Susan’s Antiques, New Cumberland, West Virginia, had paintings of bucolic landscapes and pleasantly pastoral pearlware. The peddling couple at left was $1800; the bocage group at center, $725; and a figure of Hope with her anchor, $500.
Rebecca and Greg Brown of Lagrange, Indiana, brought a lot of smalls and carefully arranged them in their room setting. The colorful framed chromolithograph view of Southern Fruits was only $35; the cutout blue parrot shelf at right was $195; and the decorative stuffed chicken, $125.
Always wanted a Craftsman house? Outside their room, Dan and Jo Allers had placed a beautifully shingled and detailed wooden dollhouse with lace curtains at the windows. It was $460.
Tom Heisey of Newark, Ohio, had already sold the small red table on Hepplewhite legs. In the fresh air he had set up this red and gold New Jersey yacht club sign, 1930’s-40’s, in great condition, priced at $1475. The maple ladder-back chair was $155.
Thursday’s sunshine brought out the strong grain on this curly maple tall-case clock just outside the door to the Swala Antiques display. It was $5200.
Sandy Elliott of Brentwood, New Hampshire, really likes Fiddler’s: “This is where the action is. They’re trying to bring it back.” She had a row of quilted petticoats designed to keep legs warm when houses were cold. The reddish brown one in the middle was $225, and the house dress or wrapper was $150.
On Thursday it was so nice outside that Donna Hood of DH Interiors, Franklin, Tennessee, could sit out in the sunshine and oversee her garden antiques and architecturals arrayed in the parking lot. The well-weathered St. Francis would bless your garden for $85.
Regular exhibitors Mary Johnson and Bob Wallace of Holts Summit, Missouri, near Jefferson City, were having a good show. He said, “We’ve sold a lot of stuff, yesterday and today.” A sold cupboard had been taken apart for delivery. The hanging cupboard was $595; the pair of mirrored sconces inside was $325.
At the Fiddler’s Antique Show in Nashville, Tennessee, antiques dealers set up in the ground-floor rooms of an old-fashioned motel right across the street from the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, the venue for Heart of Country. The show setting is pretty basic, but this has always been a location, location, location story. People in town for Heart shop Fiddler’s as well.
The Fiddler’s Inn was once home to the large Tailgate Antique Show run by Steve Jenkins. When the show was at its height, dealers filled the first and second floors of the motel’s three upper and lower buildings. But when Steve and his son Jon combined their Tailgate and Music Valley shows elsewhere—first at the fairgrounds and for the past two years at the Hendersonville Expo Center—cousin Scott Jenkins stepped into Fiddler’s and began to build a new show from scratch. It is admittedly a complex history, and some customers may never have noticed all these changes.
Scott Jenkins’s goal has been the core aspiration of all show managers: to assemble more exhibitors and to maintain a high quality of merchandise. He said during the show, “We always want to keep the quality of our antique dealers as a priority. Because of its location in a hotel, we don’t want to perpetuate any perception by the public that this is a flea market. There are items outside, but every room is a shop, and the dealers put a lot of time and effort into making it a quality booth. We want people to know that these room settings are filled with high-quality antiques.”
Growth has been coming along nicely. When the show was reborn in 2009, the roster was a very short one, and half the dealers canceled because of the terrible weather. This February 13-16, all of the 80-plus ground-floor rooms in the multiple buildings were filled, and there were well over 100 dealers because so many share a space. Some manage to sleep alongside their inventory; others rent another room upstairs to get away from it all.
Over the weekend, the show office was always crowded with family members. At one point, Scott’s son and assistant Kyle, Kyle’s wife, Ellen, who holds down the fort, and Scott’s very fit other son, Tyler—complete with serious bike—were all discussing the merits of a nearby vegetarian and vegan restaurant they had discovered called the Wild Cow. The food reference is germane because Nashville—like Austin, Texas—has suddenly extended itself beyond country music roots to become a trendy national destination, lauded in glossy magazines.
Kyle Jenkins reported on the opening day: “We had early bird buying on Wednesday from eight a.m. to noon, and we had a great turnout. From my estimate, there were around four hundred people who came in during those hours, and that was a great turnout, considering the weather we had—cold, rainy, miserable. Many were dealers—and they were buying. After speaking with quite a few of our exhibitors, they did all right, enough to keep them happy.”
