New Stock Arrives Daily
This week let’s update new arrivals! We received even more replica tin signs, if you can believe it. A photo of some of the new ones is below.
A shipment from our Nature Form line arrived. It included two large totem poles, lots of animal head canes, blown glass stump vases, decorative barrel table, wooden figures[turtles, hippos, motorcycles, etc.], bran new and surprisingly complicated elephant puzzle boxes and lots of the very popular superhero and villain puppets. Why not put on a puppet show for your dog or cat? It’s not the strangest way to pass time during lockdown that I’ve heard of.
We acquired a garage full of wicker back in the fall. Most of it never found its way into The Barn. We figured spring is coming, so recently we brought it all in a bit at a time, sorted and priced everything. I grabbed a photo of some of what we had in one of our aisles while we were sorting it, the photo is below. New items are coming in faster during lockdown then they are leaving, so we left some wicker in, filled up a huge armoire with some smaller pieces, and put the rest into storage. Once we reopen the rest should come in over the first few weeks as we have space. There was some wicker furniture but it was mostly smaller items: window planters, baskets, stools, serving trays, large & small planters, etc..
We’ve been asked a bunch of times during lockdown for old windows, mostly by film production buyers. We’ve had to tell everyone that we didn’t have any. Now that nobody is asking for them, we just got in a big batch in all kinds of different sizes. We left less than a dozen in The Barn, so if you need a pile, just ask.
A few more antique and vintage new arrivals included: 2 chainsaws, cast iron plant stand, gut seat bar stool, 2 pairs of snow shoes, vintage sleigh, extra thick orchard ladder[We attached a photo because we have never seen one that thick.], 2 large gold framed prints, drop front maple desk with chest on the bottom, pair of cast iron outdoor chairs, whale oil burner, and a wicker bistro table.
We thought we would be talking about reopening plans and procedures this week, but the government of Ontario has extended the stay at home order for Peel until at least March 8th. What a difference one week makes.
I’ve had several email and phone conversations this past week where I was asked, “What’s it like to be open again?”, or something similar. There seems to be a great deal of confusion about who is open and who is not. The Barn is located in Peel, and thus subject to the mandatory closure of all nonessential businesses. Rest assured, as soon as we are allowed to reopen, we will reopen.
In the meantime if you want a tour of The Barn we have you covered. Below you will find two walkthrough tour videos of The Barn. They are the same tour, but one is 12 minutes, and the other is 5 minutes. We thought the speeded up version would be useful for someone who has never been to The Barn and wanted a quick tour. The videos are also permanently on our Antiques page.
If you would like information on something you spotted in the video, just email us the time of the video and a description of the piece. As well as what info you would like: price, dimensions, wood, age, if you would like a photo of the item, if there are other colour options, etc.. We will get back to you promptly.
Last week, we promised photos of a few of the newly arrived vintage metal signs, here they are. There is also a new section on our Reproductions page for Large replica metal signs. Some of the signs in that section are currently in stock. The rest are en route and should be here before the end of March.
This week we will be updating Reproduction new arrivals. For those unaware, there is currently tremendous demand for consumer goods which is causing equipment shortages, port congestion, and shortages for sailing capacity for imported goods. Which is causing delays. The made in Canada products we carry are being delayed as well, because the factories just can’t keep up with demand. What all this means is that when we run out of something it is taking significantly longer to restock. It is also taking longer to receive new items. This will continue for some time to come. Even if things went back to normal tomorrow, it would take months to catch up on the backlog. So plan well ahead if there is a particular item you want.
The good news is that we do plan well ahead, so we have lots of new arrivals, and lots more on the way. We are already planning new arrivals for the Christmas season.
At The Barn we often say everything happens at once, and that will be the case in March. Many shipments that have been delayed will be arriving in March. Plus shipments we intentionally delayed due to the stay at home order will arrive. As well, lots of outdoor items for spring are due to arrive. Plus some regularly scheduled shipments are coming. We will update those arrivals at a later date, now let’s talk about what’s arrived since we last updated Reproduction new arrivals in December.
One of our biggest sellers, the Blue Jays and Cardinals are back! Lots more outdoor metal birds are on the way, but we special ordered a ton of Blue Jays and cardinals last summer and they finally arrived.
We also got in a batch of another one of our best sellers, the large bobblehead garden gnomes.
More outdoor arrivals included a white butterfly bench, a porch rocking bench, and a horse bench. Also, some fun new planters, and a plant stand arrived. I think the water tower planters are pretty cool, a photo is attached.
Something a little different for us: Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, and Toronto Blue Jays, flasks and wall mounted bottle openers.
Reclaimed wood furniture arrivals from our Provence line included: coffee tables, sideboards, and chest of drawers. From our Irish Coast African Dusk line, new arrivals included: dinning tables, media units, and nest of tables. We also got in the large Lifestyle bookcase in sundried, a photo is attached.
