Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Reminiscing about the Antiques business

When I first started in 1980 as an antiques dealer, I was very fortunate to befriend a couple of dealers and collectors who taught me the basics of the antiques trade. As we all know, this is one weird business. It's both wholesale and retail at the same time (how many businesses do both?), and the negotiating price thing can be outrageous (at one time or another, most of us have sold something for 30-50% off - and it's expected now!). How many other industries do you know buy things, clean and repair them, and then try to make a living from them? And that's not to mention the long hours, unusual characters, and strange working conditions many of us have endured . . .

The antiques business is most unusual, and without the help and direction of some very good and faithful friends early in my career, I wouldn't have lasted this long. They gave me the joy and laughter of finding wonderful old things, and made the tribulations so much more tolerable. They explained the hand-shake part of this business, and that one's word is their absolute reputation. And from the beginning, I vowed to pass on the same help that they gave me so long ago.

Anytime I can pass on assistance to my fellow dealers, I try to do so. I certainly don't have all the answers, but if it's something I've already done, or somewhere I've been, I'm very happy to share info.

Nowadays, I'm seeing more and more cut-throat antiques dealers, and it confounds me - why would anyone want to be alone in this business, being known as a poor excuse for an antiques dealer and having a bad reputation for treating others badly. Or being know for back-stabbing business techniques. Or taking advantage of newer dealers' inexperience. I just don't get it. I'd much rather be happy sharing with my dealer friends, laughing and giggling, learning new ideas and sharing life and business experiences.

I've had the good fortune of loving this business for nearly 30 yrs (more, if you count my collecting times prior to becoming a seller), and the pleasures of the antiques trade has given me many wonderful life stories not only here at home, but across the country and in several other countries too. Weird businesses bring together new friends, allow us to learn really odd information, and provide for much laughter and many smiles as we think back over the years.

I'm not the only one who thinks this way. Two weeks ago, a dealer friend who's been in this business as a nationally-recognized show dealer for more than 40 years told me that he just couldn't sleep the night before the four day show we were doing. He was so excited about the show he stayed awake a good part of the night! He has exhibited at this show for more than 30 years, twice a year, and he still has that inner sense of wonder and thrill, not knowing what awaits him at the show.

His open mind and willingness to just be himself has brought him many customers over the years, and many of those customers have turned into true friends. He is such an engaging person, and he's enjoyed his full-time life as an antiques dealer. The fact that he'd had not one but TWO flat tires on his van on the way to the show (a 1000 mile trip away from his home) didn't faze him one bit. He just took care of business (flat tires are a nuisance, but do not have to be a major problem) and was smiling and laughing the next day while telling his story.

Nothing slows him down. He's dedicated, happy, looks forward to every day. He can make a family of snowmen out of a ten foot deep snowstorm. That's the kind of antiques dealer I want to be!

No comments: