Antique stores areamong the most visited locations in downtown areas for out-of-town visitors. But in a time where it’s common to hear words such as “downsizing,” “spring cleaning” or “minimalism,” why do people still buy antiques?
The difference between old
To be considered antique, an item must be at least 100 years old. Pieces that aren’t quite as old are considered vintage or retro, and are just as coveted.
The shelves at A Robin’s Nest of Antiques & Treasures, 602 Main St. in Grand Junction, are lined with almost any item you can think of from periods throughout history—jewelry, dishes, appliances, artwork, tools, furniture, decorative items, trinkets and more. If owners Shane and Robin Allerheiligen don’t have it, they’ll try to help you find it.
They make a point of carrying a large assortment of items appealing to all ages. Inventory is supplemented by the shop’s 90 vendors, some of whom specialize in certain types of items or those from a particular region or decade.
Many vendors at A Robin’s Nest are age 50 or older. Some think of antiquing as a hobby and relish the hunt for rare and valuable finds. Others are simply looking to downsize their personal collections.
Pat Garlitz, 75, has the distinction of being one of A Robin’s Nest’s longest vendors. She sold antiques at Cobwebs, which was the name of the store before the Allerheiligens bought it.
While Garlitz doesn’t specialize in one particular item, she is especially fond of glassware and jewelry. In her family, she’s the designated collector of heirlooms. Some prized possessions in her own collection include her grandmother’s old trunk and her grandfather’s autograph book with entries dating back to 1899.
“I was always the one in the family that kept all Grandma’s stuff,” she said. “I loved all those old things.”
Starting off married life with little money, Garlitz shopped at garage sales and estate sales for second-hand furniture. While she browsed, other items would catch her eye. Eventually she reached the point where she had “too much stuff.”
She started selling items in her collection after she retired and found joy in sharing beloved items with customers, swapping stories and reminiscing, while making a little extra money. Today, she shops local estate sales and auctions, and she and her husband spend several weeks in her father’s small Kansas hometown to see what treasures she can find.
“Since we’re retired, it gives us something fun to do,” she said. “I like going through people’s junk. You find out a lot about people by doing that.”
Making old like new
Antiquing is a green industry. Down the street at Brick & Mortar Mercantile, 510 Main St., Becky Ripper takes this concept to another level by finding ways to repurpose vintage items and antiques to fit with a customer’s modern style.
“It used to be that everything had to match,” Ripper said. “But that’s just not the rule anymore. In designer homes they accent [a room] with pieces that you never thought would go together.”
Ripper sells a combination of items new and old, but old doesn’t mean falling apart. The reliable construction and overall quality of antiques appeals to many, and the fact that most are unique finds due to their age and rarity gives Ripper the opportunity to educate customers and share ideas on how antique furnishings can add flair to your home, no matter your style.
Brick & Mortar Mercantile also consigns artwork by local artists. They carry some newer furnishings that share the same antique quality and rustic look, and pieces handmade by vendors. Other “new items” are crafted from old collectibles.
Someone to enjoy it
Every once in a while, a valuable relic or memento will make its way into the stores. Among the mercantile’s recent treasures is an original photo of famous cowboy Wyatt Earp’s wife.
“You’ll never see that again,” Ripper said, adding that the area’s western heritage largely impacts the items for sale in the store.
But why would someone let go of a treasure like that?
“Sometimes people don’t know what they have,” Ripper said. Others don’t care. “They just want to get rid of it.”
Although some items have been in a family for years, the chain of passing down family heirlooms will often stop with the current generation. If the kids don’t want it, parents and grandparents are often persuaded to part with it in hopes that someone else can enjoy it.
“Younger generations often are not interested in old stuff, even though it has a family connection,” Ripper said. “They often look for more useful pieces; not something that can just be put away and taken out on special occasions.”
But parting with these treasured items isn’t always easy.
“It’s easy to get attached to things, especially when you have something unique, valuable or if it has special meaning,” Ripper said.
Although a lot of neat stuff finds its way into the 20,000 square-foot A Robin’s Nest, the Allerheligens try not to become attached.
“If we get too attached to items, we might put too high a price on it, or not want to sell it,” Shane said. “We want to help other people with their collections.”
Something for everyone
The line of restaurants and specialty shops in downtown Grand Junction brings in steady foot traffic to antique stores and other shops on the Main Street strip. The items on display in store windows draw in locals and visitors alike to see what gems are inside.
Antique stores appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds because of the variety of items that make their way in and out of the store daily. Shoppers can uncover trinkets that conjure memories and feelings of nostalgia while others discover photos, wall art and décor items they won’t find anywhere else.
While women are the typical shoppers at antique stores, A Robin’s Nest and Brick & Mortar Mercantile carry a lot of western/cowboy décor, tools, vintage toys and guns that appeal to men.
Though some people just come in to browse, both Ripper and the Allerheiligens said that collectors often come in looking for something specific, such as items branded with logos like Coca-Cola, classic automobile memorabilia or old radios.
Ripper said she has one visitor that pops in regularly looking for old clocks.
“We just got three 100- or 120-year-old clocks in. They’re just gorgeous,” she said. “I can’t wait for him to come in and see them. If nothing else, he’ll educate me on them.”
Learning about history
That’s another appealing aspect of antiquing. While some customers bring in items that are clearly antiquated or of possible value, dealers don’t always know the stories behind them.
“Sometimes items find their way to us, and we have no idea what they are,” Shane said.
Ripper said it’s impossible for anyone to know the history and value of everything.
“People think that just because you own an antique store, you have this vast knowledge of everything,” she said.
That’s where vendors and customers help fill in the blanks. It’s common for people from all walks of life to come into the store and share what they know. Often, they will provide perspective about a piece based on their careers, childhood experiences, and the memories and stories they associate with a particular piece.
“The things that are really precious are those [that] you know the story behind,” Ripper said. “Often vendors know [a piece’s] history and share colorful stories that make their pieces come alive.”