More new arrivals include two very heavy large open bookcases. A photo of one is attached. I’ve often seen them put together and used as a room divider. They were an end of line, so there won’t be anymore after the two we have are sold.
We keep getting asked for large dinning tables. So we’ve brought back the Renaissance dinning table that is 8 feet long. A photo is attached.
To our great surprise one of our best sellers during lockdown has been large Tiffany style lamps. Which is just about the last thing we thought would have sold during lockdown. Regardless, we got in a fresh batch a few weeks ago. Some have sold already, but I’ve attached photos of the peacock lamp and a pair of dragonfly lamps that we still have. We also got in the smaller lighthouse lamps.
A shipment of replica vintage tin signs that was supposed to arrive in December and got held up for inspection in Vancouver is in. We have tons of new replica tin signs, in a wide range of sizes. We have been working with the factory designing some new larger vintage signs. The first dozen large signs have arrived. The next batch of large replica tin signs will be arriving in March. We also designed a sign of The Barn. Photos of the some of the new signs are coming next week.
Also next week we will update our reopening plans in detail. As of the writing of this update, it looks like we will be allowed to reopen with a 25% capacity limit on the 22nd. And something totally new next week, video tours of The Barn!
This week we will be providing an update on some antique new arrivals. I was looking back at some of the photos I’ve taken during lockdown and realized the quantity of new items we’ve brought in recently. Also, we haven’t provide an update on antique new arrivals since December so its quite a long list. Here are some of the highlights.
Let’s start with new antique furniture arrivals: small two door maple bookcase, school desk, pump organ circa 1920’s, wood & brass magazine holder, a bunch of assorted mirrors including a large gilt buffet mirror, 2 different marble top lamp tables, walnut double roped bed, apartment sized upright Heintzman piano, square oak parlour table, round oak parlour table, set of 4 mahogany dinette chairs, set of 4 early primitive kitchen chairs, 3 arrow back chairs, quarter cut oak mission style 3′ round games table, small outdoor iron table, sewing table, small red corner shelf, steamer trunk, walnut Hammond organ and bench electric, hanging wall corner curio cabinet, and 4 assorted Louis XIV marble top commodes. A photo of two of the commodes is attached.
All the photos attached to updates during the lockdown have been of new arrivals. I’ve attached more than usual this week, because during lockdown there is a little more time for photos.
Lockdown has also provided us with some time to catch up on a few projects. We made some table tops, so that we could make treadle tables-a photo is attached. Also, we always seem to have lots of iron and wicker pieces that need painting. A photo of a few of the painted iron pieces is attached.
New antique smalls arrivals include: Jars of buttons, opera glasses, assorted vintage camera equipment, kaleidoscope with cards, 3 corporation seals, metal & wood figure displays, assorted china[19piece Roslyn luncheon set, 30piece Royal Albert luncheon set, Wedgwood, lots of cups and saucer, and more], cigar boxes, large sterling fruit bowl, vintage tins, decoys, assorted brass, copper, & pewter pieces, carved wooden figures, super creepy clown figure, metal toy car, small wooden boxes, china decorative masks, repro microphone, pocket watch Jessie James 1874, binoculars, vintage coke bottles, miniature skateboard, decanters, quantity of assorted silver plate holloware and some flatware, selection of crystal pieces, and sets of crystal glasses.
Even more new antique arrivals include: 2 buoys, iron log holder, large Asian fish bowl and stand, Tiffany style 1930’s hanging light fixture, rustic mini suitcase, large red gas can by Eagle, Santa’s sled, 3 vintage tennis rackets, 2 vintage baseball bats, vintage black rotary phone, 31” signed 4 candle bronze-a photo is attached, 7 assorted 1960’s table lamps, 1950’s table top hockey game, hanging converted gas light fixture, Victrola with outside horn that plays cylinder records, 1941 manual typewriter, 1 & 1/2 gallon crock, mini salesman sample trunk, 1950’s mood light, 1940’s cast iron lamp, 2 working motion lights[1930’s & 1956], vintage Troxel tricycle, streamliner sleigh, Ski Flyer sleigh, Torpedo toboggan, CCM bike wagon, cutlery tray, collection of 16 brass and copper planters, double sided advertising sign 12” x 6′[Loam & Sod], heavy duty metal pulley, doll high chair, 1960’s pottery lamp, large heavy glass blue vases, fireplace poker set, 1950’s Munro hockey game with original box, portable pool table, Milwaukee tool box, assorted framed paintings & prints, red bird feeder, crystal chandelier, Spanish bronze and crystal chandelier, 2 large wicker baskets, planters painted red, mini travelling Victrola[not working], and a pair of lanterns.
