Antiques aplenty: Cheshire houses 40 dealers

If the riddle is how to fit 40 different antique dealers into one store, the answer is to have 12,000 square feet of space for every kind of niche conceivable.

Pick a two-story building that's an antique in its own right, such as the 1896 Carson Valley Mercantile building in downtown Gardnerville, and you've got the makings of a successful antique mall.

"A lot of times, people haven't been in here before and are surprised how big it is and the quality of items," Karen Campbell, owner of Cheshire Antiques, said Thursday. "It's really a big mall for such a small area. The funny thing about the antique business is that people find you wherever you are. People come in and learn about us then tell their friends."

Campbell remembers visiting the historic mercantile building when it was still Penguin Plumbing.

"I always thought it would make a really good store," she said. "I love the old tin ceilings and the skylight."

When the building became available in 2005, Campbell and her husband Richard seized on the opportunity. Since then, the initial five-dealer operation has grown into a veritable garden of displays.

"Forty different dealers rent space," Campbell said. "Each person has their own unique look. A lot of people specialize in different things."

Walking the floor, Campbell pointed out just a few of their many exhibitions: paintings, candelabra and a grandfather clock all from an 18th century New Orleans plantation; worn signs, a lawyer's desk and a hand-painted trunk from a collection of primitives; a glass case of vintage jewelry; a display of turn-of-the-century inkwells and pens.

"There is a huge variety of stuff in here," Campbell said. "Anything you want, you could find."

Campbell, 51, has been an antique enthusiast most of her life, having started dealing 20 years ago. Her love of bygone eras and durable merchandise was evident in a 1920s Egyptian revival necklace she wore around her neck - a flourish of turquoise and brass.

"I work here quite a bit, and I love to see what stuff the dealers bring in," she said. "I've replaced almost everything in my house."

About half the dealers take turns working in the store, Campbell said. They pay rent and 10 percent commission.

"I was really nervous when we entered this recession period," she said. "People still love antiques, though. Fortunately, my clientele is still buying."

Campbell said many customers prefer buying antiques because of their timeless, reusable nature.

"The beauty of it is a lot of this stuff is made in America," she said. "Antiques are usable, practical. You spend $500 on something that will last a hundred years."

Cheshire Antiques is located at 1423 Highway 395. Business hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily.

For more information, call 782-9117.


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