The internet has undoubtedly influenced how antiques are sold. But some purists still think the best way to collect old things is to see and touch it for yourself.
Despite the onslaught of 21st century online shopping, antique store owner Monica Beth Fowler said she doesn’t need to post her items online to attract customers.
Fowler, 75, owns the second oldest store along NE Cholokka Boulevard in Micanopy. The antique store, Delectable Collectibles, turns 43 in October. Throughout her decades-long career she has witnessed how the internet reshaped antique businesses in Micanopy.
“I think if you want to remain in business, you adapt,” Fowler said. “And also, you have to be flexible, because everything has a cycle.”
Though Fowler won’t list her items online, she does use the internet to buy and sell from other antique dealers around the world. Fowler has spent the past four decades fostering relationships online with antique dealers across the state, country and world with locations including New England, Las Vegas, Australia and South Africa.
Fowler specializes in selling high-quality cameos, which are carved profiles that were popular during ancient times and the Renaissance. The antiques she has in stock, which also includes majolica and flow blue porcelain, sets her apart from online shopping options, she said.
“It’s not in your hand,” she said. “You have to learn all the nuances of buying something from a photo.”
Following the internet’s invention in 1983, antiques became more easily shareable around the world. Consequently, antiques that were once hard to find diminished in cost, Fowler said. Anyone could find any antique with a quick online search.
But antique store owners have also used internet connectivity to their advantage, posting products on social media or creating websites for online sales. Etsy, eBay and Ruby Lane are among the most common online alternatives to shopping for antiques in person.
“I’m not so savvy online,” Fowler said. “And that doesn’t mean that at some point I won’t sell online, but with a 40-plus year tenure I’ve got amazing customers.”
Most visitors to Micanopy’s antique shops aren’t Micanopy residents, Fowler said.
People travel from across North Central Florida to visit the shops, including Kristian Addington, 31, and Richard Addington, 40. They live in Citrus County outside Crystal River and drove to Micanopy for the day on the back of their motorcycle.
The Addingtons frequently peruse antique shops for old furniture, oil lamps and vinyl records. Although Richard Addington said they might be seen as “kind of young” to start collecting antiques, the couple fell in love with the romanticism that comes from old-fashioned items. Vinyl records are among Richard Addington’s favorite things to search for.
“It’s just too easy to pull up anything on your phone,” Richard Addington said. “There’s kind of a romantic aspect to picking that record out.”
It was the couple’s first time visiting the antique destination. They were not expecting the street to house so many small businesses underneath the mossy trees.
“I was trying not to be so giddy walking down the sidewalks,” Kristian Addington said.
While antique stores offer trinkets and treasures for customers to collect, the Addingtons also said the furniture cannot be compared with what stores such as IKEA or Target might offer.
“It doesn’t last very long,” Kristian Addington said. “This stuff has lasted for decades, if not over a century, and it will keep on lasting because it’s quality.”
But, for young couples or college students moving into their first apartments, furniture from antiques stores might not come to mind, Addington said. The option to ship an easy-to-build and comparatively inexpensive desk or dresser might be seen as preferable.
“A lot of this stuff’s heavy,” Kristian Addington said, motioning to a $600 wooden dresser. “And people don’t like heavy furniture and having to move it around. They can’t move it to their new apartment. They can’t carry it up the stairs. So, it’s much easier to have particle board IKEA furniture to move around.”
Kristian Addington manages her own Etsy shop, VintageBooksAndDecor, where she primarily sells antique books to those who can’t travel to antique stores themselves. In this instance, online shopping can preserve an interest in antiques for people who don’t have the means to see the items in person, she said.
Across the street from where the Addingtons parked their motorcycle, Erin Sullivan restocks antiques and organizes supplies at Finch House, the antique shop she manages with her mother.
Finch House opened about two months ago after Sullivan moved from Ohio to Florida to be closer to her mother, who has been in the antique business for 30 to 40 years.
Finch House has a backyard filled with patio tables and chairs, a fountain and a vintage blue bicycle. A pergola covers a dining table with plates and centerpieces. A small house sits behind the main shop and holds children’s books, paintings and furniture inside.
Finch House posts items on eBay to keep up with online trends, but traveling to the store itself is more fulfilling, Sullivan said.
“You won’t see an antique store at a mall,” she said.
Sullivan is constantly on the lookout for new antiques from auctions, state sales, the internet and offers from people who visit Finch House to sell items.
After visiting her store, Sullivan said customers can — and often do — search through online records and archives to trace the history of the item they purchased.
“I hope people recognize the value,” Sullivan said. “I mean, there’s a history. Things are made much better.”
Down the street from Finch House stands Wren Wood Antiques, owned by Gloria Castenholz and Joe Ferchak.
Castenholz, 64, and Ferchak, 72, who have been married for twelve years, opened Wren Wood Antiques in June 2020 after the building space became available that January.
Businesses have come and gone, but the eclectic, artistic nature of the street holds a sense of community for the shop owners and customers, according to Castenholz.
“This was known as an antique destination,” she said. “And it just brings more business for us, so we prefer it. We prefer that these other shops stay open.”
Ferchak traces his interest in antiques to the mid-80s when he lived in Upstate New York. He visited a farm to get hay for his horses, and laid eyes on an antique china cabinet the farmer kept in the barn.
“[The farmer] said ‘Do you like it?’” Ferchak said. “And I said, ‘Yeah, I really do. Give me a number.’”
He still has the original skeleton key from the china cabinet.
Ferchak had three storage units in Upstate New York for his antiques when he first moved to Florida. Rather than sell the antiques to other salesmen, he decided to put a price tag on the items himself.
The couple started selling antiques from a store across the street at Micanopy Trading Outpost ten years ago. They still sell some of their items there and advertise their inventory on Instagram and Facebook.
Doug Girard, who runs Micanopy Trading Outpost under the ownership of America Gordon, has been with the store for 13 years.
Born in 1947, Girard said working at an antique store gives him the chance to see the kinds of decor, furniture and miscellaneous treasures he grew up with.
He intends to participate in Micanopy’s 48th Fall Festival on Oct. 28 and 29.
Thousands of visitors flocked to Micanopy for last year’s festival, Girard said. Stores like Micanopy Trading Outpost will have a chance to display their collections of art, furniture, arrowheads, jewelry, records and more for North Central Florida.
Although he could retire from the trade, Girard has no current plans to do so.
“I liked antiques’ history my whole life,” he said. “So, I’m right where I need to be.”