We also sorted out and brought in lots of books during lockdown. Including lots of coffee table books, a set of encyclopedias, set of 40 Reader’s Digest, History of France set, and just lots of hard cover books.
Next week we will will update Reproduction new arrivals, or we may talk about reopening plans if there is an announcement from the government.
Quarantine Series: Recycled Repurposed Reused
At The Barn we like to be as environmentally friendly as possible. We posted an article about the Springwater Woodcraft products we carry. How everything is made of white pine from sustainably managed forests. And how they only use water based paints and stains. More recently we posted an article on the reclaimed wood furniture we carry and how all the wood used has been recycled. But we thought it was time to write about the most environmentally friendly thing we do, antiques!
If you want to help out the planet, figure out a way to get people to stop buying disposable furniture at Ikea and get them to buy antiques instead. Style is the enemy of the environment, not price or quality. Most people want the “in” style, and most new furniture stores carry what’s in style at the moment. The problem is that what’s in style is always changing, and so furniture becomes disposable.
Truth be told, I’ve only been inside an Ikea twice in my life. Just out of curiosity I googled Ikea chairs. What came up was a page of chairs made of plastic and tube metal ranging in price from $69 to $129. These chairs obviously won’t last, they are not built to last. At The Barn over 80% of the chairs we sell are under $100. Most of our dinning chairs sell for $45 to $65 per chair. They are solid wood and most will be around long after we are all gone. Why anyone buys plastic from Ikea when they can buy solid wood for a lower price is beyond me.
Most of the antique pieces we sell are used as is, but many are repurposed. We have a customer who turns old trunks into coffee tables. We have another customer who buys old pieces of wood to make musical instruments. Customers buy pieces all the time to use as bathroom vanities, and they are a lot less expensive than particle board vanities bought at Home Depot. I don’t just pick on Ikea. We even have two customers who buy old flatware to make jewelry.
We sell lots of old wooden stumps that customers use as outdoor stools or for displays. We get the wood from local arborists who cutdown dead or damaged trees. That’s how we get the wood we burn in the fireplace at The Barn. We spit it ourselves behind The Barn. No trees are needlessly cut down for our firewood.
We try to keep everything out of landfill that we possibly can. We make regular trips to donation centers to drop off the items we acquire that we don’t want to or can’t sell. We give away pieces that aren’t particularly valuable, but are still useful all the time.
Our film and television production partners come in handy in this regard. We give them stuff all the time just to keep it out of landfill. This has become more common in recent years with all the post apocalyptic movies and tv shows. They will often take furniture that is missing parts, or bundles of old newspapers or magazines, or even old blankets. One of the Anne of Green Gables shows even took the ashes out of our fireplace.
When you buy something small at The Barn you will usually get it in a recycle plastic bag or cardboard box. The packing materials we use are recycled from recent shipments we’ve received. We don’t buy boxes or packing supplies, we just recycle them.
If you don’t like brown furniture, well it’s amazing what you can do with a can of paint. Or just take a piece apart and create something new. You can’t go to the lumber yard and buy the wood contained in many of the antique pieces we sell for the price we sell them for these days.
We get calls and emails all the time from people wanting to sell good quality items that don’t have a lot of resale value. After we tell them we are not interested in their items many of these people often say to us, “well I just didn’t want to throw it away”. Please don’t, there are lots of charitable organizations willing to take your donations. And that means more recycling and less waste.
Too many pieces that are out of style windup in landfill. It is a tremendous waste. In the 1980’s we couldn’t even donate mid-century modern furniture. Thrift stores wouldn’t take it, they couldn’t sell it. It was out of fashion, how times have changed. Much of it went to landfill back then, now its in high demand.
So if you are out of fashion, good for you. You are doing your part for the environment. Thank you!
During the first month or so of the lockdown we spent a lot of time working on smalls. Smalls in the antique world is just about anything that will fit in a china cabinet. Examples of smalls include: china, glass & crystal, silver, figurines, copper, brass, pewter, wood carvings, toys, cast iron, etc..
If you’ve ever been to The Barn you are aware that we have dozens of china cabinets, curio cabinets, and display cabinets, dedicated to smalls. Currently there are 41 cabinets full of smalls at The Barn. That number changes from time to time. We try to keep extra cabinets on hand, so we can just transfer the smalls when we sell a cabinet. But sometimes we over sell china cabinets and run out of room for smalls. That happened earlier this year, we had a run of a couple of months where it seemed like nearly everyday someone wanted to buy a china cabinet. But we’ve since acquired a supply of new cabinets and we are in good shape again.
