UNION, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Maine used to be a Mecca for antique collectors. Some dealers say collectors once called Maine “America’s attic” because so many valuable antiques were found here.
There are still many antique shops, of course, but dealers say the business has changed. At the 35th annual Maine Antiques Festival in Union, which runs this weekend, organizer Paul Davis says the business hit a peak in the late 1990’s, and then was hit very hard by the 2008 recession. He said that loss of business, plus the aging of some dealers, has reduced the number of people in the business.
At the same time, he says, the antique business has been changing. The large 18th and 19th-century furniture pieces that were once a staple of the antique business have lost public appeal. Dealers now call them “brown furniture and say the market for those items has dropped dramatically.
At the same time, say Davis and others, younger people have been slow to show interest in the antique market. He says there is interest in smaller items of decorating and in chairs and tables from the 1950’s.
Davis says younger buyers have also shown interest in what they call “repurposed.” These are often old industrial or farm equipment that has been co verged to a table or other use. AG the Festival, Charles Harris of Indian Trail Antiques in Newcastle showed a wooden rock drag sled that was repurposed to a table by fastening it to an old dolly frame.
But Deb Gott, a dealer from Biddeford Pool, told NEWS CENTER she thinks younger people are interested in buying, but simply don’t have the money to make major purchases. Gott said she believes the young buyers are instead ” starting out at the bottom” with things like inexpensive painted tables.
But Davis said the antique business, as a whole, needs the young people to get involved me both as buyers and as dealers, to replace those who are getting old.
“Somebody’s got to take their place,” said Davis. “Somebody has to have an interest in this stuff, ’cause it’s not going away.”
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