Like many enterprises, the antique market has seen more of its share of ups and downs over the years, with many items commanding only a fraction of what they did just a couple of decades ago. In consequence, many stores have simply closed their doors, selling out as the market continues to contract.
Despite that, Fairgrounds Antiques continues to endure, and even prosper. For the last 45 years, it has operated in a huge red building, nestled next to the Cheshire Fair in Swanzey. Obviously, some things have changed over the years, but the basic mission of the shop remains the same — to offer unusual and collectible items at reasonable prices.
Owner Trisha Rogan has only been running the store since last April, but still knows the ropes, having previously worked there for 13 years.
“The store used to be called Cheshire Fairgrounds when it started out in the 1970s, but they eventually changed the name,” she explained. “I don’t really know of any other shop in New England that has been open this long.
“We have a lot of people coming in looking for that single elusive item they can’t get anywhere else. Over the years, we have gained a reputation as a place where you can find just about anything. There’s something here for everybody.”
Rogan said that word about the store has spread far and wide, with customers checking in from as far away as Ohio.
“They might not always visit us in-person, but they always check the Facebook page, where we post new arrivals,” she said.
Rogan also noted the fact that antiques no longer hold the allure that they once did but maintained that there is always a market for good, high-quality furniture and accessories.
“There are still people out there who would rather buy furniture made out of real wood, as opposed to particle board,” she said. “And it’s not just the older crowd, either – we have a dealer here who must be all of 18 years of age, while there are others who are in their 80s.
“The clientele also shows the same breadth of ages and interests. We also have a lot of gemstones in stock, which are very popular with the younger crowd.”
Rogan pointed out that many of her customers are people with their own antique stores, looking for a potential “sleeper” – that is, an item which is much more valuable than anyone realizes.
“Some people don’t really know what they have, and how valuable it can be,” she said. “The dealers are always quick to pounce on that opportunity.”
Right now, the store hosts more than 60 dealers, offering an array of items ranging from early fine antiques right up to mid-century, as well as a number of primitives.
In her time associated with the store, Rogan has seen steady fluctuations in the market, and trusts that, in time, it will regain its former luster.
“When Audrey O’Brien and her husband, Jim, ran this place, starting in 1983, it was really hopping,” she said. “Audrey passed away at the end of September, something I discovered when her son came in here from Texas and told me.
“In her day, this place was very busy indeed, and there were a lot of dealers here. Computers weren’t so much in vogue in those days, so the business operated a lot differently. Audrey was a really nice person, and well-respected in the community. She will definitely be missed.”
Rogan is confident that, despite the vagaries of the market, Fairgrounds Antiques will endure, something she attributes to its long-standing reputation and loyal customer base.
“The foot traffic here is still really good, though our sales go up and down,” she said. “We probably get a lot more than the smaller antique shops. Business really picks up in October, when the leaf-peepers come into town.
We’re operating seven days a week now, though I shut down for about a week at the end of the season, giving the merchandisers the opportunity to bring in new stock. That way, the shoppers will know there will always be something new and exciting here, and they will get the best of the best.”
Fairgrounds Antiques is at 249 Monadnock Highway, Swanzey, next to the Cheshire Fairgrounds, and is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week. For more information, call 352-4420 or visit the shop’s Facebook page at facebook.com/FairgroundsAntiques.