We try and keep the cabinets full. We always have an extra supply of inventory. However, it take a great deal of time to sort through, and price, and often clean all the new arrivals. When we get busy for an extended period of time, smalls are the thing we tend to neglect. We were busy for such an extended period before the lockdown that we had lots of space in the cabinets. So, during lockdown we’ve been getting ahead of smalls. We started by filling up all our cabinets. Then when we ran out of space we started sorting, pricing, and repacking. This way we will have lots of replacements ready in advance of reopening.
We’ve been using the top of a Victorian dinning table to sort items. I would occasionally take a quick photo. I’ve attached three to this update.
Since there is a lot of confusion about the new stay at home order, and we are getting a lot of the same questions, I will attempt to answer common covid questions in this week’s post. I have read the 32 page document the Ontario government released on January 12th, as well as the four page list of exemptions to the stay at home order. And the new restrictions don’t change anything in regards to how The Barn is currently conducting business.
We are being extremely cautious and that will not change. We work from home as much as possible. We work in the store on alternate days, so that there is only one person in the store the vast majority of the time. We are taking precautions that are stricter than the government regulations require.
We are open for curbside pickup and delivery only, instore shopping is not allowed. I’m sure many readers will find this hard to believe, but we are still getting requests from customers who want to come into the store to shop. In store shopping will not be allowed until the lockdown has ended.
We are also getting many requests to bring items outside so that customers can have a look at them. This is not allowed. If you cannot purchase an item from a photo, that is understandable. But, to see items in person before purchasing them you will have to wait until we reopen for instore shopping.
There are many photos on our website, if you see something you are interested in and would like further information, please just send us an email. We are working from home as much as possible and are not keeping regular store hours. So we won’t always be available to answer the phone during lockdown. But we do respond to all email inquiries.
We are getting a lot of requests similar to this: “I’m looking for a desk, can you send me photos of what you have?” We do not take photos of most of our inventory, it is too large and changes too rapidly. When requesting photos please be specific. Tell us what you are looking for, as well as the style you want, and the approximate dimensions you would like. We will then send you photos of the best available option[s] we have in stock that fits your requirements.
If you would like to purchase an item, just send us your phone number and we will call you back to arrange a pickup or delivery time, and payment by credit card. While in lockdown we cannot accept cash or debit. We also cannot accept returns on purchases made during lockdown.
CURBSIDE PICKUP & DELIVERY
For safety reason, here is how we are doing curbside pickup and delivery. We will not take your item[s] into your home upon delivery. We send just one person who will leave your delivery outside or in an open garage. We will arrange a short delivery window in advance. Then we will call you upon arrival so that you know exactly when your item[s] arrive.
For curbside pickup we also make sure that there is no contact. An appointment time must be made in advance. When you arrive we ask that you call us and remain in your vehicle. Someone will bring your purchase outside and leave it for you to pickup. That way there is no contact.
FYI- Number 8 in the list of exceptions to the stay at home order published by the Ontario government states: “Purchasing or picking up goods through an alternative method of sale, such as curbside pickup, from a business or place that is permitted to provide curbside pickup under Stage 1 Order.”
We have stopped buying antiques from the public since the lockdown started for safety reasons. We are still getting contacted nearly everyday from people wanting to sell antique items. We will resume buying after the lockdown has ended. If you have items you want to sell we ask that you please hold off on your inquiries until the lockdown has ended.
Many people have asked the question. “Can I send you photos to see if you are interested in my items for after you resume buying?” The answer is yes, you can send photos and we will let you know if they are the type of items we purchase.
Even after the lockdown has ended, we will not go into your home to look at items, for safety reason. You will have to bring items to us, where we will look at them outside. Or if you have a large number of larger items and you can put them in an open garage we may be willing to come and have a look, depending on the items of course.
Normally anyone can just bring items for us to have a look at without an appointment. After the lockdown has ended we don’t want everyone showing up with their items at once. An appointment will be required to sell your items after the lockdown.
FILM & TELEVISON
The film & television industry shut down completely in March during the first lockdown. They did not get up and running again until months after the first lockdown was lifted. First they had to figure out strict safety protocols that would keep everyone safe. And there are a lot of moving parts with getting a production up and running again, so it took a long time.
Productions have not shutdown during this lockdown, the government of Ontario is allowing them to continue operating with very strict safety protocols. Any company that supplies the film industry is being allowed to operated to continue supplying them with the things they need to operate. And they need furniture and props to operate. So we have been allowed to continue supplying productions. Set decoration buyers make an appointment in advance and one person comes at a time to take photos and pick out items. Set decoration buyers like everyone who works on film sets in Ontario, are tested for covid every two days.
We have been very surprised by the amount of business we have had from loyal customers purchasing items from photos during the lockdown. We would like to thank everyone for their support. We are all doing the best we can in this situation. We understand your frustration and we thank you for your patience.
