In this digital advertising age, you would think everyone looks on their phone to see where the nearest antique shops are in their area. But the antique business is its own creature. One of the holdovers in this business is the rack card; it’s those cards you find in racks at the check out telling you where other shops are close by.
Once a quarter I drive around and refill my cards across Adamstown and Lancaster and I take theirs to refill the stand at my shop. It’s a lot of driving and, ok I admit it, a lot of shopping. The best part of this ritual is reconnecting with dealers, shop owners and assorted friends in the business.
We get to talk about our families, pets, how the shopping is, and the business.
Let me back up slightly. When you’re in the business for a couple of years you realize the antique business locally is a small community of dealers that love the search for treasure. You meet as dealers at a co-op, move on, run into each other at auctions or estate sales. Meet up as buyer and seller at another shop. Simply, they become friends. This in-person connection is one that I wouldn’t trade for a million likes on Facebook.
Often times I have this flash that it’s all the same merchandise that dealers just pass around (I did my share of shopping today). I love to see the displays, merchandise, and sales at other shops; it puts your pricing in perspective and makes you up your display game. What is selling in one shop may not sell in another. At my shop I couldn’t sell a set of china to save my life and when I was in line at a shop in Adamstown I heard the store owner negotiating to sell a $1,200 set of dinnerware.
Everyone agrees the antique business isn’t what it used to be. To paraphrase a friend, long gone are the days of the big dump truck of money pulling up every Friday. I tell people long gone are the 90’s when the industry was booming. Dealers these days make their profits in nickels and dimes. With the explosion of TV shows such as American Pickers and Flea Market Flip, the secret's out. Customers are overly informed of prices and old school dealers are out of touch with current pricing trends; this disparity is the world antique dealers reside in today.
Would I trade any of this for a 9-5 job in a cubical with a guaranteed paycheck every week? Not on your life... well, maybe the paycheck.