“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” So goes the age-old adage. Some men have taken this more to heart than others, such as Perry Rosenblum, owner of Englishtown Antiques and Used Furniture. He has made it his life’s business, working with antiques for over thirty-eight years.
The words “antique store” call to mind over-scrupulous collectors of valuables not to be touched, let alone mishandled, by the clumsy hands of the common consumer. Along with a thick coating of dust, these are the usual preconceptions surrounding antique vendors. Englishtown Antiques retains the dust and dispels the rest.
The store’s exterior is inauspicious enough in design, but take a closer glance and you will already find an inkling of what takes places inside. Old chairs and bicycle parts are strewn about the porch. Store workers are busy moving furniture from a truck through the front entrance.
Once inside you are treated to a buffet of miscellanea. The aisles are packed with used goods ranging in size and shape from bedroom armoires to decks of playing cards. An array of lamps, bowls, and figurines crowd every flat surface, including those of the desks and dresser drawers on display. Objects in boxes are stacked haphazardly so that sorting through them is a precarious enterprise. But, as any thrift shopper knows, the disorder is all part of the fun.
Rosenblum has been in his current location for 13 years. Antique collecting is something that runs in his family. Growing up, he and his father collected old coins, stamps and clocks, and now his daughter helps him run his store. Most of their items are purchased in bulk from estate sales and retirement homes. Their store is the biggest of its kind in the state, and they boast the largest collection of used drinking glasses as well.
Rosenblum says business has been good and steady, even amidst the economic downturn. He modestly denies having any prized gems in his collection. “There are just a lot of little things,” he says. “It all depends what you’re looking for.”
“I always see something interesting in here,” said one shopper, who preferred not to be named. “I don’t always get something, but I try to come in once a week.”
There is certainly plenty to keep the avid seeker busy. The store is loosely arranged into sections. The main section showcases the furniture, but beyond this there are sections for books, rugs, clothing, ladders, and more. There are shelves labeled “forks only” and “stemware only.” A whole room is dedicated solely to kitchen appliances. It is not a store whose product can be assessed in a single visit, especially since the influx of goods changes from week to week.
One of the store’s more unusual aspects is that it sells photographs of normal people, the kind you would find in your own home of family and friends. These can be found throughout the warehouse; they are not bound to a specific section. The left-over estates that provide for the majority of the store’s product are bought in bulk, baby pictures and all.
This undiscriminating inclusiveness adds depth to the store’s items. In our modern world of IKEAs and Wal-Marts, where every sale item is produced en masse for uniform consumption, it is refreshing to find a store where every item is unique. The store is not unlike a museum of personal belongings. The host of objects forms a living record of history, albeit one that is mundane and unspecific; regardless, one feels a special force surrounded by such detritus. In proximity to life, these artifacts have taken on life of their own.
It may take a while before you find something that calls to you, but it is well worth the hunt when you do.