Click here for great deals on antiques

News & Events

Mid-America News
Show Calendar
State Event Calendars

Regular Features

The Antique Detective
Antique Detective Q&A
Common Sense Antiques

Refurnished Thoughts
Traveling with Ken
Good Eye

Books for Collectors

Directories & Classifieds

The Finder: Unique Shops
Lodgings Directory
Museum Directory
  Aviation Museums
Wineries in the Heartland

Web Links

Archived Features

Antiquing in Colorado
Dealer Profile Archive
Editor's Notebook
Heirloom Recipes
Helpful Hints
   for Collectors
Is This An Antique?
Past Cover Features
Reflecting History

2005 Best Of Winners
Destinations 2006

Discover Mid-America —October 2005

Good mall management marked by diverse styles and opinions

by Terri Baumgardner


Strolling through an antique mall can give one a sense of history, along with discovering the places and people of today.

That's because each mall has its own personality, a reflection of the geographical area it's located in as well as the people who do business there.
For instance, hints of differences appear between malls geared towards interstate traffic and those antique havens that become a traveler's point of destination. One might be a treasure mine of Route 66 collectibles, the other revealing a rare French armoire.

Such distinctions — some subtle, some not — affect shoppers, mall owners, managers and dealers. And it impacts where we go to shop, what we shop for and how much we pay for an antique. Making it work can be called “the art of mall management.”
It's like a never-ending cycle of influence and interest. A mall owner or manager determines which dealers are showcased in an antique business. Each dealer subtly reflects the mall's personality, and buying habits of shoppers. In turn, shoppers shape the antique and collectibles market by what they purchase and how much money they pay for an antique.

Knowing the experience

“What you provide in a mall is the shopping experience. The ability to handle things, and know something about them,” says Carol Jacobs, owner and manager of Antique Ames in Ames, IA (shown here with her husband Dean Roosa).

The shopping experience can be shaped by whether or not a mall owner or manager has knowledge of antiques and collectibles. Shoppers who want to know the history or value of an antique prefer doing business with a mall manager whose management experience is well grounded in the trade and the changes affecting it.

"When I go to an auction, other dealers buy like there is no competition from eBay," said Carol Jacobs, owner and manager of Antique Ames in Ames, IA.

"(Internet shopping) is something young people are comfortable to do, so it is going to grow in that respect. But what you provide in a mall is the shopping experience. The ability to handle things, and know something about them."

While all mall owners or managers emphasize a keen sense of business in operating a successful antique mall, some put equal importance on a knowledge or interest in antiques.

In fact, Jacobs credits the success of her Iowa mall with her own experience as a dealer. Jacobs worked as a dealer in the mall before she purchased the business in 1995.

Customers' shopping experience at Jacobs' Antique Ames is enhanced by window displays and dealer displays. What's more, Jacobs' mall is housed in a mid-1800’s building, which is situated in Ames' cultural and historic district.

"The former owner really didn't have a powerful interest in antiques," Jacobs said. "They simply rented space. I think there is a difference, I think the involvement of the owner, their own collecting, buying and selling, being directly involved with customers makes a big difference."

While no one person can carry a vast knowledge of every antique or collectible, mall owners and managers must be willing to research an item for

a customer. And, many mall managers do maintain a stock of antique books for research and reading. If Bruce Leimkuehler, manager of Brass Armadillo Antique Mall in Grain Valley, MO near Kansas City, doesn't have information on a particular antique, he's sure to have a book that does.

"We maintain over $50,000 of reference books, for sale and for research," Leimkuehler said. "We're open to the general public to review the books."

Mission Road Antique Mall not only maintains a library of reference books for employees to research information for customers, but the dealers are knowledgeable of antiques.

"I was a dealer," said Casey Ward, owner and manager of Mission Road Antique Mall in Prairie Village, KS. "I was raised around antiques, my parents were antiquers. But the antique field is so vast you can't be expert on every aspect of it. So, you want to surround yourself with knowledgeable dealers."

So it is that the success of an antique mall depends, in part, on its dealers. That's also a challenge in mall management.

"Here's the thing about antique malls," Ward said, "They could be a house of cards. Most of them, the only assets they have are dealer leases. So you need to be certain those dealers are well established, happy in your mall and are

going to stay in your mall. When malls go under, dealers start a max exodus (and) you get too many spaces to fill. Then, you have a half-empty mall, and that's the beginning of your end."

While some owners and managers believe it is important to have a genuine interest in antiques and collectibles to operate a successful mall, others do not. For them, an antique mall is simply a business.
But they all agree it is critical that mall owners and managers must have a keen business sense as well as top-notch management skills.

Ward, who purchased her antique mall in June and oversees 350 dealers, also places great importance of mall owners and managers knowing their customer base.

"The economy has hurt the antique business," Ward said. "So many malls have closed, we're probably one of the last two or three in the city. However, we're positioned in a really established, affluent area of the city. A lot of our customers are people who frequent the mall often. Interior designers come here with their customers. We've seen a resurgence in the industry in the last few months, sales have started to upturn. And, that, is going to be the trend in the next few years."

Patty Hoover, owner and manager of Hoovers Have All Mall in Claremore,

OK also sees an upswing in the industry. Especially in primitive furniture and all things Western, be it horse stir-ups or saddles.

Hoover credits word of mouth advertising amongst dealers and customers with her success in business. Publicity doesn't hurt any thing, either.

"We were picked the best mall in Oklahoma by Oklahoma Living magazine," said Hoover, who opened her mall in 1986 before moving to its current location in 1989. "We've been very fortunate with a waiting list of dealers all these years. I think we're well established; we were the second mall to open in Oklahoma. Being established as long as we have has helped."

Hoover also credits her success to the name of her antique and collectibles mall.

"A mall's success is not to just have that many antiques," Hoover said. "People claim to have antique malls, they're not antiques. That's why we stayed away from the word, that's the secret."

According to Hoover, a collectible is an item that is 50 years old or older whereas an antique is an item more than 100 years old.

As shoppers will discover, there are as many different types of antique malls as there are dealers. Some specialize in collectibles, others in antiques.

Dealers’ input

“Attracting good dealers, keeping the mall full, keeping up with trends in the industry — that’s what’s been so important about staying in business, the face of the business has changed,” says Casey Ward, owner and manager of Mission Road Antique Mall in Prairie Village, KS.

"Attracting good dealers, keeping the mall full, keeping up with the trends in the industry," Ward said. "That's what's been so important about staying in business, the face of the business has changed."

One such change, as noted by Brass Armadillo's corporate headquarters, is the rise of entrepreneurism.

"We look to the future from the standpoint that we are entering a time where baby boomers are starting retirement," said Brass Armadillo's Vice President Dave Briddle. "A survey shows 80 percent of baby boomers are going to be looking for a part-time business or part-time job. We are working towards that, fitting ourselves with retirees for part-time businesses."

At Hoovers Have All Mall, Hoover keeps abreast of various antiques and collectibles to help her newer dealers.

" Reading, research, every day I learn something new," said Patty Hoover. "We have reference books — I don't waste a minute. At home, I've got an antique book in front of me. I stay up on all the antique books. It is important because with a new dealer, I'm liable to see a $100 item (tagged) for ten cents. So I pull it and tell the dealer, 'You're giving it away.'"

Another trend amongst antique and collectible mall dealers is that some of them once owned their own shops. They even place a banner above their booth with the name of their shop.

Indeed, many small shop owners join forces with antique malls because of the downturn in the economy in recent years. Some shop owners rent a booth to enhance their shop's profit margins. Others closed their storefronts, tossing aside the overhead expenses of owning a business to simply rent a booth in an antique mall.

"As many as 40 percent of our dealers have shops of their own and use their space to augment business, or had their own shops," Ward said. "It gives them freedom to go out sourcing merchandise, such as going to France to shop."

Which is a good thing for both mall owners and shoppers, because dealers have time to study trends, shop for antiques and collectibles in anticipation of what shoppers are searching to buy.

Ward not only depends on her dealers' initiative to anticipate shoppers' buying trends, she encourages it. The former dealer regularly pens a newsletter for her dealers, and provides them with industry publications to keep them informed of the market place. Ward even brainstorms with her dealers.

"We have a dealer work night once a month," Ward said. "We talk, order pizza and kick ideas around about what's coming up."

And at Mission Road Antique Mall that means dealers trade in fine furniture, china, silver and antique jewelry.

"Vintage brooches have been so big that has gotten people interested in vintage jewelry, choosing antique rings for wedding rings," Ward said. "More young men are buying vintage bracelets and necklaces for their girlfriends and wives. And, people are accessorizing their homes with architectural pieces, using them over mantels and doorways."

By staying apprised of market trends, Ward's dealers anticipate what shoppers will want to buy, often times, before they sign the credit receipt.
For instance, the Shabby Chic home furnishings have been quite popular. High profile retail catalogs and retail stores such as Sundance, Pottery Barn and Anthropology have brought the look into vogue.

"A lot of our dealers take it a step further in acquiring vintage pieces," Ward said. "I see trends going back to fine formal, high-end furniture like Fine English, French, American, Chinese pieces — big armoires, china cabinets, dining room sets. We're seeing more people buy vintage or Victorian chairs, sofas, and having them recovered to use as their main furniture pieces."