Quarantine Series: Reclaimed Wood
If you are a regular reader of this page you’ve seen “reclaimed wood furniture” often. But what exactly is reclaimed wood furniture? Well quite simply it is furniture made of recycle wood and often metal. The wood comes from old houses, buildings, bridge beams, cable reels, pallets, etc.. Pretty much any old wood that can be reused to make furniture these days is recycled.
Anything that has a tag on it saying FSC certified reclaimed means that all the wood used in the construction of the piece is fully recycled. No trees are cut down. FSC stands for the Forestry Stewardship Council. It is an international non-profit. FSC was created in 1993 in response to concerns over deforestation. You can go to ca.fsc.org if you want to learn more about the certification process. FSC helps to protect forests, animal habitat, worker’s rights, indigenous people’s rights, and areas of significant environmental importance.
If you walk through The Barn you will see lots of FSC reclaimed tags. However, we were making and selling reclaimed wood furniture long before it was certified, or called reclaimed, and long before 1993. Like a lot of things at The Barn, we’ve been doing it for so long we don’t know when it started.
Back in the good old days of Canadian manufacturing [pre NAFTA-1994], most of the new furniture we sold was made in Canada. Back then we sold furniture made by half a dozen different local shops. A couple of them specialized in reclaimed wood furniture. Except the term “reclaimed wood” had not yet been coined. We just called it barn board, or said it was made from old wood. We even made some pieces ourselves when we could acquire old boards.
Over the years the look of furniture made with old boards became more and more popular. Eventually the wood was in such high demand that manufacturers would drive around the countryside looking for dilapidated old barns and buildings they could purchase from farmers. We new a bunch of people that would spend their summers tearing down old barns, and spend their winters making furniture out of the wood they had recycled. It was a terrific system that was even more environmentally friendly than what is happening today.
These days a lot of small businesses are talking about covid as being the biggest challenge their business has ever faced. While being in lockdown is challenging for us, covid doesn’t rank as the biggest challenge to our business over the years. NAFTA and subsequent trade deals were definitely more challenging. While there have certainly been positives from the many “free trade” deals the Canadian government has signed. Damage to Canadian manufacturing is certainly one of the negatives. All but one of the local shops that used to make furniture for us have gone out of business because they couldn’t compete with the prices of furniture made with cheaper labour in Asia. The last shop standing has survived because they now do exclusively high end custom work for customers willing to pay a premium. They no longer produce furniture for the general market.
That is not to say that there still isn’t great furniture made in Canada. We proudly carry the Springwater Woodcraft line made in Springwater Ontario. We previously posted an article about Springwater Woodcraft on this page on May 25th of last year. If you scroll down on this page you can read the article, if interested.
But these days only certain types of furniture can be made in Canada at competitive prices. If you want high end quality reclaimed wood furniture, you can either buy imported. Or buy Canadian made and pay double the price or more, for comparable products. That is the effect that all the “free trade” deals have had. Only simpler, none labour intensive pieces can be made here at competitive prices for comparable products.
In 2007 we started carrying PGT made reclaimed wood furniture. It has been our best selling reclaimed wood furniture ever since. PGT is still the gold standard in the industry. You can see some photos on our Reproductions page. The Irish Coast and Lifestyle lines are made by PGT. Only certain PGT pieces are available in Canada. Anything that is available that we don’t stock can be ordered in upon request. There are also pieces that we special order from PGT that are not available anywhere else in Canada. For example, we have the full line of PGT Settler bedroom furniture in the African dusk colour, arriving at The Barn in March.
The lines and colours we carry have changed over the years, as styles have changed. Provence is our newest and fastest growing line of reclaimed wood furniture. The line started out in 2019 with only a dozen different pieces to chose from, and only one colour. But we’ve been working on expanding the line and the colour selection. We already have the Provence bookcases in two colours that are exclusive to The Barn in stock. We’ve been working with the factory on new colours and pieces, and some are already on the way. Scheduled to arrive in March will be the new Provence hall tables that are exclusive to The Barn. They are coming in three new colours. We also have a batch of Provence night stands coming in a bunch of additional colours, so that we can gage interest in what colours will be the most popular before we expand the line further. So if you stop in once the lockdown ends, please give us your opinion on what colours you like best.
We even sell old boards and have done so for many years. We only leave a few sample boards in the building. Often customers just tell us how many feet and what size boards they require and we get them ready for pickup.
There are also lots of reclaimed wood pieces from many different manufacturers that we don’t stock that can be ordered upon request. Just ask to see a catalogue the next time you are in the shop. If you wish to shop online during lockdown you can check out our Reproductions page. Or cheque out www.pgt-reclaimed.com . Please keep in mind that only certain pieces from PGT in the Irish Coast, Lifestyle, Settler, Post & Rail, Cintra, Wooden Forge, and Bohemia lines are available in Canada. And only in certain colours. You can also check out www.lhimports.com. Our prices beat any competitors regular pricing on LH products. If you have any questions about pricing, dimensions, availability, or anything else, just send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org . We will get back to you promptly.
