longer known as a 'blue collar town with the
bluefish festival', Clinton, Connecticut has
become an antique 'connection', with more draw
and exposure every season. Within the last five
years a constellation of new shops dealing strictly
with non-essential goods and services (antiques
& specialty goods) has opened in previously
unoccupied (and in many cases historic) real
estate, bringing a new look to the Clinton downtown
and a new audience, the upscale antiquers. Clinton,
once known only for clams, is now a destination
point, and the 'antique connection' has definitely
reached critical mass. So why has Clinton suddenly
emerged as an antique hub?
you were to take a map and a ruler and draw
a triangle between Boston, New York and Providence,
Rhode Island, on the mid-point of the base would
be Clinton, Connecticut, a shoreline town of
less than 13,000 inhabitants--until summer.
Along the Boston Post Road (Route One), approximately
30 minutes north of New Haven (exits 63 &
64 off I-95), forty minutes from Hartford, ninety
miles from New York City, an hour and three
quarters from Boston, the historic town center
of Clinton has burgeoned: clustered closely
along Main Street within the space of four or
so miles, you have the opportunity of viewing
the merchandise of dozens of dealers, and benefit
from their experience, taste, and connoisseurship.
The shoreline towns of Madison and Westbrook
border Clinton, and eight miles East is Saybrook
at the mouth of the Connecticut River. The Antique
Roadshow continues up the river on both sides
to Essex, Chester, Lyme and Hadlyme.
there had been a few antique dealers at either
end of Clinton for decades (in addition to several
art galleries) the arrival and continuing success
of the Clinton Antique Center (a multi-dealer
shop that occupied the previously-vacant cavernous
Mannix Chevrolet building more than five years
ago), put Clinton on the antique map. A family
commitment, a savvy business plan, a lot of
advertising, and the seed took hold. With more
than seventy dealers and a waiting list, the
CAC is flourishing.
were further supporting circumstances. One was
the adjacency of affluent towns like Madison,
Guilford and Branford, where the cost of doing
business is higher and retail space more pricey.
And the proximity of the upscale new- development
communities in Killingworth, North Madison and
North Guilford. And the seasoned collectors
from the Connecticut River Valley who used to
go out of state to buy antiques. And the Premium
Outlet Clinton Crossing and the Westbrook Mall
Outlet stores. All passed on the right influences
for an antique moss to happily spread in the
town. Success breeds success.
this five year period more than twenty individual
antique shops, three larger group shops (with
more than 90 dealers) & a dozen specialty
shops have hung out their shingles in Clinton.
Each shop a distinctive personality, each dealer
a unique inventory. The Clinton Historic District
shops are all within walking distance of one
another. On the east and west sides of town,
the shops are within one to three miles in either
one dealer doesn't have it they will suggest
or even call another, and send you further along
encouraging you to visit their colleagues and
competitors. It is an Antiquers' Underground
Railway, you will always be helped further,
given advice and direction in your search. The
distinctly individual shops and their proprietors
are responsible for this unique invisible solidarity
that connects one town to another by virtue
of its antique wares, the dealers who find them,
and the collectors who come seeking them.
Jenkins (of Wooden Wheelbarrow), Clinton Chamber
of Commerce President, notes that the Chamber
fields daily calls from tourists visiting the
shopping outlets asking what else there is to
do in Clinton. Antiquing gets a good response.
It should. As recreation, antiquing is diversion
& education in its broadest and rarest sense,
at once history, library, gallery, pawn shop,
bazaar, something for anyone.
Chambers (of Baker & Chamber Antiques) is
one of the first wave of new dealers who have
renovated, improved, and set up shop in Clinton's
Historic Main Street properties. Ms. Chambers
points out that the new ventures have been initiated
almost entirely by women entrepreneurs. And
that is certainly true of her neighbors. Next
door, Joanne Welch of Reflections, across the
street Jane Carlson of the Carlson Collection,
up two doors to the east Ginny Cabe at Waterside
Antiques, two doors down to the west, Claire
Anderson's Antique Center, and across the street,
the MiRIAM GREEN Antiquarian Book Shop &
Clinton Antique Center is to the west one block.
