Amber Waterhouse of Waterhouse, an antique and decor store in Hingham, started antiquing while in high school in the early 1980s. She would take trips to browse for antiques with her mom, and her grandparents’ affinity for them was an added bonus.
“(I love) that (antiques are) handmade, the quality of craftsmanship, the materials they use, the finish… the design…beautifully, thoughtfully designed pieces,” Waterhouse said.
The hunt is part of the fun and the history is enriching for avid antiquers. But the scene in the South Shore has shifted over the years.
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About 20 years ago, the South Shore was an antique hub, according to Tony Venuto, partner at Bridge Antiques in Weymouth, who has been antiquing for over 40 years. He recalled the days when dealers would make rounds at the South Shore antique shops.
“They would have a route, they’d do 3A and they’d stop at all the stores,” Venuto said.
Waterhouse said when she was in high school there were five or six antique stores per town. When the market took a hit in 2008, so did antiquing, she said. She sells a mix of antiques and modern art and home decor.
“But the market’s definitely turning around and just because decorators are starting to incorporate more antiques into their designs and mixing things and that’s been coming on for… five or six years,” Waterhouse said.
Times are changing
Few customers wandered through Bridge Antiques in Weymouth on Wednesday admiring china and glassware. One section of the shop holds typical antiques, such as china and collectables, and the other, mid-century modern pieces.
Many South Shore antique store owners buy items at estate sales and auctions. Annemarie Kelley, owner of Bridge Antiques, said younger generations come in search of pieces that fit their aesthetic and have a specific usage. Waterhouse reupholsters antique chairs to make them more appealing. The consensus is some furniture is a hard sell and collectables go fast.
“Everything has a cycle, I think… when I first started here, it was all dark wood, mahogany, you couldn’t keep it in the store,” Kelley said. “… It just keeps evolving and changing.”
Kelley still keeps traditional pieces in her store to cater to those buyers. Waterhouse said the shoppers who frequent her store range in age from 20 to 80.
“The Gen Z crowd, love them because they really embrace sort of the upcycle and the handmade and the unique aspects of antiques,” she said. “They don’t want something generic. They want something unique in their home.”
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Jacob Perlmuter, owner of Quincy’s Franklin Street Finds, has worked on antiques for 25 years. Before opening in Quincy a year ago, he was in Stoughton for 15 years. While the city and town are only a 20 minute drive apart, he said Quincy has better furniture and that sought-after products have changed over the years.
“Brown furniture is not very good anymore,” he said. “Dishware is not as popular as it used to be either.”
The life-size Spiderman statue in the front window is bringing visitors in he said, although it has yet to find a home. Hard glass and bright colored and patterned pottery are popular sales.
“The buyers are out there,” Perlmuter said. “Everybody’s kind of looking for modern pieces…eclectic-type pieces that will fit into their homes.”
During the pandemic, Waterhouse used Instagram to connect with costumers. She said it allowed them to see what was in her store de ella and with everyone cooped up inside, the furnishing industry became popular.
Perlmuter said the housing market has an impact on antiquing. When houses sell, there are more treasures to find.
As sustainable practices have been on the rise, Perlmuter said he has seen an increased interest in antiquing. Waterhouse said this push is popular among Generation Z who she finds values the environment along with the sentiment of antiques.
“I think that generation, but also the population at large, is becoming more and more aware of reusing things and … that helps with our environment, not just design wise,” Waterhouse said.
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While antique store owners say the scene is not what is use to be, Waterhouse said she has not had a lull in recent months and Kelley said she is receiving more calls about buying items.
“I think there will always be a desire for beautiful handmade things that have history…,” Waterhouse said. “History of antiques in the South Shore, I kind of feel the same way… we’re one of the oldest parts of the country… and it kind of tells our story as an area of the country.”
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Reach Alyssa Fell at [email protected]