Cooperation isn’t just a friendly idea for one of Ottawa’s northernmost antique stores — it’s a lifeline.
Rather than subvert others in the area, Fred Mason manages his antiques business with an eye for others and hopes they’ll do the same, he said.
“There’s a widespread spirit of cooperation among antique stores,” Mason, 51, Olathe, who owns Antiques & More, 3970 Tennessee Road, Ottawa, said. “If somebody knows that [we] have something, they’ll try to steer them our way. When people ask us what else is in the area, we’ll try to send them around. It’s not really so much of a cut-throat type of business, and I certainly enjoy more of that spirit of cooperation.”
Formerly a family restaurant known as McKenzie’s Country Cafe, Mason said, the store’s building was refurbished in 2005 to exclusively be an antique store, he said. Mason, along with his wife, Gnola, has owned the property since 1994, but decided to convert the space so the couple could manage the business alone.
That autonomy, Mason said, was in large part the reason he went into the antique business, in addition to his former restaurants’ decor.
“Both of our restaurants were furnished in antiques, and we’ve always had an appreciation for [antiques],” Mason said. “One of the reasons that we didn’t want to be in the restaurant business long term is the number of employees that you have to have and count on. ... It seemed like a good business for this location, being right on the interstate.”
Differing from owner-supplied antique stores, Mason’s business is a dealer mall that leases out space to area merchants. Twenty-one dealers currently are renting space from Mason, who collects and allocates the store’s proceeds to vendors, he said.
With more than 20 dealers, Mason said, the store maintains a variety of goods. Although some items are found via collectors, many dealers turn to the Internet and area estate and garage sales to find new, pre-owned goods and antiques, he said. Some vendors maintain themes in their booths, he said, including the Old West and Victorian stylings, while others simply provide a smorgasbord of antique staples such as pottery and glassware.
“That’s the good thing about having lots of different dealers — they bring in their own things, and they specialize in different areas,” Mason said. “Everyone kind of has their own theme [at their booths.] It’s a pretty wide and varied mix of things.”
Asked what the “more” in his business’ name represented, Mason said the store also features an array of collectables that remain in good condition, he said.
“We run a true antique store with the criteria being that [items] are 100 years old,” Mason said, adding that the store also offers “things the people are likely to collect” that haven’t necessarily reached the century mark.
Like many craft and antique vendors, Mason’s business was hit hard by the nation’s economic recession, he said. While sales have dipped during the past few years, Mason said, business has steadily improved. Part of that uptick in sales might derive from the area’s economic cooperation, Mason said. The Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce, he said, often provides day trips to local antique stores, which he said have helped to bolster business at his store, which is near the intersection of I-35 and Tennessee road. “When the recession hit, that certainly didn’t help us,” Mason said. “It’s starting to come back a bit. ... It’s getting better.”