Published: December 24, 2002
By Genevieve Ward Swenson
WETHERSFIELD, CONN. – Some would say that the odds of starting a successful new antiques show in this economic climate would be impossible. Not so for the Wethersfield Antiques Show, which, in just two years, has attracted an impressive list of antiques dealers, rivaling shows that have been around for much longer. In fact, many of the show’s dealers say they are “here to stay,” recognizing the potential for the show.
Held at the Pitkin Community Center November 15-16, the show benefited the Wethersfield Historical Society and its Wethersfield Museum and Hurlbut-Dunham House. Like many historical society shows, it receives plenty of support from volunteers. This year, Patricia L. Rowland served as honorary chairwoman, and attended the preview. The two most important volunteers are the show managers, Timothy Verre and Joan Hughes. These Wethersfield residents and experienced antiques dealers are credited with being both well organized and passionate about the show. Their efforts are recognized and have tangible results: Verre noted that preview attendance was nearly double what it was last year.
While the show was well stocked with knowledgeable dealers in several fields, the strongest genres represented were American furniture, pottery, clocks, paintings, glass and textiles. Nearly everyone commented on the elegant appearance of the show, which flows from a bright gymnasium to a comfortably large banquet room. According to dealers, there is only one aspect of the show that has room for improvement and that is, not surprisingly, the gate.
The antiques business in the past few years has taken a hit in both attendance and actual buying at shows. The combination of a healthy gate that is also motivated to buy seems to be the elusive ingredient to the perfect show. The cold and rainy weather that weekend did not help the attendance, but some dealers managed to have decent shows regardless. Even those dealers who had a quiet show still anticipate participating again next November.
“It is really amazing that this show is at the level that it is after only two years,” said Steve German of Mad River Antiques, North Granby, Conn., who is both new to the show and relatively new to the business. Steve and his wife Lorraine have exhibited at nearly 20 shows since March, when they opened their business. German added that sales on Saturday were “just fair, which seems to be the norm at most shows these days.” While smalls were selling all day Saturday, he reported that the best sale was a Deerfield, Mass.-area step down Windsor chair in original paint and decoration.
“Overall,” German said, “we feel that this is an up-and-coming high quality show that we are thrilled to be a part of. We see only good things happening for this show in the future, and certainly intend to keep this on our calendar for next year.”
“The economy is definitely causing people to really think hard and long before buying,” said Chris Hanauer of Hanauer & Seidman, Granby, Conn.
Sales for the dealers included a reflector oven that came complete with its original spit, a mocha ware bowl with earthworm decoration, a treen scoop and a pair of pewter plates probably from Boston. While it did not sell at the show, the dealers noted that there was quite a bit of interest in a sampler made in 1827 by Emeline Stanley. Emeline was born and is buried in East Hartford, Conn., and her genealogy can be traced back to Seventeenth Century Hartford.
Denise Scott Antiques exhibited an Eighteenth Century banister back side chair along with a late Eighteenth Century pine three-drawer blanket chest with a molded top and bracket base and a two-drawer example in poplar and pine. The booth was complete with pewter and wrought iron, including balance scales, spatulas, pot stands, cooking forks and “S” hooks.
Derek Pulito of Kensington, Conn., brought a circa 1740 tavern table from Old Saybrook, Conn., fitted with a Nineteenth Century top. Other New England pieces included an Eighteenth Century fanback Windsor and a circa 1800-1820 sawbuck table.
Perhaps the earliest piece available from Ron Chambers, Higganum, Conn., was a circa 1740 tavern table that had no restoration. A highlight at Nancy Ames of Windham, Conn., was an Empire coin silver tea service marked “G. Boyce, NY” for Gerardus Boyce (1795-97 to 1880). According to the mark Boyce used at the time, the service can be dated to 1825 to 1830. It was displayed atop an 1820-1840 cherry chest of drawers from Upstate New York, complete with period hardware.
Henry Callan of Sandwich, Mass., brought a wide array of fine Chinese export porcelains, while both neighboring exhibitors Carol Wojktun of New Preston and Bruce Henley (New England Home) of Wethersfield displayed early American furniture. Paintings at the show recalled pastoral scenes, from the examples by Thomas Bigelow, NA, on view at Gene & Jo Sue Coppa to the oil on canvas titled “Cows at Salmon Brook, Granby” by A.D. Shattuck, NA, on view at Hanauer & Seidman.
Larry Shapiro, who also exhibited at the inaugural show, was consistent in his enthusiasm, “Last year I said that the show had great future. I feel the same this year. It needs more promotion and more exposure to reach the potential that I believe is there. The show is very well managed. The gate could have been greater, but time should improve the quality and quantity.”
With more publicity and age behind its belt, the Wethersfield Antiques Show is sure to grow into the high expectations of its managers and dealers. Already it has two assets that are the envy of other new shows: the dedication of planning and selling force and quality of its merchandise.
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