Couple keeps going after antiques shop closes
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (AP) — After about four decades in existence, L&M Furniture closed this month on Market Street. But Louis Farrick, who owned the store with his wife Marge, isn’t about to exit the antiques business anytime soon.
“I’ll never be out of the antique business,” said Louis, 74, speaking in a garage at his Florence residence that contains the former inventory of the 5 Market St. business.
Marge, also 74, and Louis have known each since they were 11 years old and dated since they were teenagers. They’ve now been married for 54 years.
Louis was also the subject of a documentary recently shown downtown at the Academy of Music.
The couple purchased their Florence home in 1968 for $11,000 and has lived there ever since, although Louis has done work to expand it. The house is a veritable wonderland of antiques, from antique cap guns, to a Howdy Doody doll, to a Colonial-era powder horn and 19th-century burlesque posters.
Marge and Louis got into the antiques business by chance. Louis was looking to get a bunk bed, but couldn’t afford it. However, he was told that people in Amherst throw out good stuff. So he investigated and found someone looking to throw away a bunk bed in the dump. That same person also offered him an antique clock for free. Louis, a machinist by trade, took the clock, intending to make a mosaic out of it.
Louis went into a package store where Fitzwilly’s is now located to grab a beer on his way home. When he came out, an old man was standing by the car.
“What are you looking to do with the Bonnet Top?” said the man, referring to the clock, using a term that wasn’t familiar to Louis.
The man asked if the clock was for sale and Louis said he would sell it for $50. The man accepted the offer, and Louis’ antique dealing career began.
“And that was it,” Louis recalled.
The first big find of Louis and Marge in the antique business came from Marge listening to the “Swaps” program on the radio, when someone said that they had a roaster in their attic.
“Attic means stuff right?” said Marge, who told Louis to call up the person.
Louis investigated, and saw a number of other items, including many old beautiful dresses.
“It was loaded to the gills,” he said.
It turns out that the house was owned by a descendent of the Krause family who had enjoyed a relationship with President Calvin Coolidge and his wife, Grace, whose home was nearby. As such, a number of the dresses had been handed down to the family by the Coolidges.
Louis bought the rights to the estate, and many of its items were sold to an auction house, which also included a number of rare books. However, a letter sent from Grace Coolidge when she was in the White House to a member of the Krause family is still possessed by Marge, who discovered it in the trash.
“Somebody threw it out,” said Marge. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’”
When asked how she knew to fish it out, Marge noted the words White House written on the envelope.
Louis and Marge describe the antique business as gambling. One of Louis’ big wins occurred after he acquired a number of Chinese snuff bottles. He offered to sell the lot for $8,000, but no one took him up on it. Then, a person who worked for the Skinner auction house saw some of the bottles, and asked if he could take them back to be appraised. An interest was then expressed to sell the bottles at auction, and the bottles sold ended up collectively fetching a price of $52,000.
Still, the couple acknowledged that not all gambles pay off.
“We either win big or lose big,” said Marge.
Asked how he decides when to go in on buying items, Louis said that he’s seen almost everything before in his business.
“When ... I have not seen it, I’d better buy it,” he said.
Louis also said that he liked the treasure hunting aspect of the antique’s business.
“It’s like being an archaeologist,” he said.
Louis’ first experience owning a store came after he was laid off from an engraving company in Holyoke. He then started watching the antique store of Elliot Bernstein, as well as selling his own items there, in a space that is now occupied by The Roost coffee shop.
After the rent was raised and Bernstein called it quits, Louis decided to take the space over. Later on, Louis and Marge were asked to move into the 5 Market St. site, to make way for another tenant. Originally, the couple’s business was known as Antiques Corner, the name Bernstein called the business, which was changed to L&M when the move to 5 Market St. took place.
Louis said that they closed down the business because their rent was raised.
“He raised the rent so I left,” Louis said.
However, he also said that he’s been thinking of getting rid of the store for a few years.
Marge and Louis said that people have been sad to see the store go, having even left kind notes at it.
“Everybody’s sad that he’s leaving,” Marge said.
L&M Furniture sold all different kinds of antiques. However, what Louis likes to collect personally are antique toys. Indeed, a push horse that he has in his house is paired with a black-and-white photograph of a child with the very same toy.
As for Marge, she likes to take postcards and jewelry for herself.
“He goes through the jewelry, but I take what’s good,” said Marge, who also noted that she now has competition in this from both her daughter and granddaughters.
Louis said that he plans to set up his garage as an appointment-only antique store. He said that he plans to spend a year tabling some antique shows, and organizing items in the couple’s house.
As for Marge, she said that she plans to spend the year doing research and putting items on eBay.
Marge also said that she believes her husband will eventually get a new storefront.
“Even though we shouldn’t,” she said. “Too old now.”
Information from: Daily Hampshire Gazette (Northampton, Mass.), http://www.gazettenet.com