'Antique Row' features collectibles, conversation Bel Air boutiques showcase history

October 04, 1992|By Frank Lynch | Frank Lynch,Staff Writer

Felicia Johnson got into the antiques business quite by accident.

Her husband, Andrew, offered her a challenge to "clean out our attic of everything you've collected and I'll take you Europe."

"It was a challenge with an outstanding reward," laughed the native New Yorker as she maneuvered her way through the nooks and crannies of her Main Street shop.

"Besides, I knew I'd find items in Europe to replenish the ones I sold."

So, it was off to Cockeysville and Bill Bentley's "Antique Show Mart" where she parted with her treasures. During the transaction she discovered she could rent space to sell her collectibles and keep her husband happy by keeping the attic uncluttered.

It was at Bentley's that she met Bill Ensminger. Eight years have passed since she and Mr. Ensminger decided to set up shop, and "people are still discovering us for the first time," she said.

"People drive past every day and don't realize they're passing a treasure chest of history," said Mrs. Johnson, who taught for 18 years at Bel Air Elementary School.

"We've tried numerous ways to let people know where we're located. Perhaps the town could officially designate this area 'antique row.' "

It certainly wouldn't be a misnomer. Anyone visiting the area notices 14 dealers doing business between Lee and Gordon streets. In Mrs. Johnson's shop, Bel Air Antiques etc., there are eight.

The shop, located at 122 N. Main St., was formerly a candy shop that ran into difficulty when the owner decided to sell ice cream.

"There was nothing wrong with the candy or ice cream, but the owner was told she would have to install some $6,000 worth of equipment to meet [health] regulations," said Mrs. Johnson. Rather than invest, she decided to leave the business.

A casual browser discovers that glassware is the most popular ** item in the shop, but items such as jewelry, china, clocks, furniture, post cards, books and magazines are well-represented.

One valuable item carries no price tag.

It is conversation.

No matter which dealer is serving a customer, there's a good chance he or she will be given a complete history of each item that has attracted attention.

"We [antique dealers] get so immersed in what we're doing, we have a tendency to tell all we know about the item," said Mrs. Johnson.

In addition to Mrs. Johnson and Mr. Ensminger, others offering items and conversation at the shop are Kathy Taylor, Frank Garlitz, Sally Jordan, John Harrison, the partnership of Othal DeShazo and Rosanne Santoro, as well as Andrew Johnson -- the man responsible for launching the entire operation with the challenge to his wife.

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