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Business

Outten sees Berlin as ‘Antiques Capital of the Eastern Shore’

1/23/14 | By Sheila R. Cherry, Associate Editor

BERLIN—Bill Outten is a man with a mission: to help make Berlin the “Antiques Capital of the Eastern Shore” and he is well on his way to accomplishing that goal.

Outten launched a soft opening for his new venue “Uptown Antiques” on Jan. 15. The official grand opening is scheduled for Feb. 1, which is intended to give vendors time to finish setting up their assigned booths. He said he is still looking for a coin dealer, estate jewelry vendor, and a retailer who sells vintage clothing from period pieces to hippie era items.

The naming of Uptown Antiques has more to do with the atmosphere Outten is trying to convey than the business’s physical location, at 13 South Main Street. After all, the two-story building is located in the former Donaway Furniture store site, with its glass-lined frontage and private parking lot.

The new location will feature more upscale items targeted specifically for collectors looking for rare show-worthy finds, with higher price points, like furniture and glassware. Inside, the space will still consist of the trademark booth space layout used at Outten’s Town Centre Antiques at 1 North Main Street and his mother’s Town Center Antiques at 11 Pitts Street, which he also manages.

Even with the other two locations, Outten said there was still enough of a need from small and single person businesses wanting to rent booths. A lot of his vendor clientele are locals who got into antique retailing after seeking to sell inherited items from their parents’ estates, which led them to shopping and reselling additional items. After they start going to estate sales for more items it often led to them applying for a small business license and setting up a more permanent arrangement, he explained.

The sellers who rent booth at his stores have all reached a point where they are trading and selling as antiques business, he said, adding, “We are the warehousing function of their businesses.” Outten’s business provides rental space, and sales and credit card processing for a 10 percent commission. He said he was motivated to lease the Donaway site because it was one of the last large buildings still available in town.

He envisions that the new location will allow him to conduct more marketing promotions and special events like participating in the town’s increasingly popular Second Friday Art Stroll and during other town events. For example, he said he was considering hosting appraiser Charlene Upham, of Charlene Upham Antiques, for special shows where people could bring in antique items for spot appraisals during major town events, such as the Fiddler’s Convention or Cruisers’ weekend.

As a former president of the Berlin Chamber of Commerce, Outten said he previously coordinated an array of town wide events such as a Berlin Idol talent contest and the first Cruisers weekends, until the coordination tasks became too time consuming. He said he might relaunch some events, like the Village Fair, on the site of the new location.

“The new store will help open up the quieter side of Main Street,” he predicted.

The most active antique season is from May through Christmas, according to Outten. “Easter kicks off the awakening,” of the peak shopping period, he said.

His most popular items are glassware, including a pretty consistent demand for oyster plates and nautical items, which he said were “always a hot seller.” The demand for furniture, he said, comes and goes.

Although Outten and his family hold the largest amount of retail space for antique goods, they are not the only antique shops in town. He pointed out there were also specialty shops featuring antique toys, imported items and lamps.

“Berlin is becoming known as an antique village,” he said. But again, his aim is to make it the “Antiques Capital of the Eastern Shore.”

For more information about Uptown Antiques, contact Bill Outten by e-mail at uptownantiques@hotmail.com or by telephone at 410-973-2054.

 

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