Friday, December 12, 2008

Antique Row

With the announcement of yet another village antique shop closing I figured it's time to put this post together. Shophound (via Racked) notes that Kyner Antiques at 827 Broadway is shuttering, with the rent going for $65,000 per month. (The neighboring Lions has also fallen, now covered in graffiti.) The blogger asks if antiques are disappearing from Broadway. The answer is yes.

And whatever virus is killing them has long been spreading around the corner to 11th Street. For months, the shops there have been falling like dominoes.

Walk down 11th between Broadway and University and you walk a gauntlet of defunct shops, empty windows, For Lease and We've Moved signs. Paramount Antiques. Big Apple Antiques. While the big Broadway shops are turning into condo sales offices, the storefronts on 11th are being transformed into yoga stores and boutiques that sell clothing for dogs.

A few months ago I asked one of the shopkeepers, a grizzled man who has long intrigued and intimidated me, what he thought was happening there. My question offended him. "When was the last time you bought?" he asked. I told him I don't buy antiques. He sniffed, indicating that I had my answer. When I inquired further, he barked that I should learn to keep my curiosity to myself.

While I don't buy antiques, that doesn't mean I don't enjoy and value their existence. I like walking that block in the mornings and seeing the shipments coming in. There are still dealers surviving and keeping the street alive.

Through their gorgeous gate, Royal Antiques regularly welcomes truckloads of golden chairs with arms made of serpents and crusty chandeliers that look like they came from the ceilings of medieval castles. You never know what you'll see there. You might come upon a life-size stag, its antlers green with verdigris. Or a nude nymph reclining on a chaise lounge, her bronze breasts gleaming in the sun.

With Antique Row vanishing, soon these unusual treasures will all be gone, replaced by doggie sweaters and yoga mats. I probably won't be buying them either.

All my Antique Row pics here


Ken Mac said...

sickingly sad.

Anonymous said...

I love when people get all elegiac about the replacement of old businesses they don't shop at with new businesses they do shop at.

What, you think that antique dealers exist to add charm and authenticity to your neighbourhood, and survive on the Flickr photos you take of their storefronts?

I'm with the cranky antique guy. :)

Anonymous said...

yeah this is kind of a tricky one. I don't buy antiques either -- I buy the low-rent version known as "second-hand." I also mourn the loss of stores like this, but I'm not sure if I'd allow myself to class it with the loss of an old pizzeria or rock venue. it's the disappearance of one store that sells stuff I can't afford to be replaced by another. I think what I mourn is just the fact that something tasteful is being replaced by something gauche.

It falls under "vanishing new york," but I'd be interested in your exact take on how it jibes with the class-related theme that very much runs through this blog.

Jeremiah Moss said...

it is tricky. but less tricky if you think about our urban environment like an ecosystem. we may not all come into contact with every link in the chain of that system, but the links are connected and form a web of experience that supports a diverse city where many of us can thrive.

antique shops sell expensive things, but they can be run by eccentric "cranky" old men. less likely in an upscale doggie sweater shop or a dean and deluca. they can also lease their items to theater productions, where "starving" actors can do what they do, and on goes the chain of connections.

a few more people buying antiques isn't going to save these places. an entire culture in which people value their environment and understand how they are nurtured by every link in the chain--and then change the system so those links don't break--that's, in my opinion, the way to preservation.

Anonymous said...

I can remember when Bleecker St., between Abingdon Square and 7th Ave., was filled with antique shops and places like Pink. Now it's a mall where you can find muffins! Joan Didion said it perfectly several decades ago: "Goodbye to all that."

Anonymous said...

J, thanks for your explanation of the urban ecosystem. The Elf Mayor for Life and his cronies are destroying it. Gone are choices, history. He is depending on hedge funds et al. to ensure his delusion of a city populated by the top segment of the socioeconomic pyramid. A pyramid with no middle and no bottom. To envision such a construct adds a new definition to madness.

Anonymous said...

What's happening to the industry is the continued slow decimation due to its inability to attract younger collectors. It is also due to the fact that people have been so engrained with "cutting out the middleman" when buying that those who are still buying them do so at auction. Great for the auction houses - bad for dealers. There will be very few retail antique dealers left once the current economic crisis has run its course. I work in the industry and I find that my career might have finally gone up in flames unless I can nail a job for one of the largest auction houses.