It takes a Village: The Saving of the Millerton Antique Center (Part 1)

After their very popular Doodletown Farm renovation blog, I asked Bob Murphy and Jack Lindsey to share another story with our readers.  It’s a wonderful account of how local businesses can work together to save not only their own businesses but a downtown landmark in a thriving community.  (Make sure to visit Bob & Jack’s website at www.doodletownfarm.com)  — Joan

It takes a Village: The Saving of the Millerton Antique Center
Part One

There were 24 dealers in the Millerton Antiques Center in December of last year.

Pre 2010 photo of the exterior of the Antique Center

So it came as a bit of a shock when it was announced that the master lease on the building was not going to be renewed. The holder of the building’s lease had decided to relocate elsewhere in town. The Antique Center was, in effect, a sublease of the master lease so it would have to close down as well unless a solution could be found, and found quickly. The lease was set to expire one month later, on December 31st.

Antiques Center interior before December 2010

This wasn’t simply a matter of one business disappearing from the center of town. In effect, it would be 24 small businesses closing down.  For the 24 dealers, almost all of whom live in and around Millerton, the impact would be devastating.

And what about the effect on the village if the large building that housed the Antiques Center were to go dark? Imagine the hole that would be left in the center of town. Not to mention all the traffic the Antiques Center generated for the other small businesses in the village. The Center is a destination but once the booths are browsed and treasures found, shoppers go on to local restaurants and shops, spending money and making a day of it.

Another before exterior photo

Clearly the Antiques Center needed to stay open and stay where it was but there were two big hurdles to overcome.

First, we would have to find a group of dealers who would agree to form a partnership and provide the necessary seed money to create a reconstituted Antiques Center. Then we would have to convince the landlord to work with us to make the space viable and the lease affordable. We had heard rumors that he would prefer to rent the entire building to one tenant. That was something we could not afford even under the rosiest of economic scenarios. We could not take on the entire building but we might be able to make it work if we continued to occupy the upper level as we had for years.

Before we all took the leap!

Within days, five dealers in the Center stepped up to the plate. Everyone was on the same page: we needed to save the Antiques Center so that all the dealers had a place to sell. If we were smart about it we might just break even. If we were lucky and the economy improved we might even turn a small profit. Or we might lose our investments. But one thing was clear: it was worth a try.

The other dealers were all terrific as well. One or two got a little spooked by the uncertainty of it all and left but all the others held hands and agreed to give the ‘new’ Antiques Center a shot.

Find out what happened in next week’s installment

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