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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hey Mr. Demille- time for your closeup.

For everyone who thinks they have what it takes to be on a reality show about antiques, here's your chance:

Looking for Amateur “American Pickers”

The producers of the hit TV show “AMERICAN PICKERS” are doing
a new show for the History Channel.
We are looking for America’s best amateur pickers
to compete for the title of Top Collector!

We are seeking picking partners (husband/wife, friends, father/son, etc.)
who are fun, knowledgeable, and passionate about collecting.

Do you spot the hidden treasures that others miss?
Do you know how to flip items for profit?
Do you pick better than everyone you know?

Do you specialize in collecting items like:

• Classic Cars
• Oil and Gas Memorabilia
• Coin-Operated Machines / Vending Machines
• Circus & Carnival Memorabilia
• Motorcycles and Motor Scooters
• Antique Casino/ Gaming Equipment
• TV & Movie Memorabilia
• Military Items
• Cast Iron
• Taxidermy Animals
• Antique Toys
• Civil War Items
• Architectural Salvage

To apply, email ASAP with a description
of you and your picking partner, your area(s) of expertise,
your phone numbers, and a recent photo or call Jennifer at (646) 873-6528

Saturday, June 25, 2011

What we do and why-

Sometimes in the fast paced world of Antique Show promotion, we are guilty of not doing a good enough job of letting customers know what our role is. Why are you paying $3-$40 to get in a show? Many customers are happy with the experience and more than willing to pay ticket prices, but others seem to bristle at the notion.
We are essentially consolidators of goods and services and sellers of entertainment. Show promoters secure a facility, recruit dealers, handle logistics, staffing, marketing and customer recruitment. We take a risk every time we run a show of it “not working” due to tepid response, weather or other market conditions. Like many other consolidators of goods and services, we need to be compensated for the service we provide. One of my favorite customer complaints is “why do you charge me to shop, I don’t pay when I go to the mall”. Every time that a consumer purchases something in a mall, the consolidator (mall owner) gets the share of revenue required to operate the facility plus a profit. In this instance, their cut is priced in the item the consumer is buying but our industry does not operate in this manner.
Our Springfield Show features as many as 2000 vendors during the May and September shows. The show is that large because of a long standing policy that allows vendors to select the number of days they wish to participate. Approximately 50% of the vendors stay for all 4 days, while other chose to participate as they see fit. We have long debated this policy internally and with discussions with many vendors over the last 15 years and have always come to the conclusion that a change to this policy would negatively impact dealer count and customer enjoyment of the show. A mandatory 4 day commitment would dramatically decrease the number of vendors who could participate, thus diminishing the size and scope of the show.
As a discussion on our Facebook page recently demonstrated, there are strong feelings on both sides of the issue. We have recently begun the practice of discounting Sunday admission, to more accurately charge for the size of the Sunday show compared to Friday and Saturday. This issue also goes back to what I spoke of previously. If a customer comes to our show on any day and finds three or four dealers that they enjoy (out of 2000) then the service we provide should save them significant amounts of time and money by reducing the cost of seeing them. The cost of driving to see these vendors in their shops, homes or malls should be much greater than the admission fees we charge.
Show promoters are also a lot like movie producers, we all start out trying to make a great movie. There are a tremendous number of things that we cannot control. If a customer comes to a show and doesn’t find anything that they want to buy or see anything that they enjoy, they will generally not be happy with the experience. This does happen, but the show producers aren’t responsible for a single item seen, bought or sold. But at the end of the day, if the show or movie is lousy, the producer is the one who takes the fall. By the way, when was the last time anyone called a movie producer to complain about ticket prices?

Monday, June 20, 2011

So you'd like to promote antique shows!

After much thought here is a brief description of the events leading up to the Harwinton show last weekend- the most challenging show we have run in nearly 30 years:

Friday, June 3- After long thought, it was mutually agreed that we needed to find a new wall vendor for the show. Travel times and a conflicting show made it almost impossible for our regular supplier. With nearly 30 vendors needing walls finding a replacement became an immediate need. On this issue, we hit the jackpot with Stacy Exposition. They stepped in and never missed a beat. Challenge solved.

