Re-Opening in the age of Covid-19

I started this post shortly after our first weekend in January. Back then I was excited to report that business had been good. We spent the first weekend greeting guests, explaining about vendor space and getting terrific feedback on the store, the layout, and what we could do better. We appreciated all comments, and still do! And then…mid-March. In light of the coronavirus pandemic and out of an abundance of caution, the city council and mayor of Helen announced that we could no longer, in good conscience, keep any businesses open that were not essential.

Well, as much as we love antiques and believe that they enrich people’s lives, we had to agree that they are wonderful, but not essential to life and health. We agreed that it would have been irresponsible to remain open while citizens were being told to shelter in place.

Finally, after what seemed a very long time away from our beloved store, the time came on May 8th when we felt that it was okay to reopen, while implementing some stringent health and safety guidelines. We have chose to require masks or other face coverings be used by all staff AND customers. We follow a stringent cleaning regimen, provide free hand sanitizer for guests, and ensured that no more than the allowable number of customers per square foot occupy the store at any one time.

Since we required face coverings, we also made surgical masks available to those who needed them for a nominal fee. Customers receive a credit for the cost of their masks with any purchase of $25 or more. The vast majority of our visitors are accepting, even pleased, with these precautions. Many customers have even thanked us for being more cautious than most, and said they felt safe while in our store.

Of course, opinions vary…and comments from those who object to the face covering policy can be most entertaining. Sentiments ranged from the “I ain’t paying just to look around” set, to the “It’s worse for you to wear one than not” school of thought. And one of my favorites: “No other store is requiring them.” That argument never worked with my parents when I was a kid, and it won’t work with us. Masks or other face coverings will be required in Wonderland until we are satisfied that the pandemic has been contained. I’m very puzzled that some folks aren’t taking this seriously. Our store is located in a tourist town that attracts people from all over, including some of the hottest COVID-19 hot-spots: New York, Florida, London, and yes, even China. The last thing we want is for one of our visitors to take home an unwelcomed souvenir.

Some might argue that we are being “over the top” and taking too many precautions. I suspect those sentiments would vanish if it were one of their own loved ones who contracted this potentially deadly and unpredictable disease.

So, until the statistics tell us that the danger has largely passed, we will continue to: control customer volume; provide hand sanitizer to every customer; provide controlled access to restrooms; provide hot and cold running water for hand washing in our restrooms; sanitize after every restroom use; keep an eye on what is being touched and handled and sanitize after each customer leaves; clean and sanitize the credit card machine and checkout stand between every customer; waive the $15 minimum for credit or debit purchases, and, yes, require face coverings for every customer over the age of 3. Our customers deserve it.

Eco Friendly

Anyone who has had an email or Facebook account for more than 4.5 seconds has run across posts best classified as glurge. Have you seen the one about an elderly woman being chastised by a cashier at a grocery store for not bringing her own bags? The story, certainly apocryphal, asserts that the twenty-something cashier took a high-and-mighty tone saying that the elder shopper’s generation didn’t care about the environment. If you happened to miss it, you can read the original – or a version of it – on Snopes.com’s glurge gallery, here: http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=71495

While the full text of the screed becomes overlong and tedious – as such self-righteous pieces so often do, it does make one good point. Many citizens of the 21st Century can become awfully smug, thinking we have it all figured out. We know how to be “green” and are left to fix the mess earlier generations have left us.

Not so. Just calling ourselves eco-friendly or green doesn’t make it true. In reality, our parents’, grandparents’, and great-grandparents’ generations were the original “Green Team”. I was raised by two incredible members of The Greatest Generation. Having survived the Great Depression and the austerity of WWII, my parents’ mantra was “Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do, or do without!” Now THAT is an Eco Friendly attitude.

Every milk or soda bottle returned to be reused, saved a little more space in a landfill or dump. Every time my mother stripped and repainted metal lawn furniture that had grown unsightly, she was helping save the planet. She didn’t know it, but she was! Cooking scraps like potato and carrot peels didn’t go to waste. They became food for the hogs. Once we no longer raised livestock, the same peelings became compost to raise more food.

