Nashville in mid-February has always been a favorite multi-venue destination where exhibitors from all over the country can sell to fresh buyers, exchange merchandise with one another, and get together with fellow marketers and favorite customers. Dealers from New England and mid-Atlantic states interact with merchants from the Southeast and Midwest. Unlike larger, more mind-boggling events, the locales around Nashville are easy to navigate, and the city offers marvelous food as well as a range of affordable accommodations close by the exhibition spaces.
The Nashville Show, held February 15-17 and managed by Jon Jenkins, brought together over 140 dealers in several buildings at the city’s fairgrounds—more about the facility below. Visitors enter through the Creative Arts building, filled with principally Americana dealers presenting their wares in well-designed room settings. Other sections of the show have antiques dealers in more informal booths, a Vintage Marketplace with appeal to a younger clientele, and, this year, a selection of traditional American artisans and folk artists showing their current creations and reproductions.
There was much to examine in the eye-catching display put together by Tom van Deest of Cedar Rapids, Iowa—a first stop for many visitors. The giant wing tip shoe made from multiple pieces, 1950s-60s, was $3950. To the left, one of the bottle cap figures made by Iowa farmer folk artists Grace and Clarence Woolsey, 1960s, was $5900.
Neil and Barb Finbloom of Schoolhouse Antiques, Kirkwood, Missouri, had an attractive two-tone tramp art mirror frame, circa 1930, for $775 and a pine and ash cheese box in original blue paint for $695.
Monty Young of Shelbyville, Tennessee, thought the show was even better than last year. A focal point in his space was this interesting regional form, a petite cherry two-drawer server with six legs, East Tennessee or North Carolina, for $4500; the serene Hudson River painting above was $2900.
Kim and David Leggett of Franklin, Tennessee, have their own series of City Farmhouse Pop Up Fairs. Kim’s book, City Farmhouse Style: Designs for a Modern Country Life,is out now. The Leggetts had sold their simple African American crock cupboard with small tins, 1860s, that was found in Macon, Georgia. The compact blue slant-front desk with hearts and a cross, circa 1840, came from an African American country church in Coffee County, Tennessee, southeast of Murfreesboro.
This English trade sign for China tea merchants has a bold outline and weathered patina. It was $985 from Suzanne Baker of Westville, Indiana.
Many of the photographs here were taken during the Thursday opening early-bird buying session from 9 a.m. to noon. With only one entry point, the aisles were crowded, especially in the first building, and sold tags were a good guide to what caught visitors’ eyes. More traditional presentations that soothe the antiquarian soul alternated with eclectic assemblages that shake up the status quo. In fact, there was something for just about everyone—old paint and polished patina, folk art and fine art, architecturals and industrials. The warm weather encouraged people to get out and shop.
Asked that morning how he thought it was going, Jon Jenkins said, “I’m happy”—a quote that required a little post-event expansion. In a later interview with M.A.D., he explained, “When I said, I was happy, I can elaborate on that quite a bit. For a show promoter to say he’s happy—that’s pretty good! Even at the best shows with outstanding events, there are things that go on that make the organizer’s job difficult. So, when I said ‘happy,’ I meant my perception was that sales were good. It also meant that everyone had a good attitude, sold to the best of their ability, customers bought to the best of their ability—there were no behind-the-scenes problems that were causing friction. It ran very smoothly.”
Tony Lewis of Tony’s Antiques, Knoxville, Tennessee, said Nashville is his favorite show. “We go over and stay there all week,” he said. He brought a combination storage form, an all yellow pine pie safe/hunt board with pierced tins, from Newberry, South Carolina, $4400. On top was part of his inventory of southern pottery.
Mario Pollo of Holliston, Massachusetts, shared a booth with David Zabriskie of Lake Placid, New York, and they put together an eclectic display that resulted in excellent sales, which included these armchairs and the cherubs at back. The Navajo rug was $2800; the folk art bird tree was $3350; and the tramp art chest was $2450.
William Powell of Franklin, Tennessee—the live guy at right—adjusts the outfits on three friends. The store mannequin next to him was $1850; the automotive dealer coat at left was $275; and the 1930s snowshoes—not needed on the warm day—were $235. The large round “Play Ball” sign on the back wall was sold but had been priced at $1600.
Perkins and Menson, Ashby, Massachusetts, assembled this formal pairing on one wall and quickly found the right customer for the Classical dressing chest with fine carving on the gallery and supports.
Longtime exhibitors in Nashville, Harold Cole and Bettina Krainin of Woodbury, Connecticut, shared a corner booth. She sold her narrow blind cupboard with intact blue paint; the gilded 19th-century sulky weathervane above was $6500.
Nashville is a progressive, melodious tourist destination that receives a lot of positive press. The Music City Center, located downtown, is state-of-the-art and home to the stunning Antiques & Garden Show held earlier in February. The question remains, when will the city government modernize the fairgrounds complex to provide a proper venue for the commercial events that need a different sort of exhibition space? A fairgrounds official visiting the show office on Thursday made it sound as though progress was being made. All plans are, of course, affected by political winds of change in the city. Things were going well, but Nashville Mayor Megan Barry announced her resignation on Tuesday, March 6, after legal problems related to a romantic affair with her bodyguard.
Jenkins said, “I would like to have a new building—who wouldn’t? Instead of using three or four different spaces, to just have one big room. Knowing that the government is involved and the pace that it works at, I take a wait-and-see approach. We have dates for three years and a contract for one year, which is normal operating procedure. One building with new bathrooms, lighting, electrical system—they’re telling us two years. From what I hear behind the scenes, key staff people are having meetings on the design of the building. I’m not sure how the political situation in Nashville has changed with the resignation of the mayor. I think they realized that a facility of that type is a necessity.”
Until the ribbon-cutting ceremony on that magical new expo center comes about, show exhibitors will continue to transform basic buildings into harmonious spaces designed to attract serious buyers. Jon Jenkins is determined to present the Nashville Show as an event that offers choices for everyone from the expert to the novice collector. Follow the show on the website (www.tailgateantiqueshow.com) or on Facebook, or contact the Jenkins management at (317) 598-0012.
Jon Jenkins pointed out the rare shooting targets in the display of Paul Smith of Over Hill, Over Dale, Harlan, Iowa. The smoking Indian target by J.T. Dickman of Los Angeles with its $78,000 price tag was one of the most expensive objects in the show.
K. William Kautz of Weston, Vermont, was a star of the new section for traditional American artisans and folk artists. His Narragansett mermaid vane was $1250, and the St. Tammany Indian was $3200.
On the wall of Thomas Delach and Nicholas Domenick’s booth, a finely woven Navajo rug was priced at $2900. The diminutive sugar chest centered beneath sold on the first day.
Originally published in the May 2018 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2018 Maine Antique Digest