Published: December 12, 2006
Change, in addition to being unavoidable, is never easy.
Most people resist.
These truisms were perhaps most noticeably on display the first weekend of the newly configured Piers Antiques Show, November 18 and 19, observed Alice Lindholm, who with her husband, Ron, was selling vintage clothing and linens — under the aegis of Right To The Moon Alice! — in the show’s Fashion Alley.
“It was problematic for many customers who got lost negotiating the 500-dealer setup,” said Lindholm. “For us, it took a while for the show get going, so to speak, because most people shopped along the way. Fashion Alley, being all the way at the back, got a rush of activity about two hours into the show. It seemed like the number of people through the gate made for a good sized shopping crowd and once sales started rolling, the pace was steady.”
Ultimately, the Lindholms had a very good show. Their most adorable sale, they recounted, was to a 13-year-old figure skater. “She purchased a crowd-stopping white and silver ballroom dancing dress,” said Lindholm. “It fit her perfectly and she even did a little dry land exhibition for us. It will be worn for her Christmas ice extravaganza and we were all delighted.”
Essentially retired from the antiques business, but still very busy presenting his folk art, Lenny Kislin of Bearsville, N.Y., said the compact show gave him an opportunity to see many friends among dealers and customers that he had not seen in some time. “The Pier show turned out great for me as I sold four major pieces of my artwork,” said Kislin. “The Stella organization did a wonderful job in a very difficult situation. Downsizing three piers into one huge pier was no easy task and, although many customers seemed confused as to layout, I think it will get easier and easier to travel the aisles of choice as people become accustomed to the arrangement.”
Stella Show Mgmt Co.’s traditional fall Triple Pier Antiques Show — a mammoth event that requires two weekends and 150,000 square feet to accommodate more than 1,000 exhibitors — was truncated to the single Pier 94 due to construction and ship sailing schedules. The spacious and well-lighted Pier 94 proved to be quite suitable, however, once the fog of “where?” lifted, and many dealers commented that they felt some of the show’s old excitement had returned.
Paul Thien of Firehouse Antiques Center, Galena, Md., was nearly too busy taking care of customers wanting to make purchases during the show to comment. Afterwards, speaking for himself and his partner, Doug Warriner, he said, “We felt that the energy has come back to the Piers. There was a buzz going on for most of Saturday that we haven’t heard in a long time. Also, the Stella Show organization was flawless. Pack-in and pack-out were seamless. All in all, a great success.”
Two large demilune windows the pair were displaying are now headed for Los Angeles. They also sold a two-piece butternut secretary to a young couple from Brooklyn. “In addition, we sold silk screens, etchings, trade signs, pottery, bar stools, industrial furniture and light fixtures. Truly, across the board,” said Thien.
“The show turned out fabulous for us — our best so far this year,” reported Janice and Jerry Bonk, the Hellertown, Penn., couple who are best known in the trade as Bonkey’s Treasures and Wonderful Finds. “Although we were very concerned about the new venue, we both agreed it was an exceptional show. So much energy!
“Our initial concerns involved load-in and pack-out. We imagined more than 500 dealers all showing up at one time, trying to work and make a spectacular setup for the public. We imagined long lines, short tempers and frazzled nerves — but it didn’t happen.” The Bonks took advantage of the Thursday morning load in, pulled into a parking space right outside the loading doors at 9:30 am and had a porter within 15 minutes. “And — the real test — we were packed out, in the Lincoln Tunnel by 9 pm on Sunday — an all-time record for us!”
Excitement inside Pier 94 was evident the minute the Bonks walked in. “Dealers who usually set up in other buildings were all mingled together. It created new customers and new friendships,” they said. “At one point, every dealer saw every other dealer’s setup, and the booths were spectacular! Dealer sales were great, and this always generates positive show energy and excitement. The place was buzzing!
“Customers felt the same way. Those who usually prefer the fine art work, silver and things that sparkle, were visiting other booths because it was so convenient. They didn’t need to go to another pier. People who like Modern, Americana and the like were exposed to the ‘bling-bling’ pieces. And they were buying.”
