By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal
Two years ago, when the economy began to sour, Jimmy Yancy lost money he’d invested in the stock market, mutual funds and CDs. But not the money he’d sunk in fine antiques.
“I didn’t lose a dime I invested in antique furniture,” said Jimmy, who owns Old Taylor Antiques along with his wife, Jennifer. “They only get more valuable as they get older. If we buy a piece and we can mark it up 10 percent and sell it, that’s more than the stock market can do – more than what most investments will return.”
But the Yancys didn’t get into the antique furniture business to make money. They actually stumbled into it accidentally in 2002, while building a new home in Taylor, just outside Oxford.
“It was a new house and we knew we wanted some antiques incorporated into it,” Jennifer said. “Everything we had was new stuff. And we went from ‘Let’s get a few pieces’ to ‘Let’s change everything out.’”
The couple knew next to nothing about fine antique furniture. Both came from modest homes in Mississippi.
“My mother’s family were sharecroppers,” Jennifer said. “They didn’t have anything to pass down. They used stuff till it wore out.”
So the Yancys began visiting antiques shops to see what was out there and what items were worth. From there, they moved onto estate sales and auctions, looking for pieces for the new home they share with their 4-year-old son, Whitt.
The first item they bought was a double-hall tree made of oak from Bea’s Antiques. Jennifer put it on layaway and paid on it for two years.
Next came two chests.
“We were only looking for one, but we couldn’t decide,” Jimmy said. “They were both so beautiful.”
As the house construction progressed, so did the number of antiques the couple amassed and put into storage.
“People found out we had things in storage and asked to see them,” Jimmy said. “We went from that to getting a booth in an antiques mall. Then we had spots in three antiques malls.”
At this point, Jimmy and Jennifer saw the writing on the wall and decided to take the plunge.
They would build a second home to showcase and sell their timeless treasures.
Old Taylor Antiques opened in September 2009. The eight-room Victorian-style home may be brand new, but the couple had it built to look old. In fact, the one stipulation they gave the man who designed the home was that no old trees on the property could be destroyed in the building process.
“So we have the best of both worlds,” Jennifer said. “Old trees and a new house.”
The antiques the couple has collected for their business are mainly classic and period American and European pieces and accessories, most of which are unique.
“We don’t want something you can go across town and buy,” Jennifer said. “We go anywhere there are good-quality, one-of-a-kind pieces. So much is reproduction, especially in small things. You have to be careful. I buy by my gut.”
Sometimes, estate dealers will call the Yancys and tip them off to rare pieces coming on the auction block.
“We really want to lay eyes on those pieces ourselves,” Jimmy said. “Because you can really get jacked up if you don’t. Most of our stuff is pre-1900. We’re looking for investment pieces. We’re by no means experts. You can never learn all you need to know about this stuff.”
When Jennifer’s doing the buying, she’s looking for pieces that speak to her.
“There’s not a piece we have in our home or in this shop that I don’t admire when I walk past it,” Jennifer said. “Every piece in this shop I would have in my home. Occasionally, a piece we buy doesn’t ever make it in here. It goes straight to the house. There are pieces you fall in love with and don’t want to sell.”
When Jimmy’s doing the buying, he’s looking at history.
“When you look at the detail and the age and what pieces have been through, it makes you appreciate it more,” he said. “Look at the history that piece has seen, the good times, the bad times. How many little kids have looked in that mirror? If a piece is from 1840, it saw the Civil War.”
The rooms in Old Taylor Antiques are filled with chests, armoires, highboys, rugs, secretaries, side tables, china cabinets, dining room tables, mirrors, paintings, clocks, beds, lamps, books and accessories.
“We put everything in a home setting, so you have a better idea of how it will look in your home and work in your life,” Jennifer said. “We price things well, because we want to sell them. I ask a fair price. I don’t overcharge. What’s the old expression? Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered.”