Published: November 28, 2016
Back in September, Antiques and The Arts Weekly Editor Scudder Smith was in Blue Mountain Lake, N.Y., covering the Adirondack Museum Antiques Show when a gleaming display of restored kitchen antiques caught his eye. A Dayton country store scale and vintage coffee grinder, among other items, drew him into the booth of Terry and Peggy Wright, owners of Child’s Play Antiques. The Marietta, Ga., couple specialize in offering country store, advertising, saloon, drugstore and barbershop collectibles – but not before Terry has patiently and expertly brought them back to the way they appeared and functioned when brand-new.
How long have you and Peggy been collecting and restoring this kind of material?
I’ve been an antiques dealer for 20 years. My wife retired from teaching two years ago and has joined me.
Is your focus solely on finding and restoring vintage and antique kitchenalia?
I restore old general store scales, coffee grinders, milk shake mixers, wooden barber chairs and related items. While these restored items are an important part of my business, I also deal in quality advertising, country store, soda fountain, saloon and drug store antiques. A few years ago we branched into rustic antiques and added the Adirondack Mountains Antiques Show to our schedule.
Is nostalgia the primary driver for this kind of merchandise? Does that factor into your business’s name?
Many of the things I restore were heavily used in their working life and show it. Few people would want to collect or decorate with them in this condition. I began restoring them as a way of giving them a new life in the kitchen or game room of a collector or decorator. When I started Child’s Play Antiques, tin toys and children’s things were a part of my business. While I’ve gotten away from tin toys, I do still try to carry children’s items. My wife calls what I do “child’s play.” For me, buying, restoring and selling antiques is more fun than work!
How hard is it to find material, and what are your primary resources?
I have found the pieces I restore in my travels along with the help of a couple of friends and pickers who look for them for me. Over 20 years I have been able to find items for restoration faster than I have been able to restore them; hence, unrestored examples are sitting on the shelves in my workshop waiting their turn.
And what does the Wrights’ kitchen look like?
Our preference in collecting is geared toward great original condition. We have nothing in our personal collection that is restored. Sounds crazy, I know, but it’s true.
Where can your restored antiques be found?
We sell primarily at shows and to repeat customers. It’s not unusual for a customer to order a piece from my workshop inventory to be restored in the color of their choice. Keeping up with filling orders and show inventory leaves little time for expanding sales by way of a shop or website. Also, because of the growth of my selling and the length of time it takes to complete a restoration, I no longer do restorations of the personal items of others. We exhibit at the DC Big Flea Market, Indianapolis Advertising Show, Chicago Coin-Op Show and the previously mentioned Adirondack Show. This makes nine shows throughout the year.
Describe your biggest restoration challenges.
Two of the biggest challenges in doing restorations are broken or missing parts, and judging how long it will take to complete a project. As I’ve become more familiar with an item, I can determine if it is complete or whether I have the needed parts before buying it. My parts inventory came primarily from machines that couldn’t be restored. Have I ever gotten in over my head? You bet I have! I have a Holcomb and Hoke popcorn machine that’s been on my workbench for about five years. It seems like it has argued with me every step of the way. I’ll get it completed next year, which, by the way, was my plan for this year!
I do enjoy the restoration work, dealing in antiques and collecting. I have some wonderful customers who have become friends. Shoppers’ interest and exclamations about the beauty of the finished product, along with the occasional sale, make it worthwhile.
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