022 showing, which took place at various fields on either side of Route 20 May 10-15, wind was the nominal challenge many dealers were talking about. There were strong enough gusts to shake paintings on a wall, blow over a rack of clothing or scatter anything that was not weighed down. Fortunately, they faded to cooling breezes by the end of the week, which saw consistent traffic throughout and ultimately, virtually ideal conditions.
Opening day at Dealers Choice on May 10 was what every Brimfield seller craves: sunny, not too hot, with scores of restless buyers lined up at the gates hours before opening at 11 am. Dealers Choice offers 425 booths and 70 pavilion spaces helmed by known dealers as well as those who have been buying at the field for years but are only just setting up shop for the first time. American antiques and folk art were prevalent, yet this season hosted an influx of vintage clothing dealers and customers of longtime sellers.
Like the objects they sell, dealers are an enduring lot. Bill Aumand of Bellows Falls, Vt., was in the field’s front row on a coveted corner spot, selling the stock from his shop that closed during the pandemic. Formerly known as Aumand’s Junktiques, Aumand now exclusively sells at shows. “My wife and I are loving it,” he added. In his booth, a Modern Company chair with original upholstery sat beside a cardboard box of church vestments.
In the same aisle, Paul Martin represented his eponymous antiques store in Haverhill, Mass. “I’ve been coming to this field for nearly 40 years,” Martin said, “This is just a sampling of what’s at the shop.”
The next generation of dealers was also on hand. Ashley Swift, daughter of Christopher W. Swift, was representing the family’s Long Island antiques and interior decorating business. The company has shown at Dealers Choice for 35 years, and Swift the younger has now taken the lead. Nearby, Steven Brown and Kenya Abdul-Hadi of The Modern Republic in North Philadelphia were celebrating their third show at Brimfield. New faces joining the steady favorites keep Dealers Choice fresh, a positive sign for the season’s next two shows.
New England Motel
Centrally located on the strip and food court adjacent, New England Motel is handily overseen by the Doldoorian family, who have owned the field since 1985. When Marie Doldoorian opened the field for the first time in 1986, there were just 12 dealers who occupied the space which now holds the food court. Over the past 36 years, it’s grown into one of the key fields at Brimfield and is open for five days, opening at 6 am on Wednesday, May 11 and closing at 5 pm each day through Sunday, May 15. The field has space for 400 booths, with many dealers booking adjacent ones to allow for a larger single presentation.
“I think it’s probably the best Brimfield in 15 years, and numerous people have said it’s the best Brimfield ever.” John Doldoorian said when we caught up with him before the field closed. “The good weather helped and it was the first May [edition] in three years. We had a good mix of new and returning dealers and [traffic] has been pretty consistent for a five-day show.”
Pat Raynock, Flower Field Farm, Buck’s County, Penn., was negotiating the sale of a modern sculpture as we walked through and pointed out a George Nelson wall clock that she had that was priced at $2,400. Across the aisle, Cape Cod resident John Booth had carved teakwood paneling from an Asian wedding bed that he was selling for $3,000.
A few booths down, Matt and Susan from Chelsea, R.I., had two vintage bars – complete with stools – that stood out from the rest of their offerings. They were offering several vintage groups of barware to complete the look.
In Wales, Mass., Susan Robinson has been making and selling hooked rugs for 25 years; she mostly sells on Etsy as Robinson’s Fruits of Labor but has been doing Brimfield for 11 or 12 years. In addition to her hooked rugs, her booth was filled with chairs of all vintages that she had reupholstered.
Many of the newer exhibitors began doing Brimfield with their parents. Such was the case with Ryan and Lisa Bard of Warwick, R.I. Ryan’s parents had been doing Brimfield for 30 years and he joined them four years ago. Their booth – “Life Uncommon” – stocked colorful vintage clothing, glass and ceramics.
Just across the street and down the road from New England Motel, Don and Pam Moriarty welcome vendors to Heart-O-The-Mart, which attracts a large crowd when it opens at 9 am on Wednesday.
