Wander Among Antiques at Downtown’s First Antique Fair

May 18, 2012

By Teya Vitu

All of a sudden, there will be an inaugural Downtown Vintage and Antique Fair on May 27 in the Old Pueblo Garage, 41 East Pennington Street.

That’s the one-level covered garage with vehicle access via Congress Street between Stone and Scott avenues.

Amy Pike in the antiques room at her store, A Perfect Pantry

Don’t try to park there, though, because up to 100 antique vendors will be set up in the covered lot and possibly the open lot next door, too.

No, you didn’t miss this on some event list. This fair wasn’t even on the calendar as recently as a few weeks ago.

“It’s one of those events that fell into place immediately,” said Michael Keith, chief executive of the Downtown Tucson Partnership.

The Partnership is co-developing this Antique Fair with A Perfect Pantry, 21 East Congress Street, which just opened February 21. Owner Amy Pike has instantly taken to Downtown, just as customers have instantly taken to her eclectic shop, a mingling of artistic greeting cards, gifts for any gathering, kitchen tools – a and back room overflowing with antiques supplied by über-collector Mark Furrer.

This is not a swap meet or garage sale. This is an antique fair. There is a difference.

“You have professionals who are traveling all over the country with a knowledge of what they are looking at, doing the buying for you,” said Pike, the fair’s coordinator. “You walk in and all the work is already done.”

Antique fair shoppers largely come in two stripes. One: Dedicated collectors looking for that specific something that’s a few generations old, such as Furrer, who is organizing this fair with Pike. Two: And the rest of us. The obsessed vs. the casual shopper.

“They may open an antiques magazine and have a brand new house and they are looking for a focal point piece to build a collection around,” explained Furrer, the fair’s organizer and creator.

Some definitions per Furrer, whose varied collections fill up 10,000 square feet. Antique vs. vintage vs. swap meet vs. garage sale.

“Antique used to be at least 75 years, period pieces. Vintage is more an era, the 40s or 50s,” he said. “You have people who have come together who have an eye for cool collectibles. I think swap meets have become so commercialized. Now it’s become like a large dollar store. Yard sales are people just selling their immediate stuff.”

Pike added: “Swap meets are usually lower end, outdoors.”

Furrer is not an antiques dealer – “I’m a collector. That’s it.” – but he knows his way around the local antiques world, and he has antiques in his blood. His father at one time had a large World War I museum near Picacho Peak.

“This could become the biggest antiques fair in Tucson or in Arizona,” said Furrer, who is especially proud of his 40,000-piece beauty industry collection spanning 1870 to 1970

He expects anywhere from 60 to 100 antique dealers.

Just what will be on offer? Who knows? Furrer expects furniture, vintage clothing, dishes, signs, memorabilia, bottles, radios, train sets, toys, “anything you can imagine.”

This first Antique Fair falls square in the middle of Memorial Day weekend. Was that on purpose or accidental?

“Accidental,” Pike insisted. “Most of what we do is accidental. If it turns out great, then we did it on purpose.”

Just a couple weeks ago, Keith, Pike and Mark Furrer sat down at A Perfect Pantry and tossed around ideas to bring people Downtown. How about an antiques fair? Where should we stage it? How about the Post/Thrift Lot across the street from A Perfect Pantry? Not logistically plausible during the heat and streetcar construction season.

“Everybody turns around and looks at the garage,” Pike recalled. “Wouldn’t this be nice? Michael pulled out a phone and called the guy who owned the garage (Swain Chapman). Twenty minutes later the deal was done.”

Along with the antique dealers, Downtown merchants can also set up booths. To reserve a spot, contact Amy Pike at 884-3454, via email or “walk on down to the store,” Pike said.

This is the first of a series of new events for the coming months that the Downtown Tucson Partnership is co-developing with various Downtown entities. The Partnership is facilitating the fair, providing modest funds, security and maintenance.

“We hope to grow this into a monthly event,“ Keith said. “It complements the historic nature of Downtown very nicely.”