Thursday, April 15, 2010

Champagne, Flea Markets, Mugging the Mugger

Dick at the marche aux puces in Saint Ouen, a suburb of Paris.

I smile when remembering buying trips from years past. There were so many trips of discovery in our hunt for interesting furniture, antiques, and accessories for our showroom. Our nostalgic journey ends this week in France and Holland. The picture above says it all. I’m simply ecstatic about being in the middle of the world’s largest assemblage of antique dealers in the world! When you leave the Porte de Clignancourt on the Paris Metro for the first time, it’s hard to imagine what lies beyond all the stalls selling used cds, jeans, and rock’n roll t shirts. Within a few blocks you are in the center of over 2500 incredible vendors of antiques. The thrill remains intact after years of shopping here!

As in many places in the world, you have to watch out for pickpockets! Marla was mugged at the Clignancourt Metro entrance a few years ago. She freaked out when she felt her notebook with all her buying details lifted from her pocket. She flew into a fit of rage, lifted up the rather short culprit and demanded that he empty his pockets & return her notebook. He threw down everything in fear and disappeared into the crowd. Marla mugged the mugger!

One of my favorite haunts at the “flea market” for lunch is Chez Louisette, at the marche Vernaison. It is full of kitsch but with great atmosphere from a past era of Gauloises-smoking Parisians and Edif Piaf wannabe’s. Check out this YouTube video for a little taste:

Our Denver showroom used to carry a large assortment of vintage posters. L’affiche was a huge passion of mine for many years. I scoured auction catalogs and shopped with my premier sources in the U.S. and France. The Wesco Fabrics’ showroom does not carry vintage posters anymore, but my passion for them remains.

Checking out a Saturday market in Brussels. I found some art nouveau metal boxes.

Strasbourg has some wonderful weekend markets and antique shows! After a busy morning of shopping and haggling it’s definitely time for a Fischer Biere d’Alsace. For lunch or dinner you must have an Alsatian choucroute garnie with a few glasses of Riesling.

Our friend Jean-Francois took us to a few brocante dealers near his parent’s home in Bouzy, south of Reims in the Champagne region. You may find junk, or you might get lucky and find some real treasures!

I am sure this brocante dealer had been drinking since breakfast! He told us he had a few things up in the second level of his barn.

Marla said she would hold down the fort while I climbed the ladder.

Sure enough, there were oodles of dusty art deco and art nouveau furniture! We bought almost everything he had and sold every piece when we received our container in Denver.

At another farm house I climbed up in an ancient barn to see what I could find.

We bought this beautiful pair of 19th century chairs. I think they lasted on our showroom floor for 5 minutes!

10:30 A.M., south of Epernay. After negotiations it’s time for Champagne! I’m beginning to like this!

One hour of bargaining and we still couldn’t strike a deal on this wonderful art deco zinc back bar.

Jean-Francois makes an appointment for us to see a friend who owns a fine antique store in Reims. His family owns Andre Clouet Champagne in Bouzy. The famous wine critic, Robert Parker, just awarded one of their cuvees 94 points!

We had to buy a few 17th century walnut armoires from the North of France.

Today’s negotiations were like a slow dance. You can’t rush the process. Sit back and mellow!

Holland has been an important center of wholesale antiques for years. In a freezing warehouse near Arnhem we searched for antiques while our teeth chattered! Marla noticed that the water in the tub was frozen!

We bought some nice antique furniture.

A few 19th century, painted wedding benches from Eastern Europe were standing on end. A designer from Vail snatched them all up for her store as soon as they arrived.

I loved this beautiful hunt cabinet from Germany.

Some of our loot is stacked up. We found a great assortment of old advertising tins, old skis and sleds.

The Wesco Fabrics' showroom selection continues to evolve as we adapt to ever changing styles and the needs of our customer. Marla & I travel to Borneo and Bali in the weeks ahead, on the prowl for what’s cool and new.

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