This attitude of waste not, want not extended to every area of life, and thank goodness for it! Antique stores are now graced with beautiful, lovingly cared for, pieces of furniture history thanks to that “green” attitude. It is the ultimate in recycling.

Mid-Century Table with Edwardian Balloon Back Chairs

Consider the dinette set – well built and sturdy. After long and hard service, it was not tossed away just because the styled changed. It wasn’t turned into kindling because it had a few battle scars from careless children. Some were restored – others painted – but many were simply handed down, along with the family stories and scars that accompanied them. So think about that the next time you visit an antique store. Because that, dear reader, is the very essence of being “green”.

Questions

At Wonderland, we love questions. We get all kinds, and not all of them are “Do you have a restroom?” or “Can you do any better on the price?”. Earlier this month I got a question that took me quite off-guard. The question came from my brilliant, thoughtful, and often insightful niece. I shouldn’t have been surprised. She asked “What is it you love about doing this?” The question gave me pause. For several moments I was at a loss for words. Those of you who know me know – rendering me speechless is no mean feat.

What, indeed

Once I recovered myself, I suspect I gave a rather lame answer such as “I like the history of the things.” or “It’s fun to meet people.” or “I like to make money. Ha ha.” All of those things are true to a greater or lesser extent. All of those things are part of it. But the question stayed with me, and here, weeks later, I find myself blogging about it, and wondering if my reasons will resonate with the reader, the collector, the antiqueophile. (For those of you plagued with the desire for grammatical correctness in all things, I admit, I just coined the word antiqueophile. I rather like the way that sounds, in fact. Perhaps you, gentle reader, can help me make it part of the vernacular? But I digress…)

What IS it that I love about doing this? I have always appreciated antiques, I think. Even back when I was a young girl asking Mother about some cool thing that she had in her attic as we were cleaning it out. Her response was invariably “That old junk? Throw it away.” I didn’t believe it was “old junk” then, and I certainly don’t believe it now. There was a story there, and I wanted to know – or imagine – what that story was.

Sometimes I’d find something that did evoke a memory for her. I remember finding an old photograph of her once. She was with her two oldest children sharing my oldest brother’s 6th birthday cake around the kitchen table. I asked her if it was, in fact, my eldest brother celebrating a birthday with his kid brother next to him, and she confirmed that it was. Then she noticed something else. On a shelf above the table was a radio. An old Philco, if family history serves, and most likely with a Bakelite case. That triggered a story.

That radio, she told me, she had earned picking up potatoes on the farm near where she attended boarding school. She was in her late teens, and worked very long, hot, stooped over hours picking up potatoes to earn some spending money. With her “spud money” she called it, she purchased this radio, and a table lamp. She further explained that both of these items were purchased at a time when her family’s home did not yet have electrical service. Talk about planning ahead! Once electricity arrived, she was ready! She and her sister would spend countless hours doing chores and listening to that radio to help pass the time.

The radio itself wasn’t the center of the stories that spun off that thread. Even so, it was the radio – that object sending memory signals from the distant past – that triggered the stories which held my rapt attention while I helped her sort through “old junk”.

So when we run across a “new” antique and select it to take a place in our store, it is because it has spoken to us in some way. For example, I can imagine the day in the 1940s that a family welcomed a new “wireless” into their home. The family’s father might have had help from the clerk at the furniture store to wheel it in to the place of pride in the living room. He’d have been very proud of this new electronic marvel, and excited to see the thrill and awe in the faces of his loved ones at the addition to their home.

From it’s prominent place, the new console would share with the family all of the world events that were to shape the future. It would entertain the children with radio shows about cowboys and pirates. It would fill the home with music from that wonderful big-band era. It would become a part of the family.

All antiques carry such a history. An antique need not have been owned by a historical figure to be important. Each old piece that survives today carries the bumps and bruises of its storied history, and with it the charm that is the root of what I love about doing this.