Quarantine Series: The Atlanta Mansion
Sometimes a customer will come into The Barn and say something like: “Do you remember the mahogany sideboard I bought from you, 30 years ago?”. The truth is that unless you bought something very recently or your piece[s] was unusual in some memorable way, we probably won’t remember. We have sold too many pieces over the years. We have bought so many estates and made so many deals over the decades that only certain memorable deals stand out.
Since we just finished with the holidays, maybe I’m felling nostalgic. But writing last week’s “Big Projects” post made me think of what is perhaps the most talked about deal in the history of The Barn. Talked about among people who were involved in the project that is. So since we have some time for nostalgia during the lockdown, here is the story of the Atlanta mansion.
In 1978 The Barn was open three days a week. Back then the vast majority of our business consisted of importing antiques from the United States and selling them wholesale to auctioneers and antique dealers. Please keep in mind that prices of items were very different back then. It cost far more to furnish a home in those days than it did to buy a house. A bedroom set cost more than a car. This was long before free trade or the collapse of the antique market. The prices and market for consumer goods were very different than today. And nearly everything we bought was done in cash and in U.S. dollars.
Back then, Freddy Rotundo of York Antiques in New York was one of our best suppliers. In the summer of 1978 he bought an estate in Atlanta, Georgia for $85 000. It was the estate of a man who back then was referred to as an “auction nut”. No one remembers the name of the man, but before passing he used to attend auctions regularly, and he bought and bought. These day’s we would call him a hoarder.
Freddy was only interested in the best pieces from the estate: high end paintings, a collection of bronzes, and a few high end pieces of museum quality furniture. He had buyers for those type of pieces.
What was left over was a mansion full of antiques and seemingly random items. The attic was full of 45 gallon oil drums, each one containing a different item. One was filled with Baccarat crystal decanters, the drum sitting next to it was filled with screwdrivers. No one knew exactly what there was until it was all sorted. But there was just about everything you could think of.
Frank [the owner of The Barn] made a deal with Freddy to buy the remainder of the estate for $35 000. He sent a team down to Atlanta to pack everything up. There were three main challenges in getting everything ready for transport. First, Atlanta in the summer, the heat was extreme.
Second, nearly everyday someone new would show up claiming to be a long lost relative and saying that certain items were promised to them. It was well known that there was quite a collection stored in the mansion. There was a valuable coin collection somewhere, that was purchased at auction many years prior. Many people knew about the coin collection, as well as the other valuable items that were purchased at public auctions over the years. The vultures were circling.
And third was the lions. Some things are just to strange to make up. This was a mansion in a neighbourhood of mansions. At the time one of the neighbours had two lions that were used as guard dogs. There was a schedule, and at certain times at night the lions were let out for exercise. Everyone in the neighbourhood new to stay inside during those hours. As I said, it was a different time.
It took weeks, but in the end everything fit in two well packed 45 foot trailers that made their way back to The Barn. Frank spent evenings for three months sorting through everything. The valuable coin collection was never found. The main problem was that most things weren’t looked after. Nearly every piece of fancy china or crystal had a chip or a crack, which destroyed the value.
There was lots of great antique furniture, lighting, artwork, and just about anything else you can imagine. Items sold, but the expenses and time invested were considerable. Not to mention the $35 000 U.S. that needed to be recouped.
Frank remembers that a year later he sold a glass vase that was left over from the estate, which after factoring in expenses and time was the sale that finally turned the deal profitable. It wasn’t a great deal in the end, but certainly a memorable one. It was such a memorable experience that Frank kept a piece from the estate. A hideous capodimonte center piece that he still has at his home. I’ve attached a photo.
It seems like I’ve written about several of the deals that haven’t worked out so well lately. There have been a lot more good deals than bad ones over the years. But every poker player will tell you that they remember the big pots they lost more vividly, than the big pots they won.
Quarantine Series: Big Projects
At The Barn we’ve always liked a challenge. Every year we seem to take on a couple of what we call “Big Projects”. We don’t go looking for these big projects, they always seem to find us. They are often how we acquire some of our best merchandise.
A little over a year ago, a furniture refinisher who had decided to retire after about 30 years in business came into The Barn, and offered us all the leftover stock he had accumulated over the years for free. There was a couple of catches. First we had to pick it all up, and it was scattered among a bunch of storage units in Scarborough. Second, he didn’t know exactly what there was. Whether or not there was enough good pieces among all the pieces that were missing parts, broken items, and junk, to make it worth our time and effort.
