Where Yesterday Meets Tomorrow
by William and Diane Johns
We actually took a vacation! We went to Binghamton for a couple days and did what every true blue antiquer does on their vacations - visited every antique shop we could find over two days. It was an education.
We started out on "Antiques Row" - Clinton Street. There are about 30 shops along that street, most of them stuffed full of stale overpriced merchandise and shiny new repros. It seemed like every store we walked into, the operator told us how bad the economy was in Binghamton and how bad business was at their store. We wanted to respond that it might have something to do with their prices. They must have thought that since they can't sell much they'd better make a big killing on the one sale they do get.
As always, we like the multi-dealer centers best. We visited the good, the bad, and the ugly. Clinton Mill Antiques (99 Clinton Street) is a large building. It seemed to have only a few dealers but they had large spaces with plenty of merchandise and pretty reasonable prices. It had the overall atmosphere of a flea market - items piled high with no discernible order, but it redeemed itself by having plenty of nice stuff. We bought a nice set of Poppy Trail, some nice postcards and early photographs, several nice early toys, and some kitchen collectible items. It's worth another visit.
Down the street a bit is Old Breeze (173 Clinton Street.) It advertises itself as the first multi-dealer shop in Binghamton. It is large but very run down. The presentation is very poorly done and large areas look like the left overs from a low end flea market just dumped into heaps. There is a large back room full of paper items with low prices. We found some nice items and would have looked longer except for the damp smell. (This one goes onto the "stop if you happen to be driving by" list.)
At 352 Clinton we visited Twin Rivers Antiques, also a multi-dealer shop. This was a very nice shop with nice merchandise reasonably priced. We bought a nice German tea set, some civil war era paper, and some nice paper fans. This one goes on the revisit list.
Just around the corner from the end of Clinton Street is Glenwood Avenue and Red Barn Antiques and Used Furniture (58 Glenwood Ave.) This was one of the nicest shops on our tour. We didn't see anything that we would dismiss as "used furniture." We did see some nice 1930s pieces. The staff was friendly and helpful. They had a wide selection of items, very nicely displayed. Prices were reasonable. We bought some more nice paper, some nice china pieces, and some nice linens. This one goes on the revisit list too.
It was approaching dinner time and we were about to call it quits when we learned of two more centers that stayed open until 6 pm and 8 pm. ALL RIGHT! We jumped back in the car and headed out toward Endwell.
Julie's Place (open 'til 6pm) has a nice selection of items and reasonable prices. We bought a wonderful Rolf Armstrong Calendar, some nice ceramics, more postcards, and a nice sewing kit. This is another one for the revisit list. (And it's right across the street from McDonald's and next door to the Burger King.)
Our last stop, as the sun was setting (and so were we) was Charlie Brown's. This shop is open 'til 8 pm Thursday nights. It is a huge shop in an old grocery store. The quality was very erratic. One booth would be full of nice antiques and the next booth would be full of fakes! Here, we saw one of the most brazen efforts to cheat the customers that we've ever encountered. Someone had taken six cobalt blue Arizona Tea bottles ($1.09 at the grocery store) and used steel wool to remove the paint from the aluminum caps. Then they put them out at 6 for $30! Reason enough not to go back. Put this one on the "stop if you're driving by" list. We did find some very nice items here, though.
Conclusions: Fakes, unmarked damaged goods, poor presentation, unfriendly staff, and/or excessive prices, can kill a shop very quickly. Next time I'm taking a stroll down Clinton Street, I'll walk right past most of the shops without even bothering to look inside. We came back with a renewed sense of appreciation for our dealers - none of whom would attempt an Arizona Bottle scam - and all of whom try very diligently to keep out the fakes, to mark "as is" on items when necessary, and to make very nice presentations of their goods. We also came back great appreciation for our excellent, cheerful, friendly, and helpful staff, all of whom deserve a lot of the credit for the continuing increases in sales at the center.
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