Kyle continued, “All of the ground-floor rooms in all three buildings are taken. That’s a better turnout than last February when we only used the two lower buildings. We did a show last fall here as well, and it was a better turnout for an October show than we’ve had before.”
Exhibitor Bobby Pries of Westfield Center, Ohio, had a good opening day in spite of the rain, with a lineup of both dealer and retail sales. She said, “The people that came, came to buy. They were really buying, and I’m not the only one, I’m sure. The exhibitors I talked to were thrilled with what they did. Overall, it’s been a very good show.” She had sold some furniture, a lot of smalls, a good set of doors, and a railing from old house—many items were already gone.
While Wednesday was rainy, Thursday was the one perfect day that works so well at this indoor/outdoor event. Mild temperatures and sunshine allowed dealers to expand into the parking lot and place hundreds of larger items outside. The open-air visual appeal is a great part of this show’s charm. Before the Heart of Country preview party on Thursday night, collectors headed over to Fiddler’s to browse the interior and exterior displays.
At Fiddler’s, dealers are not cooped up in a booth on some show floor. If the weather’s fine, they sit outside their rooms to chat and read and eat lunch. Frank Swala, who has a shop in Washington, Pennsylvania, does not exhibit at many shows but enjoys this one. “I like the casual atmosphere,” he said. “I get to talk to people, people from all over—Utah, Iowa, Illinois, Texas.” Encouraged by some big sales last year, he had brought some five-figure pieces that would have stood out at any fine Americana event. By Thursday, he had already had a “decent show” with five pieces of furniture, stoneware, quilts, and smalls sold.
Kyle Jenkins pointed out dealer Charles Bachmann of Thornville, Ohio. “Last February was his first show with us, and he has been doing really well. He attracts repeat customers, and we appreciate his enthusiasm for the show and its location and our unique ‘hotel culture.’”
Bachmann is one of a small number of dealers who set up at two shows during the three-event Nashville weekend. While Bachmann displayed a booth of mid-century modern in the Vintage Marketplace at the Tailgate-Music Valley Antiques Show in Hendersonville, his helper John Winchell was at Fiddler’s showing more traditional antiques from the inventory. Winchell said the policy makes economic sense. “We’re coming down here; we’ve got a room—frankly that’s the expensive part of doing a show. We add a little bit on for an extra show, and hopefully it will pay for itself.”
This tactic also takes advantage of changes in collector buying patterns. Winchell said, “Our market seems to have shifted into mid-century modern; we’ve been doing just gangbusters with that material.” They try to seek out material that is not “shabby chic” but more affordable 20th-century design that has been doing well during the economic downturn.
The only problem for collectors shopping Fiddler’s is keeping track of exactly where they saw a particular item among the very similar motel rooms. A collector from Nashville named Kathy was busily recording all her finds as she went along. “The first show I came to here, I thought, ‘I’ll remember where it is,’ but I didn’t. And ever since then, I write down what I’m interested in and the room number. The dealers may not remember my name, but they remember the notebook!”
Although Fiddler’s presents a great variety of merchandise, primitive country pieces have been a perennial favorite with buyers, and dealers who specialize in that style of furniture continue to do well. Mary Johnson and Bob Wallace of River Cabin Antiques live in Holts Summit, Missouri, near Jefferson City and not too far away from the German settlement of Hermann, an area where they find regional walnut furniture. Wallace said on Thursday, “We’ve sold a lot of stuff, yesterday and today.” Their room was being rearranged as a large two-piece cupboard was on its way to a new home. Also sold were a nice hanging cupboard and a large hornbeam storage vessel.
Jill Peterson of Iredell, Texas, is the publisher and editor of A Simple Life, a magazine all about primitive style, and she was in Nashville distributing and promoting the publication. She was sharing a room with fellow simplicity enthusiast Mary Elliot of Pepperell, Massachusetts, who had sold her diminutive Virginia cupboard and a massive hornbeam storage piece. Elliot had some smaller examples of this popular form at $350 and $650.
The Fiddler’s Antique Show is a promotion of Emerson Events, Indianapolis, Indiana. Learn more about the February and October editions on line (www.fiddlersantiqueshow.com) or call (615) 686-8202.
Originally published in the May 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest