In honor of the upcoming July 4th weekend, we sat down with Ruby Lane shop owners Kent Dixon and Andrew Alcarese of Dixon’s Antiques who specialize in Federal, Empire, Country, Victorian and all things Americana.
Q: How did you two get started in the business?
A: In 1975 I graduated from college with a teaching degree. While hoping for a job, I substitute taught and helped my father with his country store. During this time, I met a couple local antique dealers and started riding around with them, helping with deliveries, and going to auctions. One of them taught me how to refinish furniture. I began picking and refinishing pieces for them. One thing leads to another and since 1976 I have made my living by finding and restoring antique furniture. I settled on American made furniture after I encountered some difficulties restoring foreign made pieces. (Not to say there is anything wrong with foreign, because many of the best pieces were made in Europe and England by relatives of the same craftsmen that found their way to America.) My shop is located between Baltimore and Philadelphia, which provides good choices for American made furniture when I go picking.
In 1994 I hired a student from the local high school to help me. Now, 21 years later, Andrew is my unofficial business partner. We look for quality pieces that we would like to have in our own homes. We try to restore original finishes, but are not opposed to refinishing a piece if necessary. I contend that the original cabinetmaker went to great effort to pick beautiful woods and would refinish his own pieces if the finish became so cloudy it hid that beauty. We love antiques and by properly restoring them, we hope to extend their use for future generations. Drawers should open smoothly and doors should close easily, pieces should be clean inside and out, just like I would want myself.
Q: What sort of things do you specialize in?
A: Even though the furniture is the main focus of the shop we also offer a variety of quality antiques; including garden, architectural, lighting, farm related, musical, industrial, and practically anything we find unique and interesting.
Q: What trends do you see in collecting Americana and what are some of the hottest collectibles?
A: I am not too sure I see trends other than the fact there is less interest by young people in antiques. Older people are downsizing or already filled to the brim.
Q: What would you tell clients to look for when collecting Americana?
A: Buy quality. Buy from a knowledgeable dealer. Forget reproductions altogether.
Q: What are some tips when decorating with Americana?
A: Many of the pieces I sell are not bought by antique collectors. Often someone has bought because an item appeals to them and they use it as more of an accent piece which is unrelated to the rest of their decor. Many of these first sale customers come back and buy again because, I believe, they are so happy with the first piece they bought from me.
Q: What are some of the most unique finds you have encountered?
A: There have been so many wonderful and unique antiques I have handled over the years. I wouldn’t know where to start. I will just mention the last piece I took home which is rare due to space limitations. It was a decorative wall safe that came out of the offices of the American Brewery in Baltimore.
Q: You have several musical items in your shop. Are these popular items to collect?
A: Musical instruments are sometimes high quality items appreciated by collectors who also play.
Be sure and check out other selections in Dixon’s Antiques!
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