Shoppers’ interests vary over time, but antiques still a hot commodity

Beverly Lonsway behind the counter at Farm Antiques, a shop she runs on her Philomath property.

Carol Rosen
Beverly Lonsway behind the counter at Farm Antiques, a shop she runs on her Philomath property.

Nestled in the farmland of Philomath is a pretty farmhouse surrounded by beautiful flowers.

On the other side of the driveway is another house that’s actually larger than it looks. This one is flanked by farm implements and a sign titled Farm Antiques.

This building houses four rooms of lovingly-saved items, from a hand-carved bed from Belgium to a number of handmade dolls. Owner Beverly Lonsway has collected them all over the past 43 years.

She began collecting during the 1970s when her military husband acted as a chief warrant officer in Belgium, posted to the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Powers in Europe (SHAPE). When his posting was over, he retired from the army and the family moved to Oregon.

But before they moved, and with her husband at work and the four children in school, Lonsway had time on her hands. She and other officers’ wives used the downtime to go “junking” in junk shops, she says. They would visit nearby cities, such as Charleroi, where people were getting rid of this “fantastic older” furniture.

“I had a lot of time on my hands since my youngest was in kindergarten,” she says. “We would go around the town and buy used furniture, things like marble top washstands for $10. In the end, I had enough to fill a three-story house.”

Meanwhile her husband had learned to repair clocks.

Once they settled into their 30-acre Oregon farm, Lonsway planted fruit trees, berry bushes and lots of beautiful flowers. The trees now provide apples, pears, cherries, raspberries, marionberries, blueberries, grapes and rhubarb. The farmland currently is leased to Gathering Together Farm, which provides the family with various fruits, vegetables and bread.

The couple also built a small house to the right of their home. Unfortunately, that area turned out to be a flood plain and one year it flooded. So, her husband built the current antique shop on the other side of the house away from the flood plain.

The newer antique shop has four rooms and, unfortunately, little left from her Belgium forays.

Most of the older antiques from Belgium have been sold, although she still has the bed mentioned earlier. It was hand carved and actually came with a straw pallet but now has a box spring. It appears to be longer and wider than a typical twin bed.

The shop offers a large collection of American antique furniture, glassware with pieces made by Wedgewood, Bauer, Roseville, Anchor Hocking and Hull, to name a few. It offers two rooms full of kitchen items, including furniture and a few rugs, with items from the 1920s to the 1950s.

Her antique furniture includes tables, hutches, glass door bookcases, chairs, and even a giant grandfather clock.

Lonsway says buyers today are after odd pieces and not the unique antiques that she used to sell. While some older members of society still may seek those, she says, many of them are downsizing and selling instead of seeking antiques. Today, many younger buyers are looking for different and unusual items, not in older furniture and clocks.

But she still offers a wide variety of items including furniture, quilts, glassware, china, toys and “whatever I find that’s interesting.”

She and her husband used to seek items from back East.

“We used to make buying trips to the East Coast as well as small antique shows,” Lonsway says. “We also went to the Portland Expo Show for 33 years and sold items in a double (large) space.”

Today’s buyers are looking for older rusty things for outdoor and garden art, and wooden boxes; things that can be repurposed, she says.

“It’s totally different than five years ago,” Lonsway says. “Depression glass was in high demand then, but it’s not as popular now. Since I have no overhead, it’s easy for me to survive while lots of shops have moved to malls and are paying high rents or have gone out of business.”

eBay, she says, killed the antique business, taking away the hunt that made antiquing fun. “The hunt and find was the fun thing to go and do,” Lonsway says. “But there still are serious collectors around.”

She emphasizes that buyers looking for antiques should ensure they are buying real items and not copies. Some items are actually reproductions and buyers should ask for guarantees, especially if they are expensive.

“I make sure I can guarantee expensive items, like prints,” she says. Fine older furniture, she notes, usually has dovetailed construction rather than nails putting the pieces together. While there was some nail construction in furniture before the 19th century, most of it happened later.

Lonsway groups togethersimilar items. For example, there might be a three-branch early American candlestick in French gilt for $375 next to a less expensive antique lamp that’s near an old sewing machine with a treadle for $250. Scattered around are various antique clocks that actually work, thanks to her husband.

One room contains a German lamp, an oil lamp circa 1900, and a handmade Civil War chest.

Another room is full of dolls, from old unique handmade black dolls that appear to be made of simple fabrics to others that seem more carefully made.

There’s one of the Coca Cola trays from 1911 to a past century’s “chocolate cup.” Cabinets house porcelain figurines. There’s also a number of handmade quilts and primitive kit items.

She still has Depression glass and displays plates that are hand painted as well as old prints that she can guarantee are originals. Toys include banks and collectible items. She doesn’t carry any expensive jewelry or firearms.

The mother of four with nine grandchildren, one great grandchild and another expected later this year, says, “This has been a fun business, it put my kids through college and it’s now a hobby. I love doing it.”

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