We decided to take a chance, and seven truck loads later, everything had arrived at The Barn. It turned out to be mostly sets of chairs. Lots and lots of sets of dinning room chairs. Everything required a thorough cleaning, some items had been collecting dust for a couple of decades. Also, lots of chairs were beyond repair. The worst part was that dozens of chairs were missing seats. Before the collapse of the antique market that would not have been a problem. But these days with the prices of dinning room chairs being so low it is a problem. It doesn’t make good business sense to spend $50 or more to make a seat for a chair that you are going to sell for $65 dollars. So we gave away at least a couple of dozen sets of chairs that were missing seats. We did manage to salvage dozens of good sets of chairs and some other good items. However when you factor in all the time we spent on the project it wasn’t a great deal for us. If we had known in advance we would have passed on the project.
These types of project often take months or even years to complete. We were cleaning the last few sets of chairs from this project in March, the day before we shutdown for covid lockdown number one. Sometimes it can take years for us to turn a profit on one of these projects, but they usually work out in the end.
Eight years was the longest one of these projects ever took. In the 1980’s we bought out the last remaining manual cash register repair shop in Toronto. There was every type of cash register imaginable: brass, nickel plated, wood, metal, faux wood on metal, giant oversized cash registers, regular sizes, miniatures, and the most popular and expensive type at the time was the small narrow ones. They were so heavy that we couldn’t even fill up a truck. We just loaded a truck until the backend was dragging on the ground. Drove to The Barn, unloaded, and went back for another batch. No one remembers exactly how many cash registers there were, but there was hundreds. There was even and entire truck load of spare parts.
We brought a dozen or more in The Barn, one or two of each type, and sold them one at a time. As they would sell we would bring in more. Some were in perfect condition, many required repairs, and some were beyond repair. They were in demand in the 80’s and sold well. But they are much more in demand these days, we get asked for them all the time.
I remember it took two years for us to break even on the deal, but in the end it turned out to be highly profitable. In case you are wondering, the brass cash register that is behind the counter at The Barn was there before this deal. Its been there for so long we don’t actually remember where it came from.
Another big project that comes to mind is we once bought out a shoe factory, that had gone out of business. This was a great deal for us. You may ask, “what great items did we get from a shoe factory?”. Well of course the answer is 800 fantastic wine racks. The shoe factory had been using terrific old wooden wine racks, they must have gotten from a vineyard, to dry their shoes. They were such a great price and sold so quickly, that nearly every week for a couple of years we would bring in a fresh pickup truck load of wine racks.
The chair that I’m currently sitting on came from the legendary Poor Alex Theatre in Toronto. They had hundreds of chairs from productions over the years sitting in their basement. One day they decided it was time for all the chairs to go and we bought them all. Chairs that get used in theatre productions take a great deal of abuse. Nearly every chair needed to be glued and cleaned. I spent an entire summer gluing and oiling chair after chair after chair until I eventually came to a quarter cut oak desk chair that was in perfect condition. I decided to keep it and more than 20 years later it still doesn’t need to be glued. Some things are just made right.
These are just a few examples of the many big projects we have undertaken over the years. I have no idea what our next big project will be. It seems like a lot of things are in a holding pattern right now because of covid19. But sooner or later someone will walk through the door and say, “I have an unusual deal you might be interested in?”
We usually start our Christmas week post by mentioning our holiday hours. But things are obviously different this year. As of the writing of this post, we are in covid lockdown, and closed to instore shopping. We don’t know when the lockdown will end, but when it does we will reopen with our regular hours.
We have a lot of customers who do their Christmas shopping at The Barn every year. That, like a lot of other things won’t be happening this year. Unless there is a surprise reopening of nonessential businesses at the last minute. The government hasn’t been giving us much warning on opening or closing dates. Given the current situation, reopening before the end of the holidays is not likely.
The uncertainty is the difficult part for us. Making plans when we don’t know when will be open is difficult. But, it is a minor concern compared to the many difficult challenges a lot of people are facing these days.
We are still open for curbside pickup and delivery, which many of our customers have been taking advantage of. Bobblehead garden gnomes have been the big seller this past week. So much so that we may just start calling “curbside pickup”, “bobblehead pickup”. One of our customers even requested a big box of assorted tin sings for pickup. If there is something you would like to pickup or have delivered, just send us an email and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
We will continue posting weekly updates with more “Quarantine Series” stories from The Barn. Complete with photos of new arrivals until we reopen to instore shopping.
I would just like to take a moment to ask everyone when possible to shop with local small businesses. The Barn will survive covid, but many of our local small business neighbours will not. Many small business owners we know are taking on tremendous debt, in order to survive covid lockdowns and restrictions. For these businesses to survive, they not only need support now, but also in the years to come. As they try to get back on their feet. And many brick and mortar businesses are just not well suited for online sales. So once the covid situation has improved, and you feel safe to shop in person, please do so safely. It will be good to get out of the house again.
