Boutique breaks the mold on traditional antiques

City Antiques opens on Bridge Street 


“The baby boomer generation everyone has talked about is here and it’s changed everything.” In a field that is about change, City Antiques, now open at 67 Bridge Street, still manages to put a new spin on an age-old but ever evolving profession. The shop is packed to the rafters with items ranging in size, texture, material, price and age, from the old wooden furniture pieces—made in a time when things were built to last—to the glitzy bling of vintage, costume and retro jewelry.

Co-owners Al Maxim and Sherri Taylor consider their new Rockford store and their first shop, City Antiques Grand Rapids, at 954 E. Fulton, both eclectic concentrations of whatever treasures they come upon in their estate service business. It means no two visits are ever the same from day to day.

City Antiques Rockford opened for business Friday, Sept. 23. Maxim and Taylor consider their industry, their inventory and their two shops “in a constant state of motion.” Maxim said the aging of the baby boomers who are now nearing retirement, changes the tenor of antique shopping.

“The baby boomers collected for collectivity. The younger shoppers collect for display-ability,” he said.

It makes for a more diverse clientele in antiquing, and both he and Taylor embrace the opportunities the evolving market offers. They are all about change and have put a new, hands-on approach to antique shopping.

“We are kid friendly, animal friendly, we don’t believe in putting things behind glass. I don’t like to shop like that and I don’t think other people like to either.” Taylor said.

She said it is exciting to follow how tastes and trends change. Often when a mainstream store such as Pottery Barn features a faux antique item, people come in looking for the real thing. “We keep learning every day what types of things will be in demand.”

“Every job is like a treasure hunt and we enjoy seeing our customers enjoy their own treasure hunt in the store,” Maxim described.

The couple purchases estates—the good, bad and the ugly—and sell the good merchandise through the stores.

“No two days are the same,” Taylor said of

her profession.

Taylor describes evaluating estates of hoarders, properties where the home is so packed it is difficult to figure out what is there. Her favorites are the old barns that are ready to fall apart yet have treasures that have been packed away for decades.

She pointed to a clean, white deer skull and antlers. “I found that in an old farm home and it was brown and had hair on it,” she described. She bleached the piece for an entire summer before finishing it to display-quality condition.

She loves the history behind the pieces, the jewelry worn in photos from a century ago, the names on the back of old portraits. She shows one piece that tells in faded handwriting who is pictured and who the drawing should be given to. As often, there is no notation and the knowledge of who is portrayed is long lost.

“The third generation always forgets,” she said. “We come across these and the grandkids have them. They don’t know who this was in the picture.”

Maxim also loves the history behind each piece they acquire, and later sell, in their shops. Their clientele appreciate the opportunity to peek into the past, and many consider a visit to the stores an oasis from everyday life. “They are here for therapy,” he noted.

“Jewelry is a great fix for a bad day,” Taylor commented, agreeing with the “shopping is therapy” theme.

She said women can more easily justify spending $100 on jewelry than spending $80 on a table. “They don’t have to ask their husbands about buying the jewelry,” she explained.

As often as not, taking the time to double-think a purchase means a lost opportunity, as there is no guarantee an item will still be there on a return trip and there is no way to just order another. Sometimes it’s best just to go with instinct.

In a way, that’s how City Antiques came to be in Rockford at all. The two had long talked about opening another location, but didn’t really plan it. A job this summer brought them to Rockford and they saw a “For Rent” sign on the former Dar’s Jewelry storefront. They jumped right on it.

“In our other location we are halfway between East Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids, so it is a well established, eclectic, walk-in neighborhood,” Taylor said.

They consider Rockford another well-established, family friendly, busy downtown with lots of bustle. “We were here for Labor Day and talked to people,” she said. “No one we talked to was from here. It is very much a destination area.”

Lured by a thriving downtown, the two have been very impressed with the warm welcome they have received from everyone from the city manager to other merchants and eager shoppers.

“People wanted to come in even though we weren’t open yet,” Taylor said.

Taylor, Maxim and staff have been working at breakneck pace to find room in the 1,000-square-foot store to display their diverse inventory, and are thrilled to open their doors after a month of hard work.

“Decorating the store is a group effort. We want Rockford to be proud of us,” said Taylor.

Take a look at the results of their hard work and ongoing treasure hunting to see if there is that one-of-a-kind, must-have piece of jewelry, silver plate, mink stole, old portrait or painting, steamer trunk or vintage memorabilia, but be forewarned: you’ll want to return again and often to see what new treasures the past has revealed.

City Antiques Resale Boutique Rockford is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday or give them a call at (616) 866-5300.

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