The Reign Of Antiques In Sandwich
When people from Illinois think about Sandwich, they probably think of the Sandwich Fair. It’s one of the oldest county fairs in the state. But the city has another claim to fame: antiques.
At Prindi’s, one of Sandwich’s largest antique stores, a big sign adorns the front window reading “ANTIQUES.” But they sell more than just old items -- some are rare or just unique.
“Call it upscale garage sale,” said Prindi’s owner and namesake Roger Prindiville. “A lot of stuff that’s not antiques, but people love it.”
For a city of just over 7,000 people, Sandwich sports more than a dozen antique stores. Along with that, there is an antique market that comes to the hallowed fairgrounds once a month during the summer.
The antique market is not as big as it used to be. But most agree that the lineage of antiquing in Sandwich goes back 30 years. Back then, hundreds of vendors packed the grounds, and soon after followed the very first antique stores.
Sandwich Antique Mart co-owner Becky Kukuk remembers the golden age of the market well. “The fairgrounds was the thing to do, and I’m surprised we didn’t have more shops earlier than that because the town just thrived,” said Kukuk. “The grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants -- it was amazing.”
The Antique Mart is the oldest store in Sandwich, recently celebrating its 29th anniversary. It’s a more traditional antique store, you won’t find any newer flea market fare. You will find plenty of crocks, toys, tables, and all sorts of other “primitives” dating back to the late 1800s.
But they’ve had to adapt their store as well, as styles ebb and flow. Over the course of decades, items that used to be more modern start to come back as antiques when that generation grows older.
“It’s more like the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s that are more popular now,” said Kukuk.
Another one of the more traditional antique stores is Old Timers. Linda Ament is the store’s manager. She has seen this trend up close as well, and has been able to take advantage of it in a unique way.
“We have several of the theaters downtown Chicago who frequently come down here for props,” she said. “If they’re doing a ‘50s era play they come in and will buy clothing and lamps and furniture and magazines, things that you would lay around on the tables, ‘50s tableware -- they just want the look.”
Back at Prindi’s, the resale atmosphere distinguishes them from some of the other stores and opens them up to merchandise that wouldn’t necessarily have a place at an antique store. And as Prindiville recalls, those finds can be right around the corner if you’re looking for them.
“There’s a bar around the corner, you may have noticed it, it’s a redwood surface with a driftwood base; very unique, certainly one-of-a-kind handmade,” said Prindiville. “Had to look it up online and they’re going for $6,000 to $7,000. That was just a few blocks away; folks moving to Florida and they couldn’t take it.”
Although business gets more tricky in the age of the internet, the stores are able to help each other and drive business for all 13 stores, and collaborate on events.
They’re also willing to help the other stores get a sale if they can’t, said Linda Ament from Old Timers.
“We work together, we refer customers back and forth. If I know someone is looking for something we don’t have it, I send them somewhere else where I know they will have it,” said Ament. “You can judge what they’re looking for, and there is something for everyone between the shops.”
As hard as running an antique store may be, it helps when you believe the price of preserving history is too great to ignore. That’s according to the owners of the Antique Market.
“It’s just in our blood. We wake up with it in the morning, of what we’re going to do next,” said Kukuk.
“And we’re teaching, we’re teaching the next generation,” said Maroo. “It’s history -- this whole shop is history.”
It looks like the past will continue to have a big place in Sandwich’s future. As the Antique Market at the fairgrounds picks back up again and new opportunities start to emerge.
The next Antique Market will be held on Sunday, August 12, at the Sandwich Fairgrounds.