A big advantage to shopping in person that I find a lot of our customers aren’t aware of is the prices. Many consumers believe that online prices are cheaper. That is true with some items, but the exact opposite with others. We don’t put prices on many items on our Reproductions page because we are contractually not allowed to advertise how low our prices are. For example the bobblehead garden gnomes that I previously mentioned can be bought online from larger online stores. But only at higher prices than the $125 each we sell them for at The Barn. Instore prices in many stores are better than what you will find online, depending on the store of course. So when you shop local, not only will you be helping to save local small businesses, but you can also save money, if you know where to shop.
Most of us won’t be having our normal holidays this year. Still, we would like to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season. Just think of how much more we will appreciate the holiday season next year.
We are now three weeks into the lockdown and we’ve been busy bringing in lots of new items. As promised in last week’s update, here is a rundown of new antique arrivals, so far. There will be lots more before we reopen.
A terrific Victorian dinning in set came in: table, 8 chairs, and a sideboard. The set has all the bells and whistles: pull out shelves, a silver drawer, a whiskey decanter drawer, and a complete set of custom made heat pads. The crank table is 59” x 52”, with two additional 20” leaves. That makes it a 99 inch long table when fully extended. A couple of photos are attached.
We’ve also been doing yearend inventory a little early, since we have time during the lockdown. And we currently have 368 chairs in the building. So if you can’t find any chairs you like at The Barn, you may have issues. Some new chair arrivals include: a nice pair of fancy gilt cameo chairs, set of 4 press backs with arrow spindles, oak stenographer’s chair, set of 4 walnut dinning chairs, 3 hoop back kitchen chairs, bright red patio chair, pair of oak press back chairs, unusual pair of vintage living room chairs, pair of oak rush seat ladder back chairs, pair of maple rush seat ladder back chairs, swivel oak office chair, a couple of captain’s chairs, assorted accent chairs, and a set of 6 oak t-back chairs that come with a round oak table and 3 leaves.
More antique furniture arrivals included: a 5 drawer bachelor’s chest, French style tea table, unusual mahogany coffee table with pull out serving tray, dovetailed pine blanket box, rare extra wide double 4 section oak Barrister’s bookcase, unusual Asian plant stand, 1920’s thick walnut dining room table with 6 small leaves, Art Deco cedar chest, Vintage 1970’s dinning room table with 3 leaves, coat stand, round pine double pedestal table with 2 leaves, walnut magazine table, a wicker top bench shaped like a peanut[It made me laugh, so I included a photo.], musical jewelry box table, a terrific sewing table, primitive treasure box, small mahogany drop leaf coffee table, telephone table, primitive plant stand, early cherry end table, small oval walnut tilt top pedestal table, round brass and white marble pedestal lamp table, 2 different tall pine bookcases, quarter cut oak sideboard with mirrored back, and more.
Non furniture antique arrivals included: 1920’s Tiffany style table lamp, a collection of 1960’s table lamps, 2 fire screens, wooden step ladder, 3 pieces of iron garden décor, Oriental rug, ornate silver mirror, Canadian Werlich 5 seater toboggan, assorted framed prints and paintings, pair of large plaster drapery style lamps, 2 batches of cups and saucers[so far, more to come], nice 12 piece fish set in oak case, vintage 1980’s adding machine, vintage G.E. floor polisher, wicker doll buggy, vintage wagon, a bunch of wooden skies and polls, doll cradle, 2 cast iron cooking pans, large sterling silver fruit bowl 481grams, pair of weighted sterling candle holders, circa 1900 pigeon’s blood drug dispenser, assorted silver plate holloware, 2 tapestries, 2 soup tureens, assorted candle holders, 3 pine mirrors[half moon, rectangular, & window], 2 ornate gilt mirrors, 2 trunks, large cast iron planter, electric 1960’s office calculator, 2 nice salt glazed crocks, 4 Lladros, 2 typewriters[1 manual, 1 electric], 3 section sideboard mirror, Moorcroft footed bowl with lid, nice pair of 8 x 10 inch brass vases, barometer, vintage glass bottles, 2 large copper vases, and more.
That’s everything we remembered to write down from the last few days we were open and during lockdown. There is more we’ve already forgotten about.
Film & television production is still ongoing. They are exempt from the lockdown. They have been our best customers during the lockdown. As their orders get pickup, more space is created in The Barn. So we will keep bringing new items in to fill up the spaces. We also plan on unpacking lots more boxes of smalls before reopening.
There are photos of some of these items attached to the last few updates on this page. We will attach more to future updates until we reopen.