Distinguishable by quality craftsmanship and material, antiques offer a superior alternative to their modern plastic brethren, lovers say.
Their rich history and beauty transcends the plastic, breakable and disposable goods — “the latest” — to which many are nonetheless attracted, antiquers lament.
The challenge is that antique stores must remain relevant and solvent amidst not only changing tastes, but an altering business landscape that features fewer independently owned stores.
Antique stores could become antiquated.
But as the decades of decadence slowly recede and a new, environmentally friendly frugality emerges, antiques could become cool again.
At least, several Rim Country antique store owners hope so.
“People are stopping and taking a second look at things they can re-use and recycle,” said Pine Country Antique Shop co-owner Lorna Pietrantonio. “People are tired of waste.”
Pine Country Antiques opened four years ago after Pietrantonio and business partner Maureen Garlausky relocated to Pine full-time from Fountain Hills.
Pietrantonio said both her mother and her grandmother loved antiques, and they passed on the interest. “To me, it’s like an art form,” she said.
She likes the ability to identify the era of an object by its construction. “It’s more interesting, I think.”
Antiques and recycling
Tymeless Antiques and Treasures owner Larry Baker also markets buying antiques as a way of recycling.
A sign outside his store reads, “Think green, buy green.” Baker, a former international banker from San Francisco, says staying open requires a multi-faceted business plan.
That means, “changing with the times,” he said.
Baker opened seven years ago, and has since expanded his shop in size. It now occupies what was once a restaurant in a multi-roomed unfolding of antique furniture and other accompaniments.
Baker said people looking for furniture can find value in antiques. He pointed to a $1,500 art deco buffet from the early 1900s made of solid mahogany. A new piece could cost two times that much, and might not last as long.
Both Baker and Pietrantonio offer home décor and other gift items to supplement the antiques they stock.
“In order to survive you have to have giftware or ice cream or something,” Pietrantonio said, adding that she sells salt water taffy.
In Payson, Maureen and Nick own the Pioneer Village Trading Post. A lifetime of antiques and collectibles crowd the building, which could be cavernous if a square inch was left uncovered. It’s not.
Maureen, who said she enjoyed obscurity and preferred that her last name not be used, eschews modernity all together. She and Nick own no computer. “We’d rather be kayaking,” Maureen said. “I don’t know that I’m in the modern age yet.”
The store, open only on weekends, features jewelry, old guns and rifles, rocks indented from Indians grinding corn and acorns, antique saddles, books, and furniture.
Quality of construction attracts Maureen to antiques. “Things were more substantial then and made to last. What would we be saving today? A plastic mixer?”
Still, love does not pay rent. Maureen and Nick constructed the building their store sits in, and they attribute self-ownership to their continued success. Rents in Payson are high, which can make staying in business difficult, Maureen said.
“You’d have to sell everything in the store once a month to pay rent.” She said local antique store owners have contemplated printing brochures with guides of local establishments, but the stores open and close too quickly.
Besides expensive rent, a waning interest in antiques could threaten the trade. Those interviewed for this article said it’s important to teach children about antiques and older items.
History lessons and more
Pietrantonio gave the example of a marble — “That’s something we take for granted, that kids know what toys we played with,” said Pietrantonio. “Kids don’t really play board games anymore, but they’re so much better because they develop your brain.”
She said parents sometimes bring their children to the store and talk to them about the history. Pine Country Antiques has an orange toy tractor that Pietrantonio said parents love because it reminds them of their youth and kids are infatuated with because they’ve never seen anything like it.
“Kids will ask questions. They are interested,” Pietrantonio said, adding that the new term for the old is “old-school.”
“Even the language has changed.”
Antique store owners also fear that mom-and-pop stores will become antiques. Pietrantonio features fliers from the 3-50 project — www. the350project.net — which urges people to think about the three independently owned stores they’d miss most if they disappeared. The slogan is “Pick three. Spend 50. Save your local economy.”
According to the project, $68 of every $100 spent in independently owned stores returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other spending. In a national chain, just $43 out of every $100 remains in the community. That number dwindles to $0 when considering online purchases.
In Pine, with its charming streets of quirky shops, the arrival of a chain store is difficult to imagine. After all, even Payson residents see Pine as a tourist destination, Pietrantonio said. But change can be slow to realize. “It’s going to be too late when we see what we lost,” Pietrantonio said.