About eight miles from Hillsdale College, along West Chicago Road, Hog Creek Antique Mall boasts 150 vendor booths selling everything from vintage blow dryers to Pyrex (a current favorite among collectors) to niche pieces like political buttons and clown dolls.
The mall is one of several storefronts in a row of antique stores on West Chicago Road, dubbed the “antique capital of Michigan,” which continues to attract customers, despite occasional shifts in the popularity of particular items.
The average piece at an antique store today is selling at “80 percent off” what it would have during the “heydey of antiques collecting,” said Colin Stair, the owner of Stair Galleries auction house in Hudson, N.Y., according to The New York Times in March of 2018. Pieces like “[y]our typical Georgian 18th century furniture, chests of drawers, tripod tables, Pembroke tables,” Stair told the Times, are now selling at a fraction of what they would have 15 to 20 years ago.
Hog Creek Antique Mall Owner Michelle Barrows said she doesn’t believe Michigan antiques have experienced a drastic decline in popularity, though she has noticed a shift in trends.
“The market has changed in terms of what people are buying, and in terms of what I am buying,” Barrows said.
Barrows began antiquing in 2005, and she said she has seen a lot of trends come and go.
“We sell a lot of primitives and mid-century modern pieces,” said Barrows. “People used to be looking for depression glass, now Pyrex is hot.”
“Primitive” furniture is a simple early American style of furniture and decor, and is
a popular find in antique stores. Barrows said that Hog Creek’s typical customers are collectors, but the mall will attract anyone, as the vendors bring in new pieces every day. These pieces typically come from garage and estate sales, which are popular places for most antique dealers.
Just up the road stands Allen Antique Mall, made up of two buildings with a restaurant nestled in between. The two buildings house more than 100 dealers and anything from old fishing equipment to Ouija boards.
Vendors Phil and Paula Pursell assist the manager with day-to-day tasks while stocking their own booths. Phil Pursell said that while he couldn’t point to one most popular item, he has often noticed a “theme of the day” in what he sells.
“Last week we sold 10 horse statues, all to different people,” he said.
While Pursell said he noticed a downward trend in the antique market over the past 10 years, he said it’s picked up steam in the last couple of years, along with the general incline of the national economy.
On the other side of Allen Antique Mall, Dawn Essenmacher, a fellow vendor and employee of Allen Antique Mall, has a different opinion on the health of the antiquing business.
“This year, it’s a little on the low,” said Essenmacher. “Peoples’ tastes have changed.”
Nevertheless, she emphasized her love for buying and selling vintage items, as did several other vendors.
“You can buy it, enjoy it for a while, and then sell it,” fellow vendor Lisa Baker said.
The Pursells explain that, for them, antiquing isn’t all about the money.
“We don’t make a living from it,” Phil Pursell explains. “We might make six or seven hundred dollars a month, which is enough to pay your rent.”
He notes that antiquing “gets people out, gives them something to do.”
“Antiquing is like a family thing,” he said. “It’s more than the things you find; it’s the people you meet.”