Saturday, June 4- While at Karate with Graham, received a phone call from our tent vendor informing us that due to the growing size of the job (40 tents, 250 tables) that they couldn’t fill the order. Panic sets in- how do you locate that many tents that need to start going up in 72 hours on one of the biggest wedding/graduation weekends of the year? To start with, you start by calling every company that owns tents in New England. At this point, I actually taped my cell phone to my hand. By the end of the day, I had several companies exploring the possibility of filling the order, while nearly 20 said they didn’t have a single tent to rent.

Sunday, June 5- Travel Day. Many of you with small children know the joy of a long day of airport travel. That three hour layover in Detroit sounded ok when I booked the tickets. Security made me remove the taped cell phone from my hand, but only lost several minutes of calling. We arrived at our hotel around 9 p.m. - tired and still tent-less.

Monday, June 6- We got up and went to the show’s new home, the Harwinton Fairgrounds. The grounds were in great shape, grass mowed, buildings ready to go. I spent most of the morning on the phone in a frantic search for tents. By noon we had dispatched a rental truck to Vermont to pick up the small tents that we were going to have to put up ourselves. If you think finding tents is challenging on short notice, try finding a 26’ truck. By Monday evening, the tents were loaded and should arrive by noon on Tuesday. Our large tents were going to go up on Wednesday morning by two companies, one from CT and another from MA. For the moment, it looked like everything was on schedule. Dad had located some extra labor in our hotel parking lot to help with the tents (you always find great labor in hotel parking lots). All kidding aside, the group of guys that Steve from Waterbury put together were a tremendous help numerous times during the week.

Tuesday, June 7- While on the way to the show, the truck was pulled over for not stopping at a weigh station in Massachusetts. After nearly an hour of pleading ignorance (we were), apologies and promises to correct the many errors of our ways, the truck was back on the road. Arriving around 1 p.m. the tents began to make their way skyward with the help of our crew.

Wednesday, June 8- The two tent companies arrive and begin erecting the large tents while our guys make good progress on the smaller tents, I spend most of the day at a board meeting for the Alliance for Art & Antiques, a newly formed trade group for the industry. The show was really shaping up by Wednesday evening, just a few things to tidy up, some tent sidewall to hang and one larger tent to go for a smooth Friday dealer set-up.

Thursday, June 9- A forecast for afternoon storms seemed to be minor obstacle, but little did we know they would dramatically alter our plans. Around 5:30 what could be described as a microburst hit the fairgrounds. High winds, hail and torrential rain pounded for nearly an hour. The aftermath was devastating, with most of the small tents either damaged beyond use or blown away. The large tents fared better, with two sustaining minor damage, and one not yet erected.
I was at Wal-Mart in Waterbury when the storm hit with Kelly, Mom and Graham buying supplies for the show. Dad called to share the news and needless to say I was absolutely blown away (pardon the pun). After working for days to find and put the tents up, they were blown away in a few minutes less than 14 hours from dealer set-up. I began wandering aimlessly through the aisles babbling like some modern day show promoting Rain Man mumbling nonsensical phrases “Definitely need duct-tape” and “Set-up starts in 14 hours”. It took me about 10 minutes of wandering around the store (which kept losing power from the storm) to regain the senses I could muster. I called back to the field where I was told that the weather was too bad to even assess the damage, but needless to say we needed tents. It was at this point that conventional definitions of sleeping and eating went on hold for 96 hours.
After a few phone calls, we were very lucky to find a tent provider (Sturdy Tents) who was willing and able to come in on Thursday night and have tents up by Friday morning. The small problem was he needed labor, and our staff had been working since 7 a.m. and had at least 5 or 6 more hours of clean-up work to do. Dad then called Steve and asked if they would like to pull an all-nighter putting up tents. The answer was an immediate yes, as long as they got to finish watching the NBA game.
Around 11:30 Thursday evening, a crew of 9 guys and 1 girl began to erect the 20 or so tents needed by the following morning.

Friday, June 10- Dealers were told via email the night before the news of the storm and related damage. While most booths were un-damaged, the grounds were very wet and one of the large tents and some of the smaller tents were not finished, but set-up began. Dealers for the most part were exceptionally understanding and more than willing to deal with the delays. The exceptions to that were in the large tent that did not get finished prior to the storm. The company that provided that tent had given us assurances that the tent would be up early in the a.m., but failed to deliver. This began a series of booth shuffling to put dealers who had arrived in spaces in the tents that were already up. When the company finally arrived (mid-morning) there apparently was a huge miss-communication with their (Portuguese?) staff as they began taking the tent apart. After a few frantic phone calls, the error was corrected and the tent was put up by about 1 p.m. - or 4 hours behind schedule.

Set-up went as smoothly as could be expected given all the complications of the weather and the fact it was a first time in the new facility. Booths that looked good on paper but not when set up were moved and the show was shaping up. As the day wore on, it looked like we had overcome most of the severe obstacles. We began to see light at the end of the tunnel, but little did we know that the light was a train coming full steam ahead.

Let me preface what I am about to write with a statement. I understand and support all those who work to promote public safety at our events. In 20 plus years, many of the police and fire officials that we have worked with have become friends and will tell you that we strive to make sure our events are the safest around. We began working with local fire officials prior to the show about the standards that our tents would have to meet. We were clear with our suppliers about what those standards were and were given assurances that all tents would meet those standards. When a local official inspected our tents on Friday night, we were informed that three of the five large tents did not meet code requirements for Flame Ret ardency. The problem was not with the tents, but the fact they were not labeled properly. One tent had 4 labels, was missing 1 and had a clear marking where the label had been, but could not be passed. After several hours of discussion that lasted past 11 p.m., a compromise was reached that would allow us to use the three tents if vendors would change the orientation of their booths to face the outside of the tents and hiring a fire watch in each of the three tents that did not pass inspection. This was the only solution other than closing the tents and having the vendors not participate.

Saturday, June 11- arriving early, we began the task of telling vendors in the tents that they would need to change the orientation of their booths. This was met with varying degrees of response from begrudging acceptance to outright rage. We also were informed that the show could not open until the sidewalls were down on the tents, no big deal except for the fact that minutes prior to opening the skies opened up with another 1-2 inch rainfall. While assisting in the teardown of a dealer’s booth to meet with fire-code, I was informed that the traffic had backed up a half mile because the front gate could not be opened until the fire official gave the ok. I then asked local fire personnel to assist with the sidewall tear-down so we could get the show opened.
The show opened with a decent crowd (very good considering the weather). It looked great and the Harwinton Fairgrounds will make a great home moving forward. Most dealers were encouraged and there were reports of some very good shows. The tough first show wasn’t something that I would have wished for, but reminds us of that great Mike Tyson quote “everybody has a plan until they get hit in the face”.

Sunday, June 12- Started the morning handling the passing out of a dealer letter, collecting balances due as well as doing a little bit of damage control. There were booths that simply couldn’t handle the 4-6 inches of rain that had fallen in the past 72 hours. Tried to maintain my sense of humor and hide the frustrations that were boiling just beneath the surface. A dealer asked me on Sunday if I would characterize this as the show from hell. I told her I submitted the details of this show to hell for consideration, but they thought it was a little to punitive for their standards.
Monday, June 13- How do you get the remnants of 25 broken and battered tents back to Vermont?? Once again it’s Stacy Expo to the rescue. We were unable to do it ourselves as we were now on a Department of Transportation database and didn’t think we could please ignorance again. We managed to get everything wrapped up on Monday.
Need to close this by thanking a lot of people who endeavored to make a huge pitcher of lemonade out of the largest batch of lemons ever:
Kelly & Graham, Mom & Dad
Peg, Tim, Lynette, Bill, Ted, Tom, John and the guys on the crew
The Waterbury Guys
Stacy Expo
Sturdy Tents
The Terlecky’s and everyone else in Harwinton who pitched in and helped
Dealers and Customers who stuck it out at the toughest one yet and apologies to those who couldn’t
Janie for picking a good one to miss and helping from afar
People who help but wish to remain anonymous
The fine people who bring us Diet Coke, Pharmaceuticals, Seagrams Distillery (now Viageo), the small hamlet of Lynchburg, Tennessee and the bedbugs who made a brief appearance but as of yet have not followed us home.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Searching for the cure.

On our first "normal" weekend at home in sometime, I find myself bidding online at today's Antique Helper auction in Indianapolis. Still looking for time to chronicle Harwinton- telling the story almost takes an hour.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Video of Harwinton!

The link for the Harwinton Antiques & The Arts Video is here:

Monday, June 13, 2011

Kind Words

The show in Harwinton this weekend was perhaps both the most difficult and rewarding show we have produced in 30 years of show management. I will write the details in the blog in the next few days, but suffice it to say that challenges were immense. The show would not have happened without extraordinary efforts of a lot of people-

1. A great staff that went without sleep and dry clothes for far longer than they should have.

2. Stacy Expo- who stepped in and conducted themselves far above the call of duty.

3. Sturdy Tents- if you need tents installed in the middle of the night with a few hours notice, call them.

4. Patient Dealers- a determined group who were not afraid to stick out their necks on a new venture in perhaps the most challenging circumstances many have dealt with.

Below are the very kind words of dealer Victor Weinblatt who penned them after the show and shared them with me today. Perhaps the nicest comments I've ever read after a show:

"I am happy to report some GOOD news, particularly in a moment when we all could use more of it: the birth of a very promising new show. Childbirth is not without risk & peril, and this one was complete with tents blown down and swept up into tree tops (fortunately on the evening before dealer arrival & set up), flooding rains and bone chilling cold. Antiques show managers, whose lives would be relatively blissful if they could control the fickle New England weather, are but one of the heroes of this narrative. Jon Jenkins, energetic, upbeat, dauntless and imaginative was our fearless young hero, and with grace & inextinguishable humor kept things, quite literally, from flying apart. He found new tent vendors to appear miraculously in the middle of the night. He had the vision to conceive of a new show in the best-suited-for-a-show fairgrounds I have seen in my thirty-two year career as a show dealer. A half dozen dealer-friendly skylit buildings of manageable, human scaled proportion with high ceilings and cross ventilation (more on this later) from large sliding doors made for an ideal summer venue for those of us who want or need to be indoors. Scenic fields afforded flexibility for those dealers wishing to be in larger management provided tents or smaller individual tents. In short, the perfect venue. The somewhat biblical, old Testament-like avenging God of weather had a slightly different agenda.
After the pre-set up phenomenon of airborne tents propelled into tree tops, the dealers lucky enough to be in those handsome fairgrounds structure were subject to their own purgatory. At 5 a.m. Saturday morning, those of us silly enough to check the weather forecast donned shorts & lightweight shirts appropriate to temperatures predicted to be in the 70s. What we got were a bit less balmy damp & windy 50s. As an alternative to hypothermia & frostbite, our ever resourceful & eminently fashionable band of brothers & sisters donned packing blankets (at least those of us who had not driven our trucks home the night before). The hands-down couture winner was Steve Smoot who looked quite fetching in a donegal-like woolen blanket skirt, which he should feature in his fall collection. Despite our suggestions to add a slit to the skirt to improve mobility, he steadfastly held to the purity of line & form, sacrificing comfort to aesthetics. To heighten show drama, and forestall the brain freeze of falling temperatures, the ever zealous fire marshalls decided just a few minutes before opening that all the dealers in the large tents had to re-orient their booths outwards. Which brings us to our second hero of the day, Sandy Klempner. With a beautifully designed (walled) booth (for which she is known in the industry) facing toward an inner aisle, the firemen ordered that her walls be taken down & reversed. All the tent flaps were ordered removed (despite the rain & wind) and with the show opening delayed and cars lining up all the way to Route 4, a doorway was cut in her back wall and her booth looked none the worse for it. Sandy was just one of the many dealer heroes of that morning in the tents, who despite ungodly pressure and the somewhat arbitrary demands of the officials, managed to subscribe to the 'show must go on' antique dealer motto, and carried the day with humor, grace and just a few real (fairly well-concealed) tears. Which brings to mind yet another dealer hero team, Lynn & Mike Worden. Late on Thursday night before dealer set-up, Lynn on the fly & on the road sent out an emergency e-mail with adjusted storm related information to all the travelling dealers. Lynn & Mike are dealer's dealers: their folk art is extraordinarily graphic, with brilliant form, exquisite surface, superb color and the freshest merchandise in the trade. Their booth designs are the best, bar none, with presentation that is jaw-dropping in its artistic impact & visceral stimuli. It is far more than 'eye-candy', it is an 'eye-feast', show after show. And if that is not enough to keep them busy, they are the unsung & anonymous authors of the most extraordinary show blog in the industry, The Antique Wanderer. In their travels they photograph hundreds of booths at the shows they exhibit at and shop, and then post them to the blog with the most profoundly witty & deeply moving captions. With a mid-western modesty, humility and selflessness they are my personal and artistic heroes. Now that I have set the stage, you might ask, with all the drama and heroics, was the childbirth worth the pain? The medical evaluation & prognosis is very positive. I was fortunate enough to have an encouragingly good week-end, with sales of three sets of polychrome architectural
shutters, a nineteenth century dough box in robin's egg blue, a square nailed diminutive bucket bench in dark green, a double schoolroom desk, a large double sided elaborately tavern-styled trade sign for WEST FARM HATCHING EGGS, a circus wagon polychrome panel touting GOOD SPORT & PLENTY OF IT, a polychrome gargantuan gear form mirror, a mid-19thc weavers skarn, a polychrome parchesi, a set of tops, and a healthy selection of smalls.
Hilary is right (as always), it does take a village, and this child named Harwinton clearly has a very bright future as it took its first baby steps this June. It will make its second public appearence on Labor Day week-end, and prospects for its healthy growth & development are excellent."

Thursday, June 9, 2011

To quote the great Forrest Gump- "It Happens"

While wrapping up the finishing touches on our new Harwinton Show, mother nature decided that she would add a few points to the degree of difficulty by taking out about 20 tents this evening. No worries, locating 20 replacement tents that need to be up in 12 hours is a snap. The show must go on, apparently sleep will not. Make plans to attend.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Blatant Commercialism

We are looking forward to starting a new tradition at our new home at the Harwinton Fairgrounds. Customer and dealer response has been tremendous. We have had mentions of the show and or articles in the following publications:
Hartford Courant, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Enquirer, Waterbury Republican-American, Litchfield County Times

In addition to paid advertising in the: New York Times, Hartford Courant, New Haven Register, Litchfield County Times, Foothills Trader, Register Citizen, Thomaston Express, Avon News, Simsbury News, Canton News, Granby News, West Hartford News, Litchfield News, Litchfield County Times
Please take the time to email your customers in the New York area about the shuttle bus from Penn Station to the show. There is a link on the home page of the website for full information and to book the trip.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

On the road to Fairhaven

Heading to bucolic Fairhaven, Ohio this morning to watch a sleepy hamlet transform into an antiques mecca. For those of you who haven't been, the selection of dealers rivals New York, Manchester or Nashville in quality in a town so small, it doesn't have a stop sign. Visit for details. This show, combined with the Saturday Heartland Antique Show in Richmond make this a can't miss summer event if you are in the midwest.