Friday, July 10, 2009

Louisville Antique Mall

After 24 years on Goss Avenue, the Louisville Antique Mall closed its doors and was reborn at 834 E. Broadway in January 2008. And now, in the words of Neil Diamond, "that died too". According to

The Louisville Antique Mall will close at the end of June.

Owner Denise Golden told dealers at the mall of the closure at a meeting Monday night.

“The antique business has been hit especially hard during this economic recession,” Golden said in a news release. “Antiques are not essential purchases, and although traffic has been good through the mall, people just aren’t spending as much.”

I don't really get what Golden is really saying here. I can tell you, as someone who's been in the antique-mall biz for most of my life, it makes no difference whether traffic is good or bad or whether anyone is buying anything at all. An antique mall makes its money on the blind naive optimism of the dealers who pay rent for their booth there. Period.

If the people who paid rent on antique-mall and flea-market booths just stepped back and looked realistically at what they were doing and did the math, all such places would shut down overnight. You can't pay $75-$150 a month on a booth, keep it filled with items, and expect to make any profit. Next time you're in such a place, look at people's booths and add up how much they'd make if they sold EVERY SINGLE ITEM in their booth - sometimes the total doesn't even add up to a month's booth rental.

And yet, people do it, again and again, month after month, year after year. Why? I don't know. I think people just like the idea of it, even though they're flushing money down the toilet and have been operating on a loss ever since their first month. Especially the elderly, who just want to "keep busy" and don't bother to consider that there are far better ways to do so than paying over a thousand bucks a year to display worthless junk. Like whipped 1980's vinyl records whose book-value is near worthless even in mint condition. Or baby clothes that couldn't be given away for nickels and dimes at a yard sale. Or items that are technically "antique" but whose value has plummeted in the post-eBay economy, like McCoy pottery or Depression Glass. Or - most common in larger antique malls - furniture of dubious origin, some of which once might have been valuable before someone "restored" them with sandpaper, Old English stain, cheapo varnish, and crudely executed store-bought decorative stencils.

If it sounds like I'm down on the antique-mall business, I am. Take it from someone who used to run one - like a casino, only the house makes money. If you have something to sell, you're better off just going to straight to eBay with it and letting the world market determine whether it wants it or not.

I used to love browsing all the dusty old stuff here, but it was in the same spirit as when I would browse a museum. That is, I rarely ever bought anything here, except when I managed to beat the other vultures to an item whose booth-vendor had mispriced and/or didn't know the value of what they had.

Finally, I'm not sure what all this means for the Colonnade, which had operated for nearly 100 years on South 4th Street before moving into the fifth floor of the Louisville Antique Mall.

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