“Many of the customers we talked to loved having all the dealers in one building. In fact, no one had a negative comment about it.”
“The Stella people put on another great show. They pulled it off in their usual fine and professional style. We shared our feelings with the Stella organization and voted to keep the new venue. We will see what happens,” they said.
Tom and Deborah Begner, along with son Steve, of Turkey Mountain Traders, Scottsdale, Ariz., specialists in antique American Indian art and jewelry, and antique American folk art, usually get visits from regular customers, and this show was no exception, according to Tom Begner. “It was also great fun to have all the themes in one pier,” he said. “We seemed to have a more varied clientele as the merged Modernism, Americana and formal milled together. It was also great fun to be able to wander back to the vintage clothing section. Of course, it was also almost mandatory for my son, Steve, and me to buy gifts for those at home.”
Begner said he had two notable sales, “One to a knowledgeable old-timer who had browsed us for years and finally broke out the wallet, and the other to a new client who didn’t come to buy from us but who absolutely flipped out on a piece and purchased.”
Thirty-five years in the antiques business gives Chris Jussel a certain perspective, the Bedford, N.Y., dealer said. “I’ve never seen a more organized, more pleasant operation, with more helpful people, than that which the Stella organization puts together. I say ‘organization’ because I mean everyone — from Irene and Leanne to Michelle and Joan and their in-office staff, as well as the security people, the longshoreman, the porters, the guys who handle the loading and unloading, parking the trucks, etc.”
Jussel said that he liked the revised format a great deal. “It allows people to be all under one roof. For obvious reasons, that’s a good thing and a benefit to all of us — dealers and collectors. Certainly, it would be an advantage during inclement weather as well.” Immediate sales (Jussel emphasized that often much business is done after the show) included an Arts and Crafts oak trestle table and several signs.
“It was the best show we had in several years!” exclaimed Harry Greenberger, whose HG Limited of New York City displays unusual items such as welder’s masks in museumlike groupings. “Lots of excitement from the customers. Wonderful new venue.”
At 9 am on a beautiful Saturday, two days after Thanksgiving, Aaron Anton was relaxed as the Pier show opened for its second chapter. While at the Pier 92 next door people were unloading their trunks and bags to board a cruise liner, this New York City native had his haberdashery shop advertising man set up and ready to welcome visitors. “This new arrangement is a good thing. Often when customers came to the Triple Pier, they went only to one pier; now they have to walk through the whole show, all under one roof. It’s a very good thing.”
Perhaps because it was the second weekend of nearly 500 dealers all under one roof, there were no worries being expressed about people getting “lost.” The crowd surged in with great purpose, appearing to know just where they were going. Wendy Anderhagen from Pennsylvania understood how the dealers were set up. “Its very clear on the floor plan they give you when you come in: if you want Americana, here it is right in front of us, classic antiques are off to the left and Twentieth Century Modern is on the right. We’re on our way to Fashion Alley and I think it’s great we have to walk past other things; it means we’ll have to stop and look. I love it.”
According to many dealers who were at the show again the second weekend, the first weekend was, as Jeff Bridgman said, “Perfect — the best show I’ve ever had. That’s all, the best!” While not everyone raved with such enthusiasm, the general feeling was that it would be hard to live up to that first weekend, but all were ready to try.
Rod Bartha from Riverwoods, Ill., remarked that he and Susan were pleased with new venue. “Well, to say the least we had a great show. We sold paintings, furniture and a little folk art to round out a great show.” He came with a mixture of early American and Art Deco furniture and accessories and was displaying a German round top card table, circa 1905–10, with an octagonal base and hidden drink holders on the second weekend. “It seemed to us that the customers really like the venue and it was simple to adjust to a single pier.”
Heather Karlie Boyce of Heather Karlie Fine Art brought her art frames, paintings and Wheeler Williams (American, 1897–1972) sculptures from her shop on West 25th Street, New York City. “It was easier for me, I just had to come uptown, but the load-in was so well organized, I didn’t hear anyone complaining, and it went smoothly. So far, I have sold many art frames; they’re so beautiful, and they seem to be very popular.”
Also from New York City, via Sweden, was White on White. Suzanne Heimdal said she had a very interesting show. “As we were selling only Swedish antiques, we felt we were showing something a little different from the rest. We did make some major sales of Swedish drop leaf tables from the mid Nineteenth Century and a very nice looking Swedish secretary, quite unusual with drawers, a country chair and more.”
With some large pieces of furniture, Rue Auber Antiques from Stonington, Conn., was showing a tree pedestal yew wood dining table. At about 10 feet long it was surrounded with a set of eight (six side and two arm) chairs. The table was marked $6,800 and had a wonderful soft, glowing finish; the chairs were upholstered and were $3,200.
More dining chairs could be seen at Sydelle and Jay Livingston, Westport, Conn., who had a set of six black sculptural Italian chairs from the 1960s. They also were showing a weathered tin top work table with wooden ox cart wheels from Tibet.
The beauty of Modern furniture and accessories is its ability to blend with items from other eras. This could be seen clearly at Rose Garden Antiques from Woodstock, N.Y., where a cast iron butterfly console with a weathered blue stone top was placed under a Civil War portrait of a Union general and decorated with Modern vases and decorative arts, and they all complemented one another.
Since most aisles led to Fashion Alley, it was simple to arrive at Signet BL where the Paramus, N.J., dealer was showing a Kenneth Jay Lane design pearl necklace. Created for Laguna in 1969, it was styled to be worn with the cluster of many strands of pearls hanging down the back of the wearer. In a contemporary advertisement, the model was dressed with a long backless evening dress. If it was designed by Dolce & Gabbana, Chloe or Marc Jacobs, it was available in Fashion Alley.
Classic and formal antiques, which used to be on Pier 92, were grouped loosely together on the downtown side of Pier 94. Here, Oriental rugs or American colonial furniture could be found, as well as anything in-between. At the Woven Rug Gallery, a circa 1890 Caucasian Gendge rug with an allover pattern was just one of hundreds of rugs and tapestries that Farhad Akar brought from Pittsburgh, Penn.
At Day’s Antiques, Brunswick, Maine, they were showing a tall case clock, circa 1790–1800. The mahogany clock featured an 8-foot bell flower and fan satinwood inlaid case. Next to it was an elm shell carved, barrel back corner cabinet, circa 1760. The lower cupboard interior was paint decorated. Continuing with the eclectic mixture of pieces being offered at many booths, Day’s also had a “Madonna and Child” by Sir Jacob Epstein (British, 1880–1959). Cast in bronze around 1927, the individual heads were large, 21 by 13 by 19 inches for the mother and 8 by 9 by 11½ inches for the child. Together, they could be purchased for $16,500 and although they were individually cast, clearly they could not be separated.
Another head was perfectly carved from fruitwood by Sukyuki (Japanese, 1838–1920). It was actually a skull with a snake spiraling through the eye and around the head and open mouth. Oleg Konstantinova of Objects D’art, Kensington, Md., said he believed it was the most perfectly carved object he had ever seen.
John Orban, Cadiz, Ohio, also brought what he considered to be one of the most interesting pieces he has ever had: an ebony, rosewood and ivory Italian three-tier cabinet he believed had been made for royalty in the Nineteenth Century. It had many secret drawers and an interlocking system that prevented the drawers from being opened unless the “secret” system was employed. A startlingly intricate piece with multiple keys and locks, it had a museum stamp from an Eastern European city on the back. Its price tag was $79,500, but he was not too eager to sell it. “I have only had it a short time and I want to do more research on it; of course, I’d sell it if someone was interested,” he added.
Maybe one of the well-known decorators who were shopping the show would find it a perfect match for their American royalty clients — no word yet.
The plans for the March 17–18 show are still being finalized, but whether it is conducted on one or two piers, the show will have a lot to live up to.
For information, www.stellashows.com or 212-255-0020.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm