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Antiques business subject to variables

Numerous scenic paintings by St. Catharines artist Shirley Ross hang in the entrance to the St. Jacobs Antiques Market, home of the former Waterloo County Antique Warehouse. Although the paintings set a certain mood, they form but a fraction of the articles and artifacts shoppers might find at the St. Jacobs antique hub: visitors to the King Street store can find everything from vintage hockey cards to Canadian pottery and 19th century furniture, said Al Jones, who opened the antique store Apr. 1 along with business partner Jack Alexander.

 Al Jones and Jack Alexander are behind the newly opened St. Jacobs Antiques Market, site of the former Waterloo County Antique Warehouse.
Al Jones and Jack Alexander are behind the newly opened St. Jacobs Antiques Market, site of the former Waterloo County Antique Warehouse.

“Every day is a different day because stuff is being sold, stuff is being bought,” said Alexander.

A stroll though the 22,000-square-foot facility is likely to yield some interesting finds.

“Bobby Hull’s rookie card is worth about $4,000; Bobby Orr’s is three (thousand),” said Jones, noting he has sold such items in the past.

That’s not to say that he’s a collector.

“Pieces of cardboard from the 1960s and 1970s are worth three, four thousand bucks and you have an antique chest of drawers that’s worth $500 and is 150 years old … that’s the collectible market.”

The new market got its start after Jones learned that the Waterloo County Antique Warehouse was closing up shop; he seized the opportunity to fill the void and joined forces with Alexander to open the new store.

In many ways, the business was a turnkey operation, as Jones and Alexander purchased a portion of their predecessor’s articles and continued to work with some of the same vendors.

The format at St. Jacobs Antiques Market is typical of such stores where vendors receive a booth to showcase their products. Instead of staffing the booth, however, vendors rely on a full-time and part-time centralized staff and billing system. Sales are looked after by the staff, and a commission percentage goes to the house.

Among some of St. Jacobs Antiques Market’s specialties are architectural antiques, coloured-glass windows and furniture.

A veteran of the antiques business for approximately 35 years, and a vendor under the former owner, Jones has a good knowledge of the industry.

That experience helped him increase the initial number of vendors to 85 from 39 in less than a month, and make some interesting regular finds.

A recent jackpot was a 19th century cherry cupboard from Wallenstein that made a trip south of the border before returning home.

“That’s one of the finest examples of a cherry corner cupboard to come out of Waterloo County, style-wise. [It] ended up in the States – a few years ago, a guy got wind of it from Canada, went to the States, bought it and brought it back,” said Jones offering some insight into the inner workings of the trade.

“And now it’s sitting back five miles from where it started off.”

That piece, valued in the range of some $20,000,will likely be for sale at the market in the near future.

In the world of antique trading, traffic is a two-way street; while products from around the world end up on the shelves at the local market, so too do international visitors visit the market in search of a serendipitous discovery.

“They come from all over, and a lot of them are saying positive comments.”

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