Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Roland Antiques


Roland, auctioneers of antiques, has left the city. Family owned and founded in 1973, they've been in the neighborhood south of Union Square since 1974, and in the St. Denis building at 11th Street and Broadway for several years.

But the neighborhood is being rapidly changed.

In 2015, the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) put out a call to redevelop a city-owned site on E. 14th Street. They were looking to “create an iconic commercial development” for tech startups and co-working spaces. Mayor de Blasio soon announced the winning “Tech Hub,” a glass tower that politicians and developers hope will boost more high-end development. It is attracting major real estate speculation, including Normandy Real Estate Partners’ 2016 purchase of the St. Denis building for $101 million.

Normandy stopped renewing leases, and hundreds of small business people--most of them psychotherapists and other providers of wellness--were forced to leave the building. I was one of them. (A longer story about the building is forthcoming.)

Roland is the latest loss.


For years, people in the building took pleasure in Roland's presence. Regularly, the auction house would receive a truck full of antiques from some estate and unload them onto the sidewalk to take photos for their catalog.

Roland occupied a large corner space with several windows along 11th and Broadway, plus two showrooms along the back hallway and more in the basement, but this was not enough to contain all the items.

The antiques would overflow into the lobby of the building, where they'd stay for awhile, providing an ever-changing--and often strange--decor.

Every month, Roland held an auction.

Before attending the auction, you'd go to the preview, wandering in and out of the showrooms, looking at the objects. Sometimes, a prospective buyer would try out a baby grand piano, filling the halls with music. 

On auction day, always a Saturday, the main room filled with New York characters. Brothers Bill and Robert Roland ran the show, with Bill as auctioneer. Bids came in over the phone and the Internet. A few items sold for as little as 10 bucks. Others went for big money. That large nude painting of Milda, Lithuanian goddess of love, sold for $55,000.

I was looking forward to their March auction. I only went a few times, but I loved the energy of that room, the people, the jokes, the excitement. No more.

Roland is moving out to Long Island--you'll find them at 150 School Street in Glen Cove.

When I visited as they were sadly packing up, an employee told me, "Unless you're Christie's or Sotheby's, you can't stay in the city anymore. The rents are too high."

1 comment:

Jan Albert said...

Such a shame. What a wonderful family and such a great business. They put on a lively auction with knowledge and finesse.
They did an awesome job for Tekserve when it was forced out after their rent was quadrupled.