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Antiques: dealers are getting mixed results

SCHUYLER COUNTY—Tourists in search of old-fashioned Schuyler County often scout out area antiques shops. Anyone driving slowly down Franklin Street in Watkins Glen might think there are a lot of them here, but proprietors say the apparent concentration of stores is happenstance.
The new shop on the street, Unique Country Boutique on Franklin Street, opened about two months ago, and owner Ann Hoyt says things have been “going very well. We’ve been surprised and very pleased. We’re seeing locals and tourists, a great mix. Everybody said we were taking a chance, but we didn’t feel we were.”
Hoyt owns a similar shop in Arkport, where antiques are similarly part of the merchandise mix. She opened the store in Watkins Glen because “This is my home town, we thought it was a great building and a good opportunity. And there are a lot of nice antiques stores. Generally, when people are looking for antiques, they want to go for several different stores.”
A block south, the owners of three antiques shops on Franklin Street are a lot less sanguine. Larry Novinsky, owner of Putty Jug at 307 North Franklin, has been selling antiques here for 19 years. “It’s a touristy town, and antiques are the type of thing tourists want,” he says. But things are not like they used to be, “When you could open your doors in the morning and people were pouring in, and then you’d have to throw them out at night.” Specializing in vintage jewelry, he attributes the drop-off in business to e-Bay and the economy.
Linda Henneman, owner of Yesterday’s Paradise on Franklin Street, has been doing business at this location since 1992. She’s seen a shift in sales as more people look for smaller items. “Airlines have cut down the amount you can take in your luggage,” she explains.  “Locals buy the furniture, but you don’t sell much when the economy is down—we’re the first to take a hit.”
“It’s going terrible,” says Tom Brewster, owner of Yesterday at 309 N. Franklin Street. “It’s called a recession. People aren’t looking for much of anything.” Brewster specializes in rare stamps, art and collectibles. “Initially we sold a lot more larger, higher-priced items; now the vast majority of customers are lookers, spending time and killing time. I’m sure there’s other places that have the same experiences. I saw things slowing down a year ago; things started to change. We’ll see what happens.”
At TJ antiques in Reading Center, Nancy Fobert, who works on the business with her father, has seen a definite change in the business this year—for the better.
“We’re up 35 percent from last year,” she says. “Right now we’ve been selling furniture. The antique business truly ebbs and flows and you can’t guess today what’s going to be popular tomorrow. My family has owned this for 23 years: we’ve seen the ups and the downs and we’re still hanging in there and things are going well!”
Sure, e-Bay is a problem, because people don’t have to scour the stores, she notes. “Prices are not up but a little lower than previous years, or standing still. But antiques are always going to be an investment over new furniture. When you resell it, you’ll get at least half its value back and it’ll last as long as you want it to last.
“There’s something very special about an antique and the story it can tell,” Fobert continues. “I’d rather sit at a table and know people have had conversations about marriages and births, than to sit at a new table without any history. I really do believe in them.”
Fobert revisions or repurposes some antique pieces into art, sold at TJ Antiques and also at O’Shaughnessy Antiques in Watkins Glen. “We’re all in this business together,” Fobert says. “Everyone does something a little different, and we’re not competitors.”
Louise O’Shaughnessy, who owns O’Shaughnessy Antiques with Deborah Pierce at 300 N. Franklin Street, is at least equally enthusiastic. “Relative to other communities, there are really not that many antiques stores in Watkins Glen—we’d like to see a lot more. We don’t see other antiques shops as competitors, we see the number as a draw.”
And she says she and her partner have worked hard to have a lot to offer the community. “We open at 9:30 a.m. and stay open some evenings until 10 pm. We have an art gallery, we’re professional appraisers—we wear many hats. I think the more you can offer, the better, just on general principles.”
Apparently, this is working for them. “We’ve had a very, very good year, we’re very grateful. Watkins Glen is a marvelous resort area, it feels like a little Hyannis without the commercial hustle. We have some very good neighbors, the street traffic has been excellent, we’re very happy with the development.”
And to O’Shaughnessy’s thinking, though these are challenging times, things can only improve. “Everybody feels the recession,” she says. “There are two ways to go. You can sit and worry and fade like a rose or you can examine what you’re doing and try to roll with the punches. We’re trying to be proactive.”

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