Friday, March 5, 2010
Leftovers Home Mercantile -- The Main Course
An early morning at Leftovers, still gray outside, but inside all lights were shining. Birds were chirping in their antique cages. And Michael Breddin and I were sitting on down-filled linen chairs, surrounded by the layered and lovely world that Breddin and business partner Ed Fulkerson have created at Leftovers Home Mercantile in Brenham, Texas.
Nearby, the store’s baby, a 140 pound St. Bernard named Gracie, claims her spot.
Breddin and Fulkerson built the nearly 10,000 square foot antiques store on Highway 290 three years ago. But the Leftovers story goes far further back.
Originally from Kansas, Ed Fulkerson was the General Manager for the Homestead stores in Fredericksburg, TX when he met antiques dealer Michael Breddin of Brenham. Together, they started Leftovers Antiques and began exhibiting at antiques shows across the US. From the beginning, the two brought a fresh approach to living with and displaying antiques. Layering is their look. It’s not a cluttered layering. It’s putting many items together in a cohesive, calm and beautiful way.
What are you looking for as you shop for your store today?
“When we go to England,” says Michael, “We don’t go with a list. You never know what you will run across. But we do look for older 17th through 19th century antiques because they create an older mix with the antiques from the US. We look for paint and we love it.”
“We like to shop in England,” says Breddin, “because we can see so much more in a small amount of time. On a short trip we will hit 10 -18 different shows. Some are huge, some are very small. One show sent us free tickets to a venue that cost 35 cents to get in.
“At the same time,” Breddin goes on, “we have storage units all over America that are being filled constantly and then the antiques are shipped to Brenham. There’s a full load today in Indiana, a half load in Iowa.”
The current Leftovers mix is about 30-40% American and rest English, with a little French and beyond. The palette is light, but the heft can be substantial. A huge Art Deco sofa has just gone out the door.
The look that Leftovers achieves, says Breddin, “is not all American or all European. We try to keep an artistic and creative mix so that one makes the other better. “
“I’m hoping to get it all here for the show,” he says. “The largest portion of our business is logistics: we wait for things to arrive.”
The Dolly Johnson Antique and Art Show in Fort Worth will be the first show where Leftovers will exhibit following the winter buying trip. Ed Fulkerson reports that “We bought good early 18th and 19th century English country antiques, many pieces in old paint, which we love. We looked for and found medium-size furniture, such as Welsh dressers, breakfronts and cupboards in a smaller scale, good for urban settings, as well as country homes.”
“The exchange rate was decent,” he goes on, “not the highest we’ve seen, nor the lowest. The weather conditions were tough. They were socked in, one of the worst winters for England. We put 2000 miles on a Sprinter van, all at 20 mph, through snow, on lanes ten feet wide with sheep in the middle.”
“With the weather closing some shows, we really had to search. We have enough of a network there that we had people holding wonderful merchandise for us, so we came home with an excellent container.”
How is a Leftovers container different from a typical container of imported antiques?
“We focus,” answers Fulkerson, “on period pieces, the early pieces. We don’t buy the 20th century massed-produced pieces such as barley twist. We look for original, early surfaces and the very clean-lined bench-made furniture of the 1820s era. We’ll see heavy-paneled sides, hand-cut nails and boards on the back that are 12 inches wide and 2 inches thick—and nearly 200 years old. We buy pine from the 1840s-1860s, some early oak and early mahogany. And, of course, the early English country paint.”
What do customers want today?
“What we are trying to do,” says Michael Breddin “is to re-purpose antiques to be functional for clients for today. People want things that will function. A cupboard holds a TV. A dowry chest becomes a coffee table. We sell antiques ready to go into homes, with a function for today’s living.”
But there isn’t just one look now. Among customers today, everyone is different. They each want different things. Things are more relaxed and casual, not so formal. People are not trying to copy a magazine. People want to live with what they love.”
So what is the future of formal?
“Even fabulous glass and silver in our collection is presented in a casual way. It’s not about having six sizes of the same plate pattern. It’s about what you need and love and can mix together.”
“In a place as formal as North Texas, we find that the houses that we are doing in Dallas lately are more about comfort than formality. Entertainment is without pretense, more casual. It’s less about keeping up with the Joneses and more about eating with the Joneses’”
And, most likely, the Joneses love leftovers.
See Leftovers Antiques at the 47th Annual Dolly Johnson Antique and Art Show, March 12-13, which will soon be here! Show Special Events Schedule and Discount Coupon at http://www.dollyjohnsonantiqueandartshow.com/