Antiques vs. Fauxtiques

Admitting to my bias for all things old and wonderful I am truly puzzled by a phenomenon I’m noticing in furniture. Browse through furniture stores featuring makers such as Serta, Homecraft, and Meridian, and you will find new furniture desperately striving to look old. These “fauxtiques” are not bargain basement pieces, either. I’m talking about sofas starting at $2,500 beds for $5,700, and side chairs for $1,275 a pair.  I even found a 19th century reproduction “banquette” for which the customer must provide the upholstery material listed for over $5,000.

Older and Wiser

In the meantime, antique stores offer beautiful, well built pieces from the Victorian and other eras for much less. Sure, there are some spectacularly rare finds in high end antique stores. These rarities can command amazing prices compared to a similar repop, but that is not the norm. Most antique stores are carrying gorgeous, well-built pieces, at fair prices – well within a furniture shopper’s budget.

Antique dressers can do more than store socks and t-shirts

I have several amazing Victorian and Edwardian pieces I love.  One is a marble top dresser I use in a hallway to provide storage and a touch of elegance. I gave about $350 for it, after finding a similar fauxtique version online for $1,950 plus freight. Even better, my much less expensive version has that amazing patina, giving rich depth to the wood that no amount of “distressing” or “antiquing” can possibly replicate.

Not Fragile, But Handle With Care

Think that all antiques are rare and delicate and must be handled with extreme care, making them hard to live with? Hogwash! I have plenty of pieces that I live with, enjoy, and don’t fret over one bit. Any fine furnishing deserves a modicum of care. Of course, I would not let my cat dig her claws into a 19th century wash-stand. By the same token, I would not allow it with a new wood bureau from Haverty’s, either.   So if you love the look of true antiques but think you can’t afford them, or can’t live with them, think again!  Then head out to your friendly, local antique store with a new perspective on antique furniture.

8251 S. Main Street, Helen, GA 30545

(706)-969-7075

mh106antiques@gmail.com

Lladro

Lladro has been producing highly collectible porcelain art and figurines since 1953. The company, founded in the village of Almassera is now headquartered in Tavernes Blanqes, Spain. It continues to produce some of the best loved and highly collectible porcelain available. Their work is made of hard-paste porcelain of a tightly guarded “recipe”.  Anyone who collects fine porcelain is bound to find a Lladro that particularly suits their taste, and collection.

According to “The Prudent Collector”, through 1970, Lladro maker’s marks were pressed into the porcelain. From 1960 until 1963 the mark bore the name LLADRO with ESPANA in capital letters underneath, and the words “MADE IN SPAIN” below that. From approximately 1965 to 1970, they removed the ESPANA, keeping the stylized LLADRO and MADE IN SPAIN pressed into the porcelain.

It was in 1971 that they first started imprinting items with the blue back stamp (or bottom stamp) featuring the bell flower that collectors have come to associate with the company.

At Wonderland, we have been fortunate enough to secure this incredible piece, known as “The Harpooner”. This is a retired piece in perfect condition. It stands about 20″ tall and comes with a wood and velvet display base.  Check him out on your next visit, and as always, contact us with any questions you may have!

8251 S. Main Street, Helen, GA 30545

706-969-7075

mh106antiques@gmail.com

Fall Finally Arrives in the Mountains!

After a long, hot summer that managed to stretch well into October, temperatures in Helen are starting to reach that wonderful fall crispness. Can the changing colors be far behind?  Probably not, judging by this picture, snapped in Unicoi State Park – one of our neighbors, just down the road. At the Georgia State Parks website, “Leaf Watch 2018” is in full swing! On the site you can see pictures showing you how far into leaf season we’ve made it this year, learn about all the scenic places to witness nature’s change of color palette, and even find a link to weather.com’s fall foliage map.

You may be thinking “Wait. Isn’t this a site about antiques? Why am I reading about fall colors and crisp temperatures?” Well, sorry – I can’t help myself. Fall is such a splendid time of year – a season that evokes the most nostalgic feelings. There is something about the change of nature from summer to autumn, with its amazing  warm colors, the smell of pumpkin spice everywhere, and the anticipation of the upcoming holidays that makes me even more antiques-crazy than I am. Where better than this bucolic setting to browse through rows and rows of some of the most beautiful things we have found from days gone by?

