Is there a doctor in the house? There certainly is at the Olde America Antique Mall, at least sometimes.
Muskogee doctor Carl Critchfield is the new owner of the antiques and collectibles mall located on U.S. 69 south of Muskogee.
And, it’s probably a good thing, since anyone into antiques and collectibles knows that scrounging up good deals is a sickness.
Yet, the antique mall business nationally is suffering a malaise of its own as dealers strive to adjust to the new generation of shoppers — millennials. A recent Antique Trader News story puts it succinctly. “Millennials are the consumer market of the future” and this next generation doesn’t want their parent’s heirlooms or valuables.
So as Olde America adjusts to new ownership and a makeover of the sales floor space, it’s also focused on what’s likely to be the next big thing to shoppers. More than 60 booth owners occupy the 12,000-square-foot facility and many are rethinking their space configurations and how to attract the new shopper.
The future product mix is shifting.
“Our stuff is functional and eclectic. It’s usable and not just pretty. We have obscure utensils, indoor and outdoor items and gardening,” said booth owner Nancy Perry, who also works the front desk at the store.
Millennials do collect stuff — toys, comic books, keepsake cards and contemporary art. So, the emphasis for some vendors at Olde America is to focus anew on items that Millennials want. “It’s called better shelf presentation,” a vendor said.
Today’s growing shopper segment is looking for durable items, interesting designs and vintage pieces that “embody technology rather than craftsmanship,” Antique Trader News said.
Olde America Antique Mall has these potential Millennial-grabbers on hand. A collection of early “technology” typewriters, including a Remington Reimette, a Smith-Corona or Royal Quiet De Luxe. An RCA Victor LP record player – mint condition.
Wall art? How about a huge wooden ball abacus? It’s vintage but functional.
Vintage Valentines that connect the Millennial to childhood. A car collage motif tabletop on a mag wheel base.
Knives, fishing lures, golf clubs, camping equipment — all for the Millennial who wants to experience the outdoors.
Need a throwback to school days? An Alice Robertson 1967 cheer vest. Into Muskogee history? A functional Rose Lawn or Carnation milk bottle? And a box of new Corn Flakes cereal bowls to go along with the breakfast setting.
If you’re looking for true craftsmanship that could serve as art, search out these items at Olde America. An antique general or country store cut-plug tobacco cabinet or wooden shipping boxes complete with advertising labels intact.
Make some wall art out of board games without all the game pieces. There’s a Whitman Checker-Backgammon board, Chinese checkers board and others. Or grab a tabletop pinball machine that’s functional.
A hefty World War II cargo ship pully block could serve as a base for a side table.
Also, be advised that the term “vintage clothing” has shifted, as well. There’s plenty of 1940s and 1950s millinery, long stylish gloves, faux fur coats and jewelry at Olde America. Today’s vintage should date to the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
Millennials are looking for experiences in vintage attire. While mom is pulling hangars of fru fru off the clothing rack at Olde America, the Millennial daughter is searching for mod — or perhaps rad – pants and jackets or cracked leather bombers.
Millennial shoppers will hunt for what they want. That is, if the mall has cleaned up its act, updating old, faded price tags and hauling off the piles of junk posing as antiques. Again, the Millennials want a shopping experience, not a frustrating search.
One recent young shopper demonstrated just this. She spent time eye-balling a display case with two Coco Chanel perfume boxes on view.
The cardboard sleeve on one was well worn, and there was precious little perfume left inside. She bought it intending to place it on a dressing table, as if she had ‘experienced’ all of the perfume. Go figure.
Indeed, for the more traditional shopper, Olde America still has many offerings. Collector plates, Fire King and Pyrex mixing bowl sets, salt and pepper sets, Vaseline glass, and vintage china.
What might be the rarest item at Olde America? One vendor quickly points that it is Ruth — Ruth Ellis, the new Olde America Antique Mall manager.
Perhaps, Ellis could be considered a doctor, as well — Doctor Ruth advising vendors how to remain healthy and well in the antiques business.
Andrea Chancellor has reporting and editing experience with news media in Oklahoma City, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. She also did corporate public relations work in Tulsa.