-The venerable firm of John Rosselli & Associates opened its first shop in New York City 50 years ago. Its Wisconsin Avenue Georgetown branch has been in business for 10 years. According to Jonathan Gargiulo, who commutes between New York and Washington, the shop is a designer resource. Clients often visit the shop with decorators. When you look at the website of John Rosselli, it’s fabrics that dominate. And that seems to be a bellwether of where the antique trade is going.
What has happened is that buyers are less interested in what is called “smalls,” the smaller objects one would find dotting the interior of every antique store. Those footstools, end tables, and bibelots were the bread and butter of the antique business, with clients coming in periodically adding to their collections. Garguilo says, “It used to be I would spend all day wrapping and putting in bags for clients’ silver, vases and small pictures. Now people decorate with less, they are more interested in an important piece of furniture, and reproductions as well.”
The economy has not helped the antique business and several dealers did not survive the downturn. But the economy is coming back and there is a different kind of client: one made much more savvy due to the popularity of the television “Road Show” series. That, and eBay has made his customers more discerning about prices as related by Garguilo. It also makes it harder for antique stores to pick up bargains the way they used to.
Peter Quinn, who helped start the John Rosselli store in D.C., has what you find in the best antique dealers: a passion for history. That is what is lacking in many of the younger buyers today who are much more part of the information age and do not take the time to learn, for instance, about the hallmarks on silver. That is what motivates the insider in the antique business, the unfolding narrative of where a piece was made and when. He also says Washington can be a tough market, a bit fickle and not too adventurous.
Quality is the underlying value in the best antique stores and John Rosselli & Associates is cited by everyone I have spoken with as one of the best places in D.C. to stop by, with or without your decorator.
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