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By Beaty Coleman
Shoppers mine the continually evolving wealth of inventory along West Palm Beach’s South Dixie Highway
“There are enough 17th-century pieces on this strip for Europe to be empty,” says Palm Beach designer Leta Foster of West Palm Beach’s tony shopping enclave, the South Dixie Highway. This stretch of 35 shops, three restaurants, a tearoom, and several salons spans less than a mile and is otherwise known to dealers and designers as Antique Row. “It all started with dealers coming in to buy Palm Beach estates,” Foster says. “The auction houses, like Sotheby’s, were getting the good stuff, and the rest was going to Antique Row.”
Much to Foster’s delight, however, those days of leftovers are through. “The dealers on Antique Row are now getting the entire estates, plus they’re traveling the world and finding fabulous things on their own,” she says. The surge of activity on the strip escalated about 10 or 15 years ago and has been evolving ever since. A number of shops contribute to the street’s allure, and Foster shares a few of her favorites.
N.P. Trent Antiques is for the serious antiques connoisseur. “Stuart knows what he’s got, and it’ll be accurately reflected in the price,” Foster says of the shop’s owner, Stuart Peckner, who came from upstate New York about 25 years ago with his wife, Audrey. Previously, they mostly handled American furniture, but the couple refocused when they moved to Florida to accommodate the abundance of European and Georgian architecture. “Now we’re primarily English Continental dealers, and we only carry real things—no reproductions, no second period,” says Peckner.
Jeffrey Raphael opened their store, Jeffrey-Marie, six years ago. Jeffrey, having made his start in New York 30 years prior, enjoys the slower pace. “Like New York, Florida is a hub for designers, but it’s more relaxed for dealers and customers,’ he says. “We get decorators from Michigan, Boston, San Francisco , and New York usually working for clients who has homes in both places.’
The store has a little of everything from the 17th through the 18th and 19th centuries. “It’s mostly English, French, Italian, and some American pieces,” Raphael says.
“They have wonderful garden items, in addition to indoor furniture and a great selection of chandeliers and lighting fixtures,” says Foster.
Down the street at Michael MacLean Antiques, the merchandise is mostly furniture and accessories from the French provinces. “I buy from this store all the time,” remarks Foster. “The owners have a fine eye for antiques. They often go to Quebec and France to buy their merchandise.”
“Our style is very eclectic, from the 18th and early 19th centuries,” says Eugene Lessard, who owns the store with a partner, Michael Goudreau. “Our pieces tend to be sophisticated but not too precious or gaudy.”
Though the two travel all over Europe to buy for the store, they tend to have a lot of success finding items right here at home. “There are a lot of antiques in this country,” explains Lessard. “Many of our customers are getting older and paring down. They sell pieces right back to us that they may have bought 10 or 15 years ago.”
More pared down than the others is Wilson Antiques, owned by John and Nanci Wilson. The store features decorative pieces and garden ornaments. All the merchandise is set against a backdrop of colorless walls and poured concrete floors. “Even though most of the pieces are French and Italian, there is a Scandinavian quality. It’s a little more contemporary,” says Foster.
If you’re looking for the funky, wild, and even outlandish, visit Dolce Antiques. Owner Tony Sirianni combines odds and ends from old movie theaters in the 1940s and 1950s with collectible German figurines and everything in between. “Dolce has a fun flea-market atmosphere, but without the junk,” says Foster.
“I gravitate toward one-of-a-kind, unusual pieces running the gamut of 18th century to 1980s,” Sirianni says. “I don’t care about the age, as long as it’s a great, unique design.”