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Fiddler's Antique Show: A Break in the Weather Benefits the Gate

Karla Klein Albertson | February 12th, 2014


John Melby of Eastport, Maine, has been coming to Nashville for 30 years and likes the homey quality at Fiddler’s. He’s learned how to completely transform his space into an attractive room setting. At center, a New Hampshire table with two-board top, rounded corners, and a deep skirt, just under 7' long, was $2900.


Longtime Nashville exhibitors Judi and Cy Stellmach of Blue Dog Antiques, Stafford Springs, Connecticut, were sharing a room with Stephanie Chiappa of Sandbrook Antiques, Flemington, New Jersey. In this well-designed corner, the utility chest with many drawers was $525; the wooden trammel at left was $1925; and the fireplace roasting wheel above, which could be raised and lowered, $650.


Sandy Worrell of Houston, Texas, brought a pair of tempting French wooden advertising trolleys, $950 each, which read “Chocolat Duc/ Regal des Petits.” The portrait of a gentleman at right was $1200.


This photo demonstrates one great advantage for exhibitors at the Fiddler’s Antique Show. After purchasing a cupboard, the customer can drive her truck right up to the door of the room display and dealers can easily load it in the back. Everybody looks happy with the arrangement.


Ron Hall Antiques, Lexington, Kentucky, had turned its very limited space into an elegant dining area with a formal table for $850, a set of six rosewood Regency chairs, also $850, and a very large room-reflecting convex mirror at $8500.


Frank Swala is a stoneware specialist, and he brought a major example to Nashville. The very decorative James Hamilton pedestal water cooler, Beaver, Pennsylvania, circa 1845, was $75,000. Underneath the cooler was a southern vine inlaid chest, circa 1820, found in Beverly, West Virginia/Virginia, for $9500. On the wall, the framed fraktur examples from the Fancher family, Marion County, Virginia, circa 1850, were $32,000 for all four.

Nashville, Tennessee

This year’s Fiddler’s Antique Show in Nashville, Tennessee, just across the street from Heart of Country at the Gaylord Opryland, opened on Wednesday, February 12, at 8 a.m. A $25 ticket bought four hours of early-bird shopping, a price many dealers in town for other events are more than happy to pay. An entire story could be written about the migrating merch that starts there and ends up in fancy room settings at a higher price. Some dealers turn the objects around immediately; others buy for future shows far away.

Fiddler’s has the longest run of the February Tennessee events—four days in all—and collectors continue to be drawn to the old motel because of its great location and high quality exhibitors. Emerson Events presented over 80 dealers this year, and they filled the first-floor rooms at the Fiddler’s Inn on Music Valley Drive. The old-fashioned format—rooms opening directly onto the parking lot—makes setup a snap, and customers can drive right up to the door for pick-ups. In good weather, shoppers can easily walk across the main road to Heart if they feel like some exercise.

Scott Jenkins is now partnering in the show with Doug Supinger, a well-known supplier of walls and showcases for antiques shows, who has expanded into management. The two took a break in the Fiddler’s small lobby, and Jenkins said, “For me personally, this is my favorite place in the country for antiques shows. You see the rooms, and you say how did you do this? How did you turn this room into a shop? The dealers do an excellent job. Then there’s really good stuff sitting outside as well.” Fiddler’s seems to have an amicable relationship with the management of Heart of Country, and both shows benefit from their proximity.

Scott Jenkins and his son Kyle, who helps out in Nashville, have other “real” jobs, so the show promoter felt Supinger would be a perfect partner: “We’ve known each other twenty-five years, and he’s the best person to bring in and try to help me revive this show.” Supinger has been doing showcases, walls, and paper for many antiques shows during that time span and knows hundreds of dealers as a result. He said, “Every dealer that knows me, I know them personally—their kids, their life—that’s why I have a good relationship with all of them.”

As many in the business have heard, Supinger suffered an “industrial accident” last year when heavy walls slipped over in his storage facility: “I had 150 pounds fall on me—I had eight broken ribs. When I got hurt in the fall, I got tons and tons of cards and calls.” After a serious stint in the hospital and rehab, Supinger is up and about and looks well. Broken ribs are bad, but a blow to the head could have been fatal—he knows he’s a lucky guy.

