"Jas. Hamilton & Co./ Greensboro, PA," six-gallon crock, $895; West Troy Pottery five-gallon jug, dated 1881 in cobalt, $1295; from Stephen F. Rhodes of Champaign, Illinois.
Amish dough box with original paint, stenciled "Sarah/ Miller/ Nappanee, IN," $1250; sugar chest, refinished in the 1940's or 1950's, fresh to the market having come from a farm in Jefferson County, Indiana, $6750; from Bob Zordani and Heidi Kellner of Z & K Antiques, Charleston and Champaign, Illinois.
Miniature walnut and cherry table in red, one drawer, $445; basket, $165; figured maple spice box with drawer, $535; 13" glazed cat, $2650; from Jeff Walton Antiques, Bluffton, Ohio.
by Don Johnson
The guy at the Dairy Queen looked at mequick, curious glances, as if we might be old high school classmates or maybe he thought he'd seen my face on some FBI flier at the post office. But I never graduated with the guy, and I'm not wanted for anything.
When he finally spoke, it was a question. "Were you covering the show?" he asked.
Like me, he had apparently just come from the Pure and Simple Antique Show, held May 7 in Kokomo, Indiana. The second annual event offered a feast of Americana and early country items. Unlike those of us who stopped for a bite to eat afterward, however, showgoers seemed to have less of an appetite at this year's show.
That's unfortunate and a bit hard to figure. It wasn't for lack of a large crowd. The gate was up 15% over the 2010 show. And it wasn't the merchandise. The Dairy Queen guy made that clear.
"For what we're used to seeing around here, it's good," he said of the show's wares. If it wasn't up to snuff, he likely would have said so, especially after the effort he made to get to the event. He was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the previous day, drove back to Lafayette, Indiana, getting home around midnight, then grabbed a few hours of sleep before making the run to Kokomo.
He liked what he saw, he said. So did a lot of people, dealers included. But something was different this year. In booth after booth, people shrugged their shoulders and spoke softly when asked about sales at Pure and Simple.
"It's the economy," said Halsey Munson of Decatur, Illinois, who pegged unemployment as a main culprit. "That, I think, is the negative motor that's driving this nonperformance. The problem isn't this show. The problem is the economy."
Patricia Klopmeyer of Freeburg, Illinois, was blunter. "The economy sucks," she said. "We can't do anything about the recession, can we?"
Not everyone had sluggish sales. As noted by Barb Finbloom of Schoolhouse Antiques, Kirkwood, Missouri, "If you talk to dealers, there are some people who did really well and some people who didn't put pen to paper."
Among those working on the positive side was Bob Zordani of Z & K Antiques, Charleston, Illinois. "I think it's nicer than last year. There's some heavyweight stuff here. Sales are strong," he said. "I've done so well, I'm passing savings on to the customers."
Tim Chambers of Missouri Plain Folk, Sikeston, Missouri, was another dealer reporting good sales, aided in part by the freshness of his merchandise. "Everything in the booth is less than thirty days old," he said.
While business varied from dealer to dealer, there seemed to be one sentiment when it came to the show's management. "They've done a fabulous job," Munson said of promoters Marti and Mike Korba of The old Shed, Russiaville, Indiana. "They made it as easy as can be to do a show."
Stephen F. Rhodes of Champaign, Illinois, fully agreed. "The management is fantastic," he said. "You don't really see too many that really care about the dealers."
Sharon Baker of Hamilton, Ohio, put it even more precisely. "I've never done a show any better," she said.
While complimentary comments about the show channeled back to Marti Korba, news of the lack of sales in many booths came as a surprise. "I guess it was the economy," she said.
"Maybe I chose the wrong weekend because of it being Mother's Day. There were people there, but the furniture didn't fly this weekend," she added. "I'm not just blaming it on Mother's Day. I'm blaming it on $4.25 gas."
Korba said the lack of sales in her booth, especially larger items, was tempered by calls afterward. "I didn't sell furniture as much this year, but people are getting calls by people who didn't buy then. I've sold three things since I got home. There are still sales going on after the show," she said. "What I did sell was high-end stuff, very expensive stuff," she added. "What they're looking for is the best of the best."
Pure and Simple is a show that gets the best, with merchandise comparable to any other high-quality country and Americana show in the Midwest.
While this year's outing grew to 76 dealers from 20 states, up from 62 merchants last year, Marti Korba said she will likely pare down the show in 2012. "We're not expanding. We've got enough, and that's it. We may go down to seventy-four or seventy-two."
One thing's certain-the show won't be the weekend of Mother's Day, according to Korba. As for the economy, the cost of gas, and the appetite of showgoers, that's anyone's guess.
For more information, phone (765) 883-8323 or visit (www.theoldshed.com).
Cherry walls from an early log house in Kentucky, $985 from Jack and Betty Rhodus of Plain & Simple Log Cabin Antiques, Lebanon, Ohio. Sold items included the stepback cupboard and chair table.
Windmill tail stenciled with "The Butler Co., Butler, Ind." of galvanized steel, $345; two-door painted cupboard, sold; from John and Karen McNelis of Hen's Nest Antiques, Niles, Michigan.
Partners' desk, one end with two drawers, the other end with a lift lid with a fitted interior, old green paint, New England, 1810-20, $1195 from Lynn Jackson of Indianapolis, Indiana.
Template for making pie safe tins, mid-19th century, $550 from Bill and Karen Hopper of Red Rooster Two Antiques, Vincennes, Indiana.
Women's temperance movement pie safe with teapot tins with crosses and concentric circles, $2850; Wayne Ayers copper dove weathervane, $850; from Don and Marta Orwig of Corunna, Indiana.
Hepplewhite southern hunt board, early 19th century, original red wash, $13,500; burl ash bowl, early 19th century, 14½" in diameter, $2800; tin gooseneck wrigglework coffeepot, fluted spout, strap handle, early to mid-19th century, $2850; Indian-made burl ladle, $1250; from Sharon and Claude Baker of Hamilton, Ohio.