VERONA – Ruth Stanford says she went into the antiques business as an outlet for her own growing collector’s passion.
“I’ve been a collector,” admits the former school principal, “and I enjoy buying. But I realized I had more than I needed” at her Auburn community home.
And so she’s in her ninth year as a partner at Raymond Trice Co. Antiques, a mainstay of downtown Verona’s collectibles trade.
Just as she did for years at Saltillo Elementary School, Stanford has thrown herself full force into the business she shares with Nell Hill, Nancy Bradley, Sandra Ballard and Linda Johnson.
They take turns running the place seven days a week.
It’s gotten her out of her house, where her own collections include Santas, antique linens and dinnerware.
“The Santa collection started with my school kids – they would give them to me,” she recalls. “I don’t know how many I’ve got. Probably hundreds.”
She also admits she loves Christmas and decorates at least five trees at home with Santas, crystals and crosses, and other themes.
The 66-year-old mother of two grown children continues her ties to education, too. She teachers online library certification classes through Blue Mountain College and is a school administrator-mentor through the North Mississippi Education Consortium.
“I retired from one job to another,” she says with a laugh.
Stanford says she finds the antiques business exciting. “It’s the thrill of the hunt. You want to find something special.”
She also can be found reading up on collectibles so she can make wise selections on buying trips.
Soon, she and her husband of 46 years, John, will head to Indiana in search of primitive furniture, which she says is very hot with buyers. She’s especially on the lookout for stepback cabinets and kitchen cabinets.
A memorable find on one trip was an antique dental cabinet, with its original green paint. It even had a towel bin.
“The lady who bought it put it in her bathroom,” Stanford said.
Ever thinking about her customers, she keeps a list of their wanted items to make the most of her buying trips.
Her oddest request? A salt-and-pepper shaker set shaped like a hamburger.
Her own weaknesses? Dinnerware of white ironstone, blue by the McCartys of Merigold and classic pre-World War II Blue Willow.
“I collect oblong and rectangular patters in Blue Willow,” she said. “I don’t use them. I just look at them.”
She even collected chicken figures once, but that’s been “downsized.”
And there are her birdhouses. A lot of them.
“My husband just built us a new deck and my birdhouses line it,” she said, noting she’s kept quite a few others in the house, especially her favorites that resemble miniature churches.
As for her customers, Stanford says their interests are as varied as they are – small items, furniture, fabrics, glassware and dishes.
“Recently, we’ve been selling a lot of large furniture,” the children’s Sunday School teacher notes. “I see quite a few people building log houses or cabins. They want special items.”
And she observes that what’s old is new again – antiques are the new recyclables – old doors, windows, especially architectural items like mantles, wrought-iron posts and other things to be repurposed.
One hot trend is to buy an antique sideboard and turn it into a bathroom vanity with bowl-style sinks atop, she said.
Her advice to would-be collectors: Find what you love. Don’t just collect to collect. And get a book about it so you can identify it.
“You have to be careful,” she said. “There are a lot of reproductions out there.”
Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal