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Discover Mid-America — September 2005

Mall maladies

Recently in Denver, there have been a couple of longtime antique mall closings as well as a few well-established dealers calling it quits. I suspect this trend is not exclusive to Denver.

About 15 years ago the “mall” concept was all the rage. I can recall a mall operator telling me that individual antique stores that specialize would soon be a thing of the past. He is no longer in business; I am!

So, what’s gone wrong? First and foremost, mall operators will rent to anybody. Some of these weekend warriors and housewives (who are the mainstay of malls) are only in it to support their own interests. Consequently, their booths are filled with their leftovers. The quality merchandise is at home on the shelf.

Many of these same people are totally ignorant about their merchandise and are way too lazy to spend the time or the money to create their own library and do their homework. You can walk through any antique mall in this country and find mislabeled merchandise in almost every booth. God forbid that “vetting” should be a standard pursued by mall owners.

Many times booths are filled with reproductions. This in itself kills collecting. The layperson cannot tell the difference and, once stung, will think twice about venturing into the same trap. Right along with the reproductions are damaged goods that are not marked. When desperation sets in, the mall operators will fill empty spaces with lighters and T-shirts!

Running a successful antique shop is hard work. I am sometimes asked, ”How do you remember your merchandise?” That’s easy, I buy it, I clean it, I repair it, I research it, I inventory it, I display it, I show it a number of times, I sell it, and I mark it off my inventory — I have handled every piece of merchandise at least ten times, how can I not remember it?

Hopefully, with this recent fallout, serious new mall operators will recognize the shortcomings and work towards improving the image and the level of merchandise. This is no easy task, and will involve financial drain, risk, and above all, courage. The mall concept is valid, but it cannot be a hit and miss proposition to survive. It needs to be a serious endeavor to serve the public well.

On the plus side, remember, there’s a sleeper in every booth!

Syrma Sotiriou is the proprietor of The Treasured Scarab in Denver, and a regular contributor to Discover Mid-America. Contact her at (303) 777-6884.

> Antiquing in Colorado Archive — past columns

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