This also was the vision and venture of a woman
entrepreneur, Jerri Case, whose second family
venture, Clinton Village, a smaller group shop
with surrounding grounds, opened last summer
a mile or so to the east of the town center
on the Westbrook line. Miller's Antiques, Maxwell's
Antiques & The Wooden Wheelbarrow are also
found there. Nearby is another multi-group shop,
The Square Rigger, and down the road, Lovejoy
Antiques. To the west of town John Street Antiques,
The Loft, Hidden Treasures, and The Cedar Chest.
Town dwellers are delighted at this turn of
events with quaint shops popping up that attract
an affluent and cultured tourist and give a
distinctive cache. Town officials see Clinton
as becoming 'the antique capital' of the shoreline.
Along with the Town docks and Town Beach, nearby
Hammonasset State Park, and local summer and
fall events in surrounding towns, Clinton has
become a destination.
Shoreline Antiques Roadshow does not necessarily
cater to the rarified antiques and auction markets
of New York and London, (although you may find
many a piece here and there that rightly belongs
in such company). The antique alley shops cater
to a wider audience and no less avid collector
who desires to surround oneself with the tangible
and resonant presence of objects that give pleasure
by their possession.
can you find in this eclectic and millepedean
environment of antique shops? Fine (old, used,
beat up, remember in antiques and collectibles
these terms are relative) period (of a certain
age or style) furniture, paintings, bronzes,
silver, china, glass, pottery, jewelry, books,
toys & dolls, sporting, smoking, drinking
& transportation collectibles, kitchenware,
ashtrays, bottles, baskets, valentines, trunks
& boxes, radios, fire fenders, fountain
pens, ad infin. Just about anything a collector
collects, at a price with which you can be satisfied.
Passion, perseverance, and patience, antiquing
takes and gives both.
Quirks of the Antique Trade
being a business owner having an imperative
of livelihood to constantly find and purchase
and turn inventory to maintain a cash flow,
when your goods and services are tied to an
appetite for an intangible idiosyncrasy, and
your clientele do not need your goods or services.
And there are five hundred other competitors
within ten miles with their own superfluous
goods and services.
antique and antiquarian book trade are unlike
retail markets in the most essential consideration--
competition does not diminish but rather expands
the potential for collective success. The Clinton
antique renaissance benefits every dealer on
the shoreline, because that is the way this
specialty market--like no other--operates. Quirky,
unpredictable, sometimes lean and sometimes
fat, a roller coaster livelihood certain to
bring on agida, and no dealer really wants to
be doing anything else.
dealer is selling his and herself as a product
and service only they can provide. It is a win-win
situation, perhaps for that reason competition
is benign. Antiques give good value for consumers
even if they not collectors. Old and used goods
in comparison to contemporary mass-production
are of far better quality of workmanship and
detail and usually a fraction of the cost. Living
with, decorating with, and enjoying period decorative
arts is an acquired taste, education is essential,
and experience is the best education. Not everything
old is valuable, and valuable is not always
The antiques business is a tightrope of balancing
market savvy while trafficking in a desire for
possessions. An antique will seek its own level,
selling repeatedly at higher and higher prices
until it reaches a cap off. Quality, condition,
desirability dictate staying power of an object.
A good antique or well-crafted period piece
does not lose its value when it goes home with
you. You can sit on, drink from, eat at, sleep
in, walk on, and live with your antiques. But
one thing is certain, the good antique or period
piece will be worth more when you go to sell
it than when you buy it. You don't have that
certainty in the stock market.
A FEW HELPFUL DEFINITIONS
an object that has at least a century of age,
is representative of a period, style, or type,
and hangs together aesthetically.
from the Latin col, together, and lect, choose
to assemble, accumulate; secure (specimens,
books, &c.), for addition to a set...
one who collects &c. for addition to their
one who collects &c. with superb discrimination.