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A Memorial Event For A Route 1 Landmark

Memorial Day is a time to reflect on the past. This year you can do it by bidding on the past.

Starting at 10 a.m. on May 25, the start of the Memorial Day Weekend, the final auction at, and for Thieves Market will begin, according to its long time owner, Kaplan Cohen. It will be one day only and open to all antiquers and collectors. It will end when the last item is going, going, gone.

"We hope to sell everything that belongs to Thieves Market. That includes the name Thieves Market and its telephone number," Cohen said. "If you are going into the antique mall business, it's the name to have in this area."

Located at 8101 Richmond Highway, Thieves Market is the oldest ongoing antique mall in the country, according to Cohen. Started by his father, it's been on Route 1 for 40 years. Ten years prior to that it was located in Falls Church.

Cohen indicated that the new owners, by the name of Nassafi, presently plan to keep the building open as an antique mall and may use the same name "if they are the successful bidders for it at the auction," according to Cohen. They have also purchased the former restaurant, The Rib Rack, located on the same property, and plan to reopen it, Cohen noted.

As for his future, Cohen is planning to move to south Florida and open another antique shop but not a mall. "I am trying to go gracefully into the night. I'm the last of the Mohicans and I'm going down stream," he explained.

"Six of the present dealers plan to stay [at Thieves Market] and more are coming in. Among those remaining are Sackville Galleries, Deans, and Estates of Middleburg," Cohen said.

"There are literally hundreds of items up for auction. We hope to sell everything," he noted. When asked how much he hoped to realize from the sale, Cohen said, "I have no idea. It will bring what it will bring. We used to do 20 auctions a year and we never could predict the outcome."

AUCTION ITEMS INCLUDE antiques, china, silver, decorations of all kinds, and a wide array of eclectic conversation pieces. Some of the items are extremely rare as well as extremely unusual. They include:

* Grandmother's Predictions. A coin operated manikin of an old woman fortuneteller seated in a glass and walnut encasement over six feet tall. It originally dispensed its "wisdom" at a Pennsylvania amusement park.

* Several huge crystal chandeliers, including one that served as the magnificent center piece of the Washington Shoreham Hotel.

* A seven-foot high stained glass door and a large wood and stained glass circular encasement from a New York City cathedral.

* A brass lobby directory from the D.C. Transit Building that has not been touched since it was removed. It still lists the names and room numbers of the original tenants.

* And perhaps one of the most eclectic of the offerings, a five-foot high, four-foot wide, cast iron sign on a pedestal entitled "Lovers' Leap." It was produced by the West Virginia Department of Archives and History in 1971 to introduce visitors to a three state panorama of West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

MANY OF THE established dealers have already vacated the property. Some have relocated, such as the Scarlet Fox, which has opened in Old Town, while others, such as Francoise's Antiques, one of Thieves Market's longest standing dealers, have decided to retire.

Cohen has referred to the closing as both "the end of an era" and "a new beginning." He insisted, "I still have a lot of living to do. I'm just going to do it in sunny Florida."