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Who knew that the Japanese lead the trends in the antiques world? Steve Sylvester, owner of The Antique Company, knows and he says that teak furniture is trending now.
“The antiques market is run by the Japanese who have been buying teak. They set the fads. England is six months behind Japan and California is six months behind England,” elaborates Sylvester.
To keep ahead of the local market, Sylvester works with exporters in England who tell him what the Japanese are buying and then Sylvester buys similar items. Teak bars, sidebars and dining room sets are in vogue. Art deco merchandise is also popular.
Being knowledgeable about trends and current values is critical for success in the antiques business. Sylvester gives the example of Hummel figurines, which used to sell for $200-$300, but are now selling for around $35. Cup and saucer sets that look similar to one another are another example. Perhaps one is worth $5 and the other $2,500.
“EBay rules the price,” notes Sylvester, but people still want to be able to touch an item and be able to talk to someone who knows its history, which is why stores like his are still relevant and viable.
Sylvester established The Antique Company 12 years ago. Originally from England where he was a fire officer and part-time antiques hobbyist, Sylvester moved to Sacramento and bought a small, existing antiques shop. He has since grown the shop from 1,000 square feet to more than 7,000 square feet of merchandise.
Sylvester especially enjoys researching antiques, finding and buying items, and learning the history of the items to pass on to customers. He does considerable internet research and works with buyers in England, Indonesia and Egypt to find antiques that are “fresh from the field,” goods that have not made the rounds at other antique stores and that are hard to find here.
The Antique Company is unique in that it carries a wide variety of merchandise, “like a mini department store,” says Sylvester, and new items are always coming in. Every few months, Sylvester imports 40-foot containers filled with goods from his foreign suppliers and stores the goods in his warehouse. New items are circulated from the warehouse into the store every few days and older items are circulated out by moving them to the “casualty corner” where they are substantially discounted.
Although the store has a diverse inventory, Sylvester says that his store is best known for its clocks, glass, china and costume jewelry. Furniture made between the two World Wars is another specialty. Because many of the houses in Sacramento were built during that time, furniture of that period sells well.
In addition, Sylvester designs Indonesian reproduction furniture. The furniture is built in Indonesia and shipped to Sacramento. Reproductions are popular because antique versions may not fit modern lifestyles. For example, antique beds were not made in king or queen size, so Sylvester uses the original style but adapts it to the larger sizes that customers want.
Sylvester’s customers have included governors, mayors and the people next door. More than 80 percent of customers are locals who have grown up with the store. They come in regularly and bring their family and friends and are now introducing their young children to the shop. Sylvester says that he loves interacting with his customers and sharing the history of items with them. He also goes out into the community and gives lectures to local groups interested in learning about antiques.
Sylvester believes that one of the keys to his success is his consistency. “If you know your stuff and people know you’re here every day, they will come.”
Although trends in the antiques business may come and go, solid business sense paired with customer courteousness never goes out of style.
The Antique Company is located at 2100 X St. in Sacramento. The store can be reached at (9160 457-1099, and is open every day except Christmas and Thanksgiving, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
"Locally Owned” is a regular column highlighting local business owners; the backbone of our community and economy. Each column explores the personal stories of owners and the businesses they built.