Missing the old antiquing haunts
by Peggy Whiteneck
Losing Favorite Antiquing places
I guess anyone over the age of 30 has had the experience of losing favorite places for antique shopping – you know, the unforgettable places that you loved visiting but that closed down or burned down or were otherwise lost. I’m of an age now where nearly all my favorite antiquing haunts have become … well, haunts.
For my parents and I, our favorite place to shop was the Burlwood Antique Center in Meredith, NH. This three-story mall was unheated and, therefore, closed every fall and opened again every May 1. There were lots of things that made this place special, and although we visited it several times each summer, we never failed to find something to buy.
Opening day at Burlwood, May 1 of every year, was an event! People arrived early to make sure there was still space in the usually adequate parking lot at the side of the great building. On opening day, if you didn’t get there well before the place opened, you’d have to park on the street a mile or more away. You likewise wanted to get there early enough to be among the first in a waiting line that snaked out into the street.
As early as we got there, we never managed to be among the several people in line who got to enter and shop first. My dad was always afraid that everything would be “picked over” by the time our section of the line was allowed to go in, but we never failed to walk out of Burlwood with a haul on opening day.
On our several visits to Burlwood over the summer, my dad practically ran through the place so he could be the first to see whatever it was he thought he was looking for. My mom and I actually looked at the displays and often found what would become some of Dad’s best treasures that he’d missed while breezing through. I remember my mom often calling him back gleefully to show him some item for his collection that he’d passed right by: “Oh, Geo-o-orge!”
“How in hell did I miss that!” he’d ask as my mom and I laughed at his pleasure at now “finding” what he’d missed.
The owners had the best vetting program I’ve ever seen in a multi-dealer shop: no born-yesterday, tacky, cheap junk allowed! Oh, the owners caught heat from some dealers, who kept pushing the boundaries in an effort to get rid of crappier, born-yesterday stuff. But the young couple who owned the place held firm in making them take it out.
Totai Shippo (cloisonne on porcelain) bonsai pot
I remember what floor it was on at Burlwood Antique Center – even where it was in the floor – when I found this Totai Shippo (cloisonne on porcelain) bonsai pot priced at just $10. When I got it home and did the research, I discovered its mark identifies it as the work of Takeuchi Chubei, 19th-century practitioner of Totai Shippo, who also established and worked at a porcelain factory open for only three years (1887-1890). While many Asian character marks are notoriously unreliable, minor flaking and crackling in the turquoise glaze tend to confirm this item’s age. (Image courtesy of the author)
Burlwood had great stuff on all three stories, and some of our best acquisitions were found on the basement floor. Consequently, we never went to Burlwood without visiting all three floors (lack of an elevator be danged!).
In 2008, Burlwood closed for the season with everyone, including the owners, expecting it to open again the following May. How depressing it was to have the owners announce, in spring 2009, that they were closing permanently after exploring the costs of needed improvements to the building and discovering that the expense was just too rich for their resources.
While most of the antique stores, sole or multi-dealer, that my parents and I visited have closed, I remain thankful for an exception close to my home, the Vermont Antique Mall in Quechee, VT, with its hundreds of dealers and two stories, where my late parents and I often shopped and “scored” some wonderful things for our collections. Today, I rent dealer space there myself – though I spend most of my profits shopping there! I’ve also found some great multi-dealer malls in New York State and Ohio while traveling to my annual Fenton Art Glass Collectors of America convention.
Wherever your own favorite antique hangouts are, enjoy them while they last – and I’m sure you’ll also discover, as I have, new haunts along your way.
Peggy Whiteneck is a writer, collector, and dealer living in East Randolph, VT. If you would like to suggest a subject that she can address in her column, email her at email@example.com.