Friday, July 28, 2006

Ideas for New Antiques Show Dealers

One of the nifty things about being an antiques dealer is that you ARE your own business. In other words, not only do you own your antiques business, but you also decide how to operate it. In the end, you are largely responsible for your own success.

The antiques show trade needs new blood. There are many, many dealers who are in their 50s - 80s and have been in the business for 25 or more years. New dealers in their 20s are a rarity, and the business needs more of them. It can be a fun career, but it's hard work. There is no such thing as "easy" for show dealers. Long hours, bad weather, and unexpected problems are part of a dealer's destiny - to be a show dealer, you must be flexible and be able to adjust according to the needs of the moment. If you are a one-way/my-way kind of person, probably the show trade is not for you.

We all learn by trial and error. If you are lucky, your errors are small and inexpensive. If you are unlucky, you make big mistakes and it costs you plenty. The difference can be substantial. As a antiques show dealer for the past 26 years, I've learned how to minimize boo-boos and I'm going to share some of these ideas with you.

First, choose your shows wisely. Exhibiting in a show that is poorly managed can only hurt your business. Don't be afraid to interview a promoter before you decide to exhibit in his show. You need answers before you commit to a show.

Ask the promoter before you sign up for the names of the publications where they are advertising. Lack of advertising is a show's worst enemy (besides bad weather, but there isn't anything you can do about that.) As show costs rise, some promoters cut back on advertising to save money. This could easily cost YOU money, so you want to know specifically where they are advertising. Advertising in the right publications - the ones which people actually will read specifically for local antiques shows - is absolutely necessary. If you get vague answers from a promoter about where he is advertising, pass on that show.

Ask how many and which dealers by name have signed up for the show. If only 10 dealers have signed up, a red flag should go up. It's going to be a tiny show and the public won't attend because they'll feel they aren't getting value for their admission fee. Also, it would be nice if some of the dealers doing the show were recognized, established dealers who will attract their own customer base to this show. Experienced show customers recognize their favorite dealers, often through show ads that list exhibitors (that's how show promoters get people to come to their shows - they list dealers doing their show in major antiques trade publications). Customers often decide to attend because they like those dealers.

Is the show inside only, or does it have both inside and outside booths? Outside booths cost less, and dealers are usually responsible for setting up their own tent (an expense in itself). Some shows offer pre-set tents which is included in their rent. Being under cover makes set-up easier and quicker. Inside booths are usually smaller and cost more, but if the show experiences bad weather, that's where all the customers will go. If you are inside or under tent cover, it may save you from a horribly bad show in bad weather.

Early on in my career I did many outdoor booths at shows, and set up my own tent (hard work, especially in hot or rainy weather). Now I just always sign up for indoor booths, and save myself a lot of aggravation. It's usually smaller in size, and my set up goes more quickly because I can only get so much stuff in that smaller booth. I've learned that I don't really NEED 20 boxes of merchandise to have a successful show, which is what I used to have to display to fill the larger outside booths. Also, I'm not worn out by the time I have my tent set - if it takes an hour to set up a tent, and then you have another 3-4 hours until you are finished with your display, it makes for a really long day .

If you don't have your own display tables, ask how much tables cost. And don't expect them to be something you can just pick up after arriving for set-up. Always order your display tables in advance. Most show promoters order tables in advance, and since they have to pay for them, may not order any extras.

Ask to see a contract before you agree to do the show. Yes, you have to read the fine print. Do it to protect yourself. Most contracts are pretty standard, but there is the occasional quirk that can make a difference. There's an East Coast promoter known for slipping in a requirement in his contract that if you do another nearby show during the week his show is running, you will pay him $5000. He has that contract clause because he wants to make sure his dealers only do HIS show. If a dealer is doing more than one show in the same area in the same general time period, promoters know that there is a strong possibility that the dealer will show much of the same merchandise at both shows. That means that one of those shows is not getting fresh merchandise, making that show appear to be a re-hash of "old" inventory. This particular promoter is just protecting his show's reputation for having great dealers with fresh stock, but a dealer needs to know all the rules from the start. Read the fine print.

And most importantly - ask other dealers if they've done this show before, and what their opinion of it is. You'll learn a lot, both good and bad. Ask other dealers if they are still doing the show. Or, if they aren't, ask them why.

Ask a lot of questions, because you will receive many different answers. Do your homework. Then you can put all that info together and make an intelligent decision on whether you want to do a particular show. Knowing ahead of time what a show entails could save you a tremendous amount of aggravation, time and possibly some serious money.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Antiques Show in Camden, Maine

Just finished exhibiting at a local, small antiques show in midcoast Maine. Although it only had 50 dealers, it was a beautiful show with many very high
quality sellers.

The photo above is one corner of my booth. As you can see, I do like country antiques!

I noticed that certain items were selling well. Early American Pressed Glass was selling, as was English Staffordshire china. Native American items w
ere moving - my neighbor dealer sold a large Navajo rug, also a few smaller Indian items.

Surprisingly, furniture was finally moving. For the past six months, it has been difficult to sell furniture, and yet I saw tables, a desk, Hitchcock style chairs, cottage dressers and a lovely pie safe in old paint all head for new homes this week. More than likely there was other furniture that sold as well, but those were the items I personally saw go out the door.

White ironstone was selling. I sold six pieces to a San Antonio, Texas dealer who came to the show late on Sunday afternoon. I also sold a couple more pieces to other customers. In fact, by the end of the show, I only had one
white ironstone item left - a large wash bowl.

Vintage textiles were selling - Victorian white decorative linens were sold, and a beautiful Turkey Red tablecloth from the 1890s found a new home.

Unfortunately, the number of people attending the show was down considerably from the previous year. This show has been running continuously for 25 years, and has always had a strong attendance by both local residents and tourist. Not nearly as many folks made it to the show this time, and it's probably because of higher gas prices and the overall state of the economy.

I'd mentioned in an earlier post about a Detour sign I'd recently found. Here's
a photo of it - it definitely needs to be hung over someone's fridge!!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Meet Buster, the Work Shop Mouse

The other day, while visiting my friend Dan's woodworking shop, we noticed that a small field mouse was wandering around the shop. He stayed quite close to the humans, in fact, he didn't seem to mind humans at all. As Dan was sitting in his chair, this little gray mouse sat at his feet. We talked and laughed, moving around the shop, and the mouse just ambled about, always in close proximity.

After more than 30 minutes of this friendly behavior, we decided that the mouse needed a name. After all, if he was going to be part of the work shop
landscape, he may as well be the shop pet! So Dan's wife Miriam named him Buster, and we've been calling him that ever since.

Buster seems to be quite curious about humans. He gets closer and closer - the photos I took of him were from only one foot away. As I photographed him, I spoke to him, telling him his new name and that he'd have to keep an eye out for those giant human feet which could easily squash him. As I spoke, you could see his ears swivel towards me to hear me better. It was sort of a weird experience - I'm not in
the habit of conversing with field mice - but Buster is sort of endearing as he be-bops around the shop, checking for anything on the floor which might be edible.

He doesn't panic when we step over him to get to another part of the shop. Sometimes he moves aside, but most of the time he just sits and twitches his nose. In fact, one of the photos seems to show him sneering slightly, as if to say - "This is my home, and you are being a bit bothersome with all that table saw and power sander noise!"

When I'm in the work shop and Buster happens to be around, I tell him that he has to be respectful of humans. I noticed he was quite interested in perching on the base of Dan's swivel chair - not a good idea for a little mouse who could easily end up under the chair's wheels. Even worse would be for Buster to want to get really close to humans, i.e., maybe thinking about a fun run up someone's pant leg. I don't think Dan would take kindly to a mouse up his pants. That might be the permanent end of Buster. So Buster will be learning some mouse-manners as I shoo him away from chairs in the work shop.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Getting Ready for an Antiques Show

It's been such a busy week. I've been cleaning and pricing fresh antiques finds, preparing for the show I'm exhibiting at in Camden, Maine. Most of the things I'm taking are country-antiques, since that's my specialty.

Recently found some fun old decoratives - an old forked washing stick, the kind they used more than a hundred years ago to stir hot laundry while it was in the old wash tubs. I have friends who have several of these wash sticks, and they look wonderful hanging as a collection on their wall. Each is different, and because they are long - each is about 3 feet in length - they fill a small area but are quite eye-catching.

Another item I found last week is an old wooden 'Detour' sign, used somewheres on a highway years ago. It's just a simple white painted sign with lots of character, with the word 'Detour" boldly handpainted over a giant arrow. It's funky and interesting, and would look great hung in someone's home - maybe in the kitchen (I'd hang it over my refrigerator!!!) or family room.

This weekend's show is a small long-running antiques show, maybe 50 dealers or so, and is held at a local high school. Dealers come from five states to exhibit. It's a lovely show - good dealers with great quality - and both local residents and visiting tourists always attend. It's especially popular amongst the local antiques dealers - they are always the first in line at the door when the show opens. They've learned that this particular show has many affordable antiques, which they can buy and still make a small profit in their own shops.

It's not a hustle-and-bustle type of show; instead, it's more relaxed, definitely the kind of show where you actually have a few moments to talk with shoppers, visit with neighboring dealers, and even have a chance to wander around the show and buy a few things myself.

Yesterday I spent part of the day loading my van with my latest finds, since the weather was so beautiful. Probably would have preferred to be walking the ocean shoreline with my camera, having fun and playing the day away. But work calls, and I didn't want to do it today, since the weather forecast was for rain as a storm moves up the coast. As I write, the rain is softly but steadily coming down. I'm glad I did all my van loading for the show during yesterday's beautiful, sun-shiny afternoon. I don't mind today's rain - it's such a soothing, comforting sound through my windows as I write. The catbird is singing as he's perched on the blackberry bushes - he really does sound like a cat - and I'm glad he's there as we haven't seen him in several days, and wondered if the local hawk had encountered him for breakfast.

The gardens are happy for the rain. All the flowers are showing their best this week. From my living room and kitchen windows I can see at least ten different kinds of day lilies (maybe there's more - I can't quite count them from here), plus phlox, Russian sage, astilbe, many kinds of roses, delphiniums, and several flowers I don't know the names of. My landlords keep telling me to pick bouquets for my apartment, but since I won't be around much this weekend, I'll wait until I'm home next week and can enjoy them fully. It's such a treat to be able to enjoy fresh cut flowers!

From my bedroom windows and my office I can see the vegetable garden's raised beds. The tomatoes are nearly 4 foot tall and have many green tomatoes on them - we'll have a bounty this year, as I planted nine plants. We have Amish Paste (sort of like a Roma, but a bit bigger), cherry tomatoes, early-ripening Glaciers (perfect for Maine's short growing season) and something called Chelsea. I don't know what that is, but it was available in a six pack of plants for only $2.15 for six and I couldn't pass up such a bargain. Whatever they are, they are growing like crazy, and I'm already collecting tomato recipes to try out as soon as they are ripe.

Within a a couple of weeks the blackberries will be ready, and I'll be making jam and freezing them for future use. The vines are already drooping from their heavy load - we're going to have lots of blackberries this summer, especially if I beat the birds to them. The birds and I have an agreement - they can have the berries inside the middle of the patch, where I can't reach. But they have to leave the outer edge of the patch for me to pick. I think the catbird is checking the patch frequently, singing and letting me know he's around and will be getting his fair share.

But I digress - the antiques show is the order of business for this weekend. I'll see many dealers - both as shopping customers and those selling at the show - who I only see once or twice a year. It's such a transient business - we sometimes only see dealer friends when we're both working the same show, and many shows only happen once or twice a year. Still, over the years I've become friends with several, and we're happy to visit annually. Sometimes we go to dinner after working all day - it's a wonderful way to catch up on news, have a glass of wine, exchange stories and generally wind down a bit.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Gardening in Maine

Basil: Herb of the Year 2003Although I no longer have time for a serious garden, this year I did add a few herbs to my landlords' raised beds. Mostly basil (2 kinds) and lettuce, but also a few other things like cantaloupe, an early-harvest watermelon, and 9 tomato plants which will soon have us all eating tomatoes on a daily basis. They have loved all the rain, and are absolutely huge.

The ruby-red lettuce is still growing at a speed that allows us all to help ourselves nearly daily, and the good news is that it hasn't bolted yet. It makes the prettiest salads! My French sorrel keeps bolting, and I don't yet have enough to make my favorite sorrel and smoked sausage soup. The Italian basil has gone nuts is growing well, and the Blue African basil has gone nuts - it's the size of a small bush. This particular basil is okay, but I'm not enjoying the taste as much, and probably won't plant it again next year. I'll probably just use it in a pesto.

When I pick basil, I often put it in a glass on my counter with about an inch of water in the bottom. It'll stay fresh and ready to use for several days. The current supply was on my counter last night, and I decided to use it for a stir fry. BUT - when I pulled it out of the glass, I noticed it had already started rooting!!! Maybe I'd better use my basil more often - if it's able to root, it's not being used frequently enough.

Guess I'll plant it - there were 2 bunches rooting!! - and give it away as a new plant to friends. There's still lots more in the garden, enough to make batches and batches of pesto. How perfect for a hot summer night's dinner appetizer!

Soon the blackberries will be ready, and jam is on the agenda. These big sweet berries are so dense on their vines, on their vinets. Last year Dan and Miriam sold quite a few quarts of them in the antiques shop here. They never lasted more than a few hours after picking - blackberries aren't easy to find around here, and they sold quickly.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Like Different Ethnic Foods?

Image: A proper cheese plate

Recently I've been having fun reading and participating in a great website on eating ethnic foods. It's called
and is a new website dedicated to those of us who are a bit adventuresome and like to try different things.

It's been great fun to learn from those in other countries who are sharing their food descriptions and recipes. Lots of folks on this site are asking questions about foods they've heard about but wanted more information. All sorts of different ethnic foods are covered - I've been looking at forums on Greek, Maylaysian, Thai, Mexican, French and more. There's also threads on specific foods - cheese, sushi, Indian breads, vegetarian and more ideas keep arriving everyday.

Be sure to check this one out - it's really whetted my appetite for some interesting, scrumptious food ideas.

Monday, July 10, 2006

My Husband is My Hero

Even though we are more than 1000 miles apart, my husband and I talk on the phone every day. With Verizon's America's Choice program, we talk cell-to-cell for free and do so frequently.

Sometimes we only talk once a day, but often - depending on what's going on in our lives - we talk several times a day. We're one of those couples who can stand to be around each other a lot, and if we can't be together in person then the phone is the next best thing. For the past four years, our summers have been spent apart as I work seasonally in Maine while he works in Michigan.

A couple of evenings ago, we were talking as he was getting back into his van at a local shopping center. It was just casual conversation between us, typical gabbing, when quite suddenly he said in an urgent voice, "Gotta go - I'll call you back," and the phone went dead.

We've been married more than 18 years, and we know each other well. His tone of voice told me something serious had just happened, and I knew he was taking action. It's Tom's nature. I just didn't know what was going on, and would have to wait until he called me back - it was definitely "test of patience" time.

About 30 minutes later, my cell rang. He told me the scene which had unfolded before him, and it was pretty spell-binding. By God's grace, Tom just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

While he had been talking with me earlier, he noticed an elderly woman pulling her car into the parking space across from his van. Two young women in their late teens were walking between parked cars, and as the woman was pulling into the empty space, they somehow startled her.

Instead of hitting the brake, the elderly woman accidently hit the gas pedal. Her car lurched forward, and smashed into one of the young women as they crossed in front of her. The teenager was pinned against a parked car.

That's when Tom said to me "Gotta go", and went to help. He had immediately recognized the emergency, and took his cell phone with him. (Okay, now that was a silly statement - anyone who knows my husband knows that he doesn't go anywhere without his cell phone - he's a well-known cell-aholic.)

The injured young woman suffered a compound fracture of the upper thigh. She was bleeding profusely, and Tom realized that the main leg artery had been compromised. She was literally bleeding out, right there in the parking lot.

In only a few seconds, she had gone from a simple evening of shopping to very suddenly becoming a victim of a life-threatening injury.

Tom quickly applied pressure to stop the arterial bleeding, but it wouldn't quit. Simultaneously, he handed his cell to the second young woman, and as he had his hands full at that moment, he instructed her to dial 911. Since he uses and was wearing his Bluetooth headset for his cell (yes, he's a gadget-kind-of-guy), he told the 911 dispatcher what was happening. He asked her to send both an ambulance and a patrol car, and was able to give his specific location in this huge shopping center parking lot.

The bleeding still wouldn't stop, and the situation in only those few moments had become critical. He turned to the second young woman and asked her if she had anything string-like. Wouldn't you know it - while shopping, these two young women had just picked up SHOELACES. Quickly, with the pen in his pocket, Tom fashioned a make-shift tourniquet with a new shoelace, allowing him to get good tight pressure on the bleeding. It slowed dramatically.

More good fortune - both an ambulance and a patrol car happened to be only a very few blocks away, and arrived within a few short minutes. By then Tom had found a second pen and had written the tourniquet start time on the injured young woman's forehead so the hospital would know the length of time it had been applied. Seeing the ink on her friend's forehead, the second young woman said, "She's not going to like that." Tom just smiled, knowing he had done the appropriate procedure.

Of course, no one there watching this scene would have guessed his background - corrections officer, patrol officer, nursing school, volunteer ambulance service - and that his training from all these careers had kicked in automatically, At least, not until he updated the ambulance EMT, who immediately knew that all Tom's actions were not only appropriate, but absolutely necessary (including the forehead notes) and had probably saved a life.

The young woman was transported to the hospital, where she most likely had surgery to repair the compound fracture and the artery injury. She probably won't feel so great for a while, but it sure beats the alternative.

The elderly lady driving the car was very shaken and upset, but uninjured.

Tom gave his statement and information to the police officer, and left. He had a pile of firewood to stack.

To him, this was nothing particularly unusual. It's not the first time he's witnessed and assisted at an accident. He was quite matter-of-fact about it when he called me to say he was okay and tell me what had so suddenly interrupted our phone call. That's just his nature - he's solid as a rock in emergencies, handles it all carefully, thoughtfully and calmly, and then goes on with his day as if nothing special had happened.

But it WAS special. Very, very special.

If he hadn't responded quickly, what would have happened to that injured young woman?

Would someone else have had the presence of mind to immediately call 911? Minutes were crucial.

Would someone have been able to exactly describe the specific location of this accident? It was a huge parking lot, with hundreds and hundreds of cars.

Would anyone have known how to apply arterial pressure to slow the bleeding? If they did, would they actually get involved? Would they recognize the immediate need for and how to apply a tourniquet with make-shift materials? It doesn't take very long to die from an arterial bleed.

If Tom hadn't been there, or hadn't responded so quickly, what would have happened to that young woman?

My husband's always been special to me. He's absolutely the best husband I could ever wish for. But last Saturday evening in Kalamazoo, Michigan - even though she probably doesn't know it - he was VERY SPECIAL to a young woman in an asphalt parking lot who now is still on this earth because Tom cared.

My husband is my hero.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Good Places to Eat in Midcoast Maine

I was just thinking about some of the great restaurants I've enjoyed here in Maine, and thought I'd share some with you.


A new place called Augustine's - It's set back from Main Street a bit, but it's right on the Damariscotta River, and has really good food. I tend to look for very inexpensive places to eat, and Augustine's is a bit above average in price, but it's worth a bit of a splurge to go there.

Right on Main Street is the Damariscotta Grill. Nice quiet place, good food, brick walls and lovely atmostphere - well worth a dinner stop.

King Eider's Pub - more of a restaurant than a pub, but a local watering hole with an outside deck. The sandwiches are abundant in size, and the price is right. Good food with a couple of beers can make for a lovely evening.

Paige's Deli - perfect for really generous lunch sandwiches at reasonable prices. Only a few places to sit inside, but this is a super place to pick up a sandwich and head for a picnic.


One of my very favorite places for lunch is the Sea Basket on Route 1 just two miles south of town. This restaurant has the very best lobster stew you could hope for. Silky, plenty of lobster, rich and filling - I love it. The crab rolls are terrific. This place isn't fancy - it's plastic forks and styrofoam plates - but it's so clean you can eat off the floor. The staff is friendly even when it's super-busy, and if I need atmosphere I just get a carry-out and head for a pretty place for lunch.

Coveside Kitchen - brand new restaurant on Route 1 just north of the Wiscasset bridge, opened a few weeks ago. Family-run small operation, and actually offers a TEN DOLLAR lobster dinner, with steamer clams and corn. What a deal!!! I've also enjoyed a Maine shrimp roll, and the shrimp were all hand-breaded with just the lightest breading, really great tasting. The portions in this sandwich were over-sized - I couldn't eat it all. (Around here, one supports the local fishing industry by ordering Maine shrimp, which are medium-sized and full of flavor. Most of the local restaurants serve Maine shrimp. But if you're in a grocery store and buy those giant shrimp at the deli counter (they're from Thailand), you are "from away" for sure!)

Sarah's Cafe - on the Main Street corner at Water Street. Great view of the Damariscotta River from either inside or from Sarah's deck. Here's where you can get your seafood fix, but also salads, Mexican, and some superb baked items here. If you want a break while touring midcoast Maine or shopping the antiques shops of Wiscasset, this is a perfect sit-down place with good atmosphere, a great view of the lobster boats, and good eats.

I love Maine's food - can you tell?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Wave the Flag - it's our most Patriotic Day!!

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Happy Fourth of July!!

Did you know that:

  • In 1776, 2.5 million people lived in the colonies; now the U.S. is approaching nearly 300 million people
  • On this national holiday, we will eat 150 million hot dogs - about one hotdog for every two people in this countryIn 2005, $5.5 million worth of US flags were imported, with the majority of that amount coming from China (we imported $5 million worth). In contrast, the US exported less than $1 million worth of US flags, with the majority of those flags going to Mexico
  • There are 30 places in the United States with the name "liberty" in them, with the most populated one being Liberty, Missouri with 28,528 people. Other patriotic-type names include Eagle, Michigan; Independence, Missouri; Freedom, California; Patriot, Indiana; and American Fork, Utah.
  • If you are having either potato salad or potato chips with your Fourth of July picnic, chances are that the potatoes originated from either Idaho or Washington - half of the spuds within the US came from either of these two states.
  • More than $200 million value of fireworks were imported from China in 2005, which represents the bulk of all US fireworks imported ($211 million). In comparison, the US exported almost $15 million worth of fireworks, with Australia purchased more than any other country ($4.4 million)
These facts came from the United States Census Bureau - home to much useful information.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Equine and Canine Antiques - The Old Grey Mare

Brass American Saddlebred horse doorstop "King's Genius" 1938
Sometimes it's fun to find antiques in a particular category. Many collectors enjoy grouping their treasures together, displaying their finds in a themed setting. It can be difficult to find certain antiques when you are trying to build a collection, so it's always wonderful to meet a dealer who loves what you love and carries a good assortment of the very thing you are looking for.

A good friend of mine, Dexter Grass, is an antiques dealer who specializes in dog and horse antiques. She carries other kinds of antiques too, but her true love is in vintage canine and equine items. In her hunts, she manages to find so many different kinds of dog- and horse-themed antiques - jewelry, lighting, early tins, bookends, doorstops, books, glassware, games - and it's amazing to think that one could actually amass an entire household of dog and horse antiques!

If you like dogs and horses, take a look at Dexter's Ruby Lane webshop. It's called The Old Grey Mare, and you can click here, or you can go to it by clicking on the link in the sidebar on the right.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

101 Cookbooks

I've been having fun on a website called "101 Cookbooks". It has lots of great information not only on the many different cookbooks available out there (reviews on so many of them!!), but also has forums for discussing all sorts of food-related topics. Here's just a few of them:

What are your favorite recipes for picnic food?

foods you pine for

Unique, but tasty food combinations?
(this one is really popular)

Searching for Unbelievable Chocolate Cake

Your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe? (more than 11,000 people have looked at this topic!)

I've really enjoyed reading the posts on this site - lots of great recipes being shared including some very unusual ones. Many people are willing to share family recipes - a fellow in London, England posted his wife's Welsh Cakes recipe after I requested some scone recipes. I received loads of scone recipes to try, and will be making scones for years!

If you like cooking, or have questions about anything with cooking, or just want to lurk and read the information offered by people from all over the world, check out 101 Cookbooks. There's over 1000 members who have joined this website, and it's free.

I've added this website to my links on the right - have fun browsing, and look for my postings under Antique Cook.