So, whether you are planning your trip to the beautiful North Georgia mountains, or are lucky enough to live here, we hope you will take some time to visit Hidden Treasures (now Wonderland Antiques and Curiosities) to see what “new” old things we have in store.

8251 S. Main Street, Helen, GA 30545

706-696-7075

mh106antiques@gmail.com

Featured Items – Victorian and Edwardian Furniture

There are many concepts of what constitutes an “Antique”.  To Millennials, an antique is anything from the 1970s or 1980s – long before they were born.  For others, it feels antique if it was made before 1950. According to US Customs laws, an antique is any work of art, piece of furniture, decorative object, or the like created or produced 100 years before the date of purchase.

Using US Customs standards, anything built before 1918, then, is “officially” an antique.  Whatever your “cutoff” is, most of us living today would agree that objects produced during the Victorian (1837 – 1901) and Edwardian (1901 – 1910) eras qualify as a bona fide antiques.

Given that, I want to introduce you to some of my favorite Victorian and Edwardian furniture,  now available in the store.

This table with a complete set of balloon back chairs is a magnificent example.  The dual pedestal legs are ornately carved and the chairs with a carved rose detail have a lovely patina, earned of their age.  The upholstery was replaced in, my best guess, the 1970s.

When we purchased this piece, we referred to it as “the piano desk”. It was only later that we learned our instincts were almost correct.  This is a re-purposed organ!   While we are not big fans of “re-purposing”, especially if it involves paint of any kind, this piece is beautiful and functional. It is a desk any office would be able to display proudly. Our personal preferences aside, re-purposing does seem to be all the rage these days. In this case, we think the results were pretty stunning.

Speaking of musical instruments, do you remember pump organs?  These were sometimes called “reed organs” because the bellows pumped air across the reeds which produced the sound. Also referred to as harmoniums or melodeons, these beauties were wildly popular from the 1850s until the 1920s, when the piano began to replace them in society. You will see these beautiful pieces of furniture re-purposed into desks, bars, even vanities.  I happen to love this one just the way it stands.  It could use a little love from a collector who wants to make it functional again. Half of the keys work to produce music.  The furniture itself is still a sight to behold with intricate carving, a lovely finish, and platforms for pedestal candles on each side of the keyboard.

This is just a small sampling of what is available in the store today! In future posts I will be showing you antiques and collectibles from other eras, so stay tuned.

Better yet, stop by the store at 8251 S. Main Street, Helen, GA.

Call: (706) 696-7075

mh106antiques@gmail.com

Welcome to Hidden Treasures

                     Willkommen!

Welcome to Hidden Treasures! We are delighted that you found our little corner of the web. Hidden Treasures is owned by North Georgia Cabin Rentals, and operated by a management team that is truly passionate about antiques.

What is it that we find so intriguing about antiques?

For us – everything. It is the smell of old wood. It is the warmth of one-hundred year-old patina. It is the style of ages past. It is the memories evoked by touching a bowl or teacup that is “just like my nana used to have”. It’s the delight of finding a toy that you spent HOURS playing with as a child.

We are also intrigued by the story – the idea and the history of a thing. Even if we don’t know the exact provenance of a beautiful old thing, our imaginations can fill in the blanks.  Take, for example, this old Zenith radio.     

If seeing this gorgeous art deco style furnishing with a waterfall front, sparkling glass crystal, and genuine bakelite knobs has you has you thinking of “A Christmas Story” and Ralphie listening to Little Orphan Annie and dreaming of his Secret Decoder Pin, then you have the idea, exactly.  Can you imagine how proud the “old man” was they day he brought this wireless beauty home for his family to enjoy? If his eyes boggled at the sight of a glowing leg lamp, imagine the pride he felt at providing his family a brand new console radio. The joy must have been palpable.

So, now you know why the antique bug has bitten us so hard. It is so much more than buying and selling. It is finding, and enjoying. Learning, and sharing. We hope you will stop in and spend some time browsing and sharing your story.