The shoppers

“They (shoppers) are more conscience of what they purchase. Two or three years ago they bought it just because they liked it. Now, need and function is priority,” says Bruce Leimkuehler, manager of Brass Armadillo’s Antique Mall in Grain Valley, MO outside of Kansas City.

Mall owners and managers see a trend in shoppers buying habits for items that can be utilized — not just showpieces housed in a glass case.

"They are more conscience of what they purchase," said Leimkuehler, manager of Brass Armadillo's Kansas City mall. "Whereas, two or three years ago, they bought it just because the liked it. Now, need and function is priority."

Brass Armadillo's vice-president echoes the point.

"In the late ‘90s, a larger percent of our business was dealer to dealer sales, accounting for about 45 percent of our business," said Dave Briddle of Brass Armadillo's corporate office in Ankeny, IA.

"That has reduced to about 25 percent of our business. Collecting shows and home decorating shows are popular; which is becoming a large trend for people to look for older merchandise to decorate their home. The trend has added new values that weren't there ten years ago."

Yet, Brass Armadillo's Des Moines's mall manager doesn't gear his merchandise to trends. Rather, his eye is towards collectibles.

"There's not really a trend, the customer is always looking for something to add to their collection," said Rick Nehman, Brass Armadillo's Des Moines mall manger.

Regardless of whether a mall is geared towards antiques or collectibles, there is a trend in how shoppers shop. Internet shopping, especially through eBay, became hip, convenient and easy. Its effect became a negative impact on some malls' sales.

Brass Armadillo’s Antique Mall in Grain Valley, MO near Kansas City has 450 dealers of general antiques and collectibles.

So many malls created their own Internet presence with websites geared towards shoppers and tourism. And mall owners began to lure shoppers back to the malls by enhancing the shopping experience.

As Ward said, a mall owner must know who their customers are to cater to their interests. According to mall owners and managers, more shoppers are women than men. Although shoppers' ages range between 35 to 60 years old, the trend is towards younger buyers.

"Younger people are beginning to get the message, antiques retain value," Ward said. "It's a nesting trend. People are spending more money on their homes because they are spending more time there. So, they want substantial pieces, pieces that have history and meaning."

Terri Baumgardner is a Blue Springs, MO-based freelance writer.

Mission Road Antique Mall
Prairie Village, KS
Owner and Manager, Casey Ward
The mall is a two-story, 50,000 square feet mall, which houses an award-winning bistro. Featuring 350 dealers, Mission Road Antique Mall trades in general merchandise while also specializing in fine furniture and high-end collectibles.

Hoovers Have All Mall
Claremore, OK
Owner and Manager, Patty Hoover
Situated on the site of a 1920s lumberyard, the 10,000-square-foot mall features 25 dealers. Although Hoover's carries general antique and collectible merchandise, it does specialize in Route 66 memorabilia as the mall is located on the legendary highway.

Antique Ames
Ames, Iowa
Owner and Manager, Carol Jacobs
Located in the hometown of Iowa State University, the 11,000- square-foot mall is situated in the downtown historic district. Built in the 1800s, the former department store now serves as an antique mall featuring 40 dealers. Antique Ames showcases general merchandise antiques and collectibles, but places an emphasis on younger shoppers by featuring memorabilia from the 1970s. However, Jacobs has a personal interest in pottery, art glass, linens, quilts, handmade items and prints.

The Brass Armadillo Antique Malls
Founded in 1992, the corporation has six antique malls located in Des Moines, IA, Omaha, NE, Grain Valley, MO, Phoenix, AZ, Denver, CO and Cincinnati, OH
The Kansas City Area Mall
Grain Valley, MO
Manager, Bruce Leimkuehler
Positioned near I-70, the 42,000-square-foot mall markets 450 dealers of general antique and collectible merchandise. The manager, Leimkuehler, personally collects advertising and Boy Scout memorabilia.
The Des Moines Mall
Des Moines, Iowa
Manager, Rick Nehman
Located along I-80 and I-35, the 36,000-square-foot mall features 315 dealers. While the mall is a general merchandise antique shop, some dealers specialize in antique sporting goods.

Discover Mid-America founder and Senior Contributing Editor Ken Weyand files regular reports on notable Midwest destinations. He can be reached at

> Discover Mid-America Archive — Past cover stories

Monthly Dynamic Promotion (120x600).  You never have to change this code - we make sure the monthly promo is always fresh!

In Association with


©2000-08 Discovery Publications, Inc.

Contact us | Privacy policy