Bob Rogers owns and manages the Antiques Market of Williamston, the first mall concept antiques store in Michigan.
“This mall has a great following because they follow Bob,” Denny Freitag said, a dealer at the Antiques Market of Williamston. “Bob knows antiques. We guarantee that everything that goes out of this mall is an antique. They trust his brand.”
Rogers has been in the antiques business since 1980. The dealers who rent his space know and trust his commitment to the business.
“Bob is here every day so that makes a huge difference,” Freitag said. “He comes seven days a week.”
Unlike most antiques shops where a single owner displays their collections, the Antiques Market of Williamston is a mall concept. This means one person owns the building and individual dealers rent space from the owner.
“The mall concept is the best way to go,” Rogers said. “You can offer many different varieties, instead of an antiques store or shop where they only have a few things. I have 75 dealers in here.”
The store is currently located at 2991 N. Williamston Road.
“It was started in 1980, in downtown WIlliamston, and then they built this place and moved here in 1995,” Rogers said. “I managed the place for six years before I bought it in 2009.”
Rogers has a set of rules to make sure the products sold in his store are up to his standards.
“Collectables have to be at least 30 years old, no made in China, no bar codes, and furniture has to be made at least in the 1960’s,” Rogers said.
Rogers said that Williamston has been a prime spot for antiques long before he got his start in 1980.
“It’s been an antiques town forever,” Rogers said.
Many of the antiques stores that were once located in downtown Williamston were forced to close due to a lack of foot traffic, Rogers said.
“When I first started coming here, there were like twelve stores downtown, it was a mecca,” Freitag said. “But then when they tore up Grand River, I would say that over half of the antiques stores went out of business because they just couldn’t support the no traffic.”
With each individual dealer, there is a unique story behind how they got started in the antiques business.
“I started as a collector,” Freitag said. “So what happened is I bought two houses and I filled both houses with antiques so I had to do something with the collection. As I bought more, I had to have a venue to get rid of the stuff.”
Freitag said for her it was never about the money.
“Most people do it for extra money, we did it to support my buying habits,” Freitag said. “When I buy, I’m buying to upgrade my collection, not to sell.”
Freitag said that sometimes you have to settle for a small profit. Other times, you hit a home run.
“I bought a vase, a piece of pottery for $35 in an attic in Howell and I had it appraised for $5,000,” Freitag said.
Freitag said that she considers it a successful trip if they leave a sale with 10 items purchased.
If you have enough patience, eventually you can sell almost anything, Freitag said.
“Ugly sells,” Freitag said. “There is a buyer for everything. It may sit for a while, but ugly doesn’t matter because there is a buyer for everything.”
The store has so many different dealers that customers often times leave with something they weren’t expecting to find.
“We just happened to stop in on a whim, and we happened to find a mid-century modern dining room set so it was great,” said Troy Miller, a customer at the mall.
Fred Parks, a dealer at the Antiques Market of Williamston, said he knew he was cutout for the antiques business when he was a little kid.
“I remember the first thing I dragged home,” Fred Parks said. “I was in a dump in France and I dragged home a mummified cows head and a tin wind-up bus that had been crushed by a car. I was about seven years old at the time, and I’ve been bringing stuff home ever since.”
Rogers said the tone is set by the veteran dealers who he’s worked with for years.
“I’ve got a very good nucleus of older, experience dealer’s,” Rogers said. “So when the newer, younger ones come in, they feed off of them.”