Curmudgeon’s Corner: Flea Markets cum Antique Shops

Typical Booth

By Jerry Scott

What the heck is a curmudgeon, somebody asked me? In short, a crusty, ill-tempered, churlish old man. I’ll take credit for old man and crusty but ill-tempered I am not. I simply hate hypocrisy, and pretense and have the gall to say it out loud or on the net. The best way to explain it, is to engage in pointing out unpleasant facts like trying to recount election ballots over and over and expecting a different result. That’s simply crazy according to a parallel thought Einstein is quoted as having said.

So now that we have gotten that out of the way, I am going to start off my meanderings today by talking about the flea markets cum antique shops we have in this vicinity. I once lived in Los Angeles while attending UCLA. On weekends I’d ride my five-speed bike down to Santa Monica and Venice along the coast. One days while cruising through Venice and dodging rollerbladers, I saw a sign over a store that said, “We buy junk, and we sell antiques.” I had a good laugh and went in the store to see the “antiques.” Having no way to carry home on my bike a priceless chintz sofa, I passed up the opportunity but never forgot the sign.

When I came to New Bern, I had sold most of my furniture, so I went looking for some things to furnish my house. Branch’s was having a sale, so I ended up dropping many bucks with them only to find that I could have gotten better prices elsewhere. However, they sold quality furniture and it has lasted me 15 years so far.

Continuing my search, I found Gail’s consignment store on Middle Street having noticed Elvis and Marilyn Monroe loitering out front. I was awestruck with the quantity and quality of Gail’s inventory and of course loaded up with a lot of her treasures I couldn’t live without. My Betty Boop coffee table is my pride and joy. I found one similar to mine on eBay the other day. The asking price was between $6-10 G’s. I had no idea it had a value anywhere near that. Of course, I paid way under that price.

That was back a few years and in the interim many new places have come to my attention. Franklin’s Antiques is full of yesterday’s memories. A future article will detail where you can go to shop for recycled furniture. Right now, I want to talk about a recent addition to the flea market scene out on Highway 70E. It’s typical of the kind of store where everything is for sale from rust buckets to barn doors. The owner, Irene, who previously ran The Black Swan, has not heeded the famous architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s maxim “Less is more.”

Rather, she’s been on a binge buying out inventories of estate sales and loading up her big red Ford truck with treasures galore. Her inventory is overflowing. Hopefully, no tornado is destined for that part of town or it will be raining down beds, dressers, glassware, and several tons of dubious ticky tacky. (How many German beer steins do you need?). But, hold the phone. There is a selection of art, crafts, furniture, bikes, housewares, and on and on that’s unbelievable. I was there today and picked up a Tiffany style lamp and a gilded frame I needed for one of my paintings. If you can wade past Irene’s huge inventory clogging the isles and which covers half an acre you can come home loaded with hard-to-find stuff to use or recycle as I do into hand painted items.

I can spend hours rummaging about in this place because honestly, you will be amazed at what she has for sale. As I said, all the glitters is not gold, but if you’re shrewd you can always find something that will brighten up your house if not your life.

To be honest, I have a booth in Irene’s store to sell my hand painted furniture. If this sounds like a commercial it is and isn’t. I joined her because I wanted to see what the market is for my works and what people are willing to pay for used items in various states of preservation.

I leave you with a quote from the king of curmudgeons, Oscar Wilde, who said “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

See you down the road.