Because there are enough units in which to show and sleep at the Fiddler’s Inn, exhibitors can get a package deal, a fixed price for rooms up and down for a total of six days. “You can’t buy that anywhere else,” said Jenkins. Some dealers still choose to work and sleep in just one room, an even cheaper option. For those who want to enhance their exhibition, Supinger is there to supply display units or set up walls and paper if desired. He will also reset room furniture for dealers after the show, which is a tremendous help in getting them on their way.

This winter it has seemed impossible to avoid a discussion of the freezing cold storms that dipped deep into the South. Collectors and dealers headed for Nashville faced a “Charge of the Light Brigade” situation: bad weather to the right of them, bad weather to the left of them. Scott noted, “The trouble is, the bad weather is surrounding us—we draw from Atlanta, and all those places are getting ice.” Travelers can be forgiven for becoming a bit hesitant, so the show ended up with a few empty spaces as well as cancellations by collectors who were going to stay at the hotel.

The good news that was the actual weekend weather in Nashville was a bit chillier than usual but good overall, with an especially nice stretch beginning on Thursday. Dealers were able to set up large antiques outside on the parking lot as usual, and customers did not have to walk from room to room in rain or snow. Bobbie Pries of Westfield Center, Ohio, said, “It wasn’t bad on Wednesday, actually. We had quite a few people; it was really busy early. Customers came in waves—we’d get a whole group of people, then it would slow down a little bit, and then another group of people. It was pretty busy all day.”

Tom Heisey of Newark, Ohio, cataloged his sales: “I had a maple Rhode Island tall chest from 1790. I had an inlaid southern brandy board from Virginia—it went. I had a miniature chest that was Civil War, Union, with shields and stars at the bottom—that was one of the most fabulous things I’ve ever had. I’ve had a great show this time.” Jane Wallace of Old Mother Hubbard Antiques, Munith, Michigan, agreed: “I sold a table, I sold that cupboard, a lot of smalls—it’s been a very good show.” A rack she had sold was sitting outside, ready to go.

Another midwestern dealer was happy to be back in a show at Fiddler’s. Linda Spowart of Girard, Ohio, explained, “We did the show about seven years ago [under different management]; it’s been quite some time. It’s been nice to return—we’ve gotten to know a lot of the dealers over the years. We’re from Ohio, and there are a lot of dealers here from Ohio.” She shared a comment often heard about the location: “Each room was like its own museum.” As reflected in the photos, all exhibitors have the opportunity to create a unique display that will draw customers in and sell what they brought.

John Melby of Eastport, Maine, said he has been coming to Nashville for 30 years. Melby had set up in another hotel nearby in a show run by Steve and Jon Jenkins. He continued with them to the big tent and fairgrounds, then came back to the Opryland Hotel area when the new Emerson Events show started up at the Fiddler’s. He appreciates the charms of the old motel. “It’s very homey—humble. I sell to the trade mostly; they’re eager to buy from you. They know I’m from Maine, and that’s what they want.”

Scott Jenkins is contemplating a small fall show at the venue, which would be advertised mainly to local collectors, and the big February event will continue in 2015. There is room—and rooms—for many more dealers at this easygoing gathering. Even better, there are a number of restaurants in the area, many within walking distance from the motel, where collectors and the exhibitors can relax in the evening. Learn more about the show on line at (www.fiddlersantiqueshow.com).

Swala’s Antiques Warehouse, Washington, Pennsylvania, brought this noteworthy dwarf tall-case clock inlaid with Masonic symbols, made around 1880 and found in Virginia, for $17,500. The clock and a Hamilton & Jones three-gallon jar with stars, $2800, rested on a Somerset County, Pennsylvania, paint-decorated sideboard, 1850-60, $6750.

Customers in the room of Tom Moser of Naples, Florida, were reflected in an early pier mirror, circa 1710, probably English, with original glass and japanning in good shape, for $2250. The chest of drawers below, circa 1790, by Joseph Short of Newburyport, Massachusetts, was $1850. At left hung a subdued room-size hooked rug, 7½' x 6½', priced at $1950.

Originally published in the May 2014 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2014 Maine Antique Digest

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