“We sold out of space, and it was the largest [we’ve had] in a long time,” Don Moriarty said. “The vast majority of dealers had a great show. We had buyers from both Ralph Lauren and J. Crew set up to buy, and a gentleman from Belgium bought enough to fill the 50-foot trailer he brought. It’s been 30 years for our ‘E-tent,’ and it was a fantastic show for the 26 dealers in our textile tent.”
In a central corner booth on one of the main aisles, Furlong, Penn., dealer Artefact, had a nice suite of painted seating furniture with wicker bottoms and a Nineteenth Century double seater carousel horse that Richard Fehrs said he had bought from another dealer on the field.
Thomas Courtney has followed in the steps of father, Bob Courtney, now doing business as Courtney Auctions in Millbury, Mass. He had an impressive set of four Gothic revival chairs, some stained glass panels and a set of eight Harter Corporation Midcentury Modern chairs.
Brandon Nelson has been doing Brimfield for 20 years, always at Heart-O-The-Mart. He had a stunning George Nelson (no relation) designed Marshmallow Sofa in white leather that the Three Oaks, Mich., dealer said he had bought at Brimfield.
Shortly after the field opened, stoneware expert George Browning III was overheard saying he “had already had a great show.”
Thurston Nichols had an impressive large landscape by Clay Johnson and several circa 1830s needleworks, among many other things. He only does Heart-O-The-Mart and said business has been good.
Fritz Rohn and Dana Jennings, Montage Antiques, Millerton, N.Y., have been at Heart-O-The-Mart for 30 years, always under the “E Tent,” which Rohn said has always focused on “good quality decorative arts.” Within an hour of the show opening, a few red dots were spotted in their booth, including on a still life and a pair of fire chenets.
Jason Hietala, Lancaster, Mass., had several high-style pieces of furniture, including a Queen Anne high chest of drawers that had been owned by John Strong of Farmington. The piece was accompanied by the probate inventory for Strong’s estate, which was dated 1815, totaled $801 and included several pieces of furniture. Hietala had priced it at $9,500.
Brimfield Antique Shows – Hertan’s
Brimfield Antique Show, which formerly operated as Hertan’s, is owned by Klia Ververidis Chrisafulli, who likes to mix up the five days the field is open with various events to attract people to the field. In previous years, she has hosted an appraisal day with Antiques Roadshow appraiser, Leigh Keno; this edition saw the return of a themed dance party on Friday evening, live auctions on Thursday and new dealers who she dubbed “Weekend Warriors,” who came to the field for just Saturday and Sunday to fill in gaps left by exhibitors who only showed on the first day or so.
Like many field owners, Chrisafulli charges admission to the field just on the first day and said that about 8,000 attended the day it opened; that figure was comparable to the number of visitors who visited the field in July 2021.
Tommy Thompson, president of the New Hampshire Antiques Dealers Association, had a sign for “Free Bunnies” but when this reporter inquired, he said they’d all been freed. He divulged to Antiques and The Arts Weekly that he thinks charging people to get on the field makes a difference for the better as it focuses people on entering when the field opens as opposed to just strolling through. More people, more business.
Garo Papazian, Antique Soul Store, had several unusual things, among them a Brazilian hanging bark ceremonial figure that would have been used by Indigenous people, a pig weathervane, two 1920s basketball trophies, a pair of Civil War soldier andirons and, most spectacularly a Daphne table lamp with stained glass shade signed E. Thomasson. It had sold by the time we returned to the field a few days later.
A few steps inside the main gate, Steve and Michelle Young, Everything 4 Everyone out of Danbury, N.H., were busy from the moment the field opened. Of interest were sets of mushroom-themed crockery, a large silverplated punchbowl and a painting titled “Salisbury Marshes” by G.A. Randall, which was dated 1884. By the weekend, the punchbowl, painting and most of the mushroom-themed pieces had been snapped up.
John Zannini was a fashion designer for 30 years and a creative director for Ralph Lauren menswear. Now the owner of Salt MV out of Vineyard Haven, Mass., he and his partner, Jenifer Strachan, specialize in vintage denim. A particular skill Zannini has cultivated over years designing fashion is the ability to find the right size for a client within minutes. A few weeks before Brimfield opened, he had the brilliant idea to create t-shirts and hats for Brimfield. They sold like hotcakes.
