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A Hudson Valley Antiques Tour 

Paying it Backward

click to enlarge The Mystery Spot in Phoenicia.
  • The Mystery Spot in Phoenicia.

For antique lovers and collectors, sometimes it is not just finding a new piece, but the search itself that provides the joy of antiquing. That may be why the Hudson Valley is such a hot spot for the antiques industry. Not only is the region full of antiques stores that offer classic items and have atmospheres full of quirk and character, but the natural beauty of the Hudson Valley makes the search pleasant, whether you find what you’re looking for or not. As you search through antiques shops, many of which are located within walking distance of one another in villages like Cold Spring and Hudson, you’re almost guaranteed to find classic items you may not have even realized you were searching for.

Some antiques dealers think the term “antique” can have a negative connotation and sometimes conjures images of old, worn, and dust-covered junk. But antiques lovers know that a true antique is not merely old, but classic. It is an item that has stood the test of time, and hearkens to an era a buyer may have a connection to. True antiques have character and a story to tell, and when you purchase the item you add to that story. The Hudson Valley is full of classic items and the stories that surround them.

Thelma Zwirn, owner of the Millbrook Antiques Mall, says that the Hudson Valley has been a popular antiquing destination for some time, most likely as a result of the region’s rich history.

“It’s probably because we have an early history. We have a long history here, and we have a lot of old things,” she says. She adds that antiquing in this country gained huge mainstream appeal “around the time that Jackie Kennedy was in the White House. That was the time that antiques became very interesting to people and it just exploded in popularity. That was in the 1960s, when she did the tour of the White House [for NBC TV in 1962]. It spurred an interest in antiques in the general public.”

Zwirn’s store is a 3,000-square-foot space. She works with 25 antiques dealers and carries a wide variety of items. In particular, she specializes in American and European antiques from the 18th to 20th centuries.
Zwirn said that in recent years “there’s been an increased interest in midcentury Americana items by young people, which has brought a younger set of costumers into antique stores.” She says that the younger generations concept “of what an antique is, is a little different,” but once they’re in the store they are exposed to all types of antiques.

A Mecca of antiquing in the Hudson Valley—and the country for that matter—can be found in the city of Hudson, which is home to more than 80 antiques-related businesses and shops. In this antiques lovers paradise you can find shops that carry decorative objects, home furnishings, items dating from the 17th century all the way to the contemporary. During the 1980s and 1990s, the city began to develop a reputation for its antiques stores, dozens of which lined Warren Street, the city’s main thoroughfare. Over time, a distinct yet hard-to-define “Hudson look” developed.

On its website, the Hudson Valley Antiques Dealers Association (HADA) defines the Hudson style with the following statement: “No two antiques dealers define their trade in quite the same way. And yet, there is a certain Hudson ‘look’ which emerges from the wildly divergent styles and prices around town. Often, that look arises from sensibilities which see beyond categories and conventions. Few Hudson shops deal strictly in one period or style, preferring to mix high and low, old and new, pristine and distressed.”

The HADA website also has information about various antiques shops and galleries in Hudson and offers helpful tips on antiquing in the city.

On the opposite side of the Hudson River, New Paltz, is home to another antiques destination, the Water Street Market. The outdoor market is a European-inspired grouping of antique shops, galleries, boutiques, and restaurants located along the Wallkill River, at the base of the Shawangunk Ridge.

Walter Marquez manages the Water Street Market and two antiques shops within the market—the Antiques Barn and Antiques on Main.

“We sell everything from small [items] glassware, pottery, china, fabrics, art, you-name-it, to larger pieces such as furniture,” he says. “We price our items very fairly so they will move out quickly. Our customers have learned if they see it and like it, they should buy it quickly, as it might not be there the next time they come in.”

Marquez says antiquing in the Hudson Valley is popular for a variety of reasons. “We are close enough to major population areas such as New York City, Long Island, Northern Jersey, Westchester, etc., and prices are fair. We have established businesses and there are so many things [to do] along with antiquing, that people can spend a day or a weekend.”

The village of Rhinebeck is home to the Antique Market, which is located in an historic barn at the Beekman Arms and Delamater Inn. Marlene Johnson, the manager of the antiques market, says, “We have over 35 dealers and they each specialize in a different style of merchandise. We have regular costumers, and of course on the weekend we get a lot of people who are visiting Rhinebeck or traveling through.”

She says the proximity of other antiques shops in Rhinebeck and surrounding towns helps draw people who are passionate about antiques to the region, and helps provide more options for people who are looking for something in particular.

Hudson Valley Auctioneers in Beacon conducts regular antiques and estate auctions. Neil Vaughn is the auctioneer of Hudson Valley Auctioneers and has more than 20 years of experience conducting antiques and estate auctions. He previously held the position of auctioneer at Cold Spring Galleries, a well-respected auction gallery that conducted regular auctions in Cold Spring, and later in Beacon, for over two decades. Vaughn’s areas of knowledge include art, pottery, native Indian objects, arts and crafts, art glass, bronzes, folk art, and more. This knowledge helps ensure that both buyers and sellers are treated fairly at Hudson Valley Auctioneers.

The village of Montgomery is also home to several antiques stores within walking distance of one another. Among them is the Clinton Shops Antique Center, located at 84 Clinton Street. The shop was opened in 1985 by husband and wife Steve and Nina Snyder. Since opening, the couple has grown the business to include additional merchants. Currently, 12 dealers share their wares at the shop. The merchandise spans from the early 1800s to the current midcentury period.

In Phoenicia, an unusual retail establishment can be found in Mystery Spot Antiques on Main Street. The store’s owner, Laura Levine, proudly describes the place as the “Catskills' shrine to clutter.” She adds that the store “is home to an amazing array of hand-picked vintage clothing, old housewares, antiquarian art books, rusticalia, midcentury lighting, found objects, and thousands of used records.”

“We’ve been in business since 2001—this is our 11th season in Phoenicia. People tell us that Mystery Spot Antiques is the kind of vintage store they didn’t think existed anymore. Part museum and part odditorium, every nook and cranny of its seven rooms in a former 1800s Main Street hotel is packed to the ceilings with 100 percent vintage goodness,” she says.

Levine has a background as a passionate collector. “I opened the Mystery Spot as an outlet to contain the overflow of vintage items collected at weekend yard sales, flea markets, and auctions. Every weekend I try to bring in fresh stacks of vintage vinyl dug out of a recently purchased estate collection of over 15,000 used records, and armfuls of killer vintage clothing fresh from estate sales,” she says. “Being near Woodstock, we’ve picked up some incredible period hippie clothing. We don’t always go for the names—it’s the pieces themselves and of course, this keeps the prices way down.”

Her passion for collecting has paid off. Her store has a loyal following of costumers and has played host to celebrities such as B-52s singer Kate Pierson and iconic punk rock drummer Tommy Ramone.
For Levine, the greatest joy of her job is “whenever a perfect match is made between the item and the customer.” She adds, “I recall one killer 1960s—baby-soft and very unusual—handmade leather jacket which came from its original Woodstock owner, which was then purchased by a young woman who it fit like a glove.”
For antiques lovers, it’s perfect finds like that which make searching for antiques worthwhile. And sometimes the harder you search for something, the greater the joy of discovery is. For weekend treasure hunters, it’s not only the final item that matters, but also the joy of the quest, or as the old saying goes, “It’s not the destination—it’s the journey.”

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