“Weekend Warriors” had been billed as offering 100 new vendors to the field, a number that was optimistic; Chrisafulli said she only got 45 to attend but it was clear that they brought new energy and returning shoppers to the field. Many that Antiques and The Arts Weekly talked to had never shown at Brimfield before, though all were longtime shoppers and all were thrilled to be there.
“At May’s everyone is an early buyer.” That’s the tag line May’s uses in all their advertising. What it means is that exhibitors are not permitted to put out their merchandise until 9 am – the same time the field opens to the hordes of buyers. That levels the playing field and everyone has “first crack” at the offerings. What could you have found at the Thursday, May 12 edition of the show? Almost anything since there are hundreds of booths: early furniture, Asian porcelains and bronzes, tin toys, pedal cars, vintage clothing, sporting collectibles, silver, musical instruments, stoneware, sporting collectibles, art pottery, midcentury items, fruit jars, early glass…you get the idea.
May’s has been in business since 1977. It’s a family business, now run by second generation family members. More than 40 years ago, Laura and Richard May saw the opportunity for another show in Brimfield, shortly after the original Gordon Reid show demonstrated the level of interest from exhibitors and attendees. Their first show had 20 dealers – this one had hundreds. Laura and Richard have passed on, but four of their five children are now involved in the business and the third generation is “in training.” It’s a full-time job for Martha May, who runs the business on a day-to-day basis. Three of her siblings fly in three times a year to help. Tickets are sold prior to the show opening, so buyers are not delayed by having to pay for their tickets at the opening.
While talking to exhibitors and shoppers, what stood out was the degree of loyalty to the show and the May family. Many of the exhibitors told us they have done the three annual shows – May, July and September – for 20 or 30 years. When Antiques and The Arts Weekly asked Martha May the question about dealer longevity in 2017, we were told that at least four of the exhibitors had been doing the show since the very beginning. The Nagy family, Tom and Dorine Nagy, Chelsea Hill Antiques, Hampton, Conn., with a large booth near the entrance, said they have been doing Brimfield for 50 years, selling good, period American furniture. Their 21-year-old grandson, Tom Roundtree, relaxing before it was time to get to work, said that he’s been helping at the show since he was one years old.
Lancaster, Penn., dealer Steve Smoot filled his booth with Native American items, including pottery from several Southwestern tribes, baskets from the same area and Navajo textiles. He said that he has been doing May’s for 25-30 years.
Arthur and Michele Gordon, from Tarrytown, N.Y., brought their dogs, Zelda and Ziggy, both of whom seemed bored. Since the Gordons, who deal in Asian porcelains and bronzes, have been doing the show for at least 25 years, it’s likely that the dogs have seen enough to be bored. Their owners weren’t and both said the shows have always been good for them.
Several dealers had booths with almost nothing but silver. And there were different approaches to selling it. The Silver Butler from Philadelphia, had hollowware and flatware displayed in a traditional manner with prices on individual pieces. However, Orlando Gold had a different approach. They laid out thousands of silver rings, bracelets, pins and more, on large tables. Buyers filled small plastic containers with their selections, which were then weighed, and prices quoted based on weight.
As there were different approaches to selling silver, there were at least two different approaches to selling stoneware. George Browning III, Swanzey, N.H., specializes in stoneware and there was nothing else in his booth. It was all neatly displayed and priced, and included early examples as well as crocks and jugs with unusual cobalt blue designs. Jason and Otis Cotton had another approach. From a home in Boston, they had gotten a collection with about 100 pieces of stoneware: bottles, jugs, crocks, etc, and had decided to sell all 100 pieces in one lot, which they priced at $4,000.
A few days after the show, Martha May said, “It all went well. The crowd was really strong, and they came to buy. The weather was perfect and numerous dealers told me they had sold very well. That’s what keeps them coming back. And we’ll do it all again in July.”
The additional 2022 editions of Brimfield will take place July 12-17 and September 6-11.
For additional information about the overall event or contact details for individual fields, www.brimfieldantiquefleamarket.com/.
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