Any country antique fan need venture no farther than 128 S. Royal St. in Old Town Alexandria. That’s where they’ll find Wayne Fisher’s Antiques At Home.
Now in its 13th year, the shop opened in 1990 at 114 S. Royal St. and moved to the new location a year ago. “It just got too small. When this location became available it was a rare opportunity. It has about four times as much space,” Fisher said.
“I started my business in a time of recession and I enlarged it in a time of recession,” he emphasized. “Too many people don’t run this business as a business. They are in it because of their love of antiques and they forget you have to both buy and sell to make it profitable.”
Fisher moved to Alexandria 23 years ago to complete his doctorate in Art History at George Washington University. He holds a Masters in painting from American University and a bachelors from the State University of New York in Geneseo. Prior to entering the antique business he served as a college administrator at West Chester State University in West Chester, PA.
“I have also done a lot of writing in design and for promotional pieces. I am now exploring becoming a freelance writer on antiques for various publications,” he revealed. “I want to write about the design potential that antiques offer.”
Fisher describes his shop as “three centuries of American antiques.” The primary emphasis is on country antiques surrounded by folk and decorative art pieces from the very petite to large stain glass transoms which once adorned country homes throughout the rural northeast.
“We have everything from stoneware to paper objects to furniture and decorative pieces such as old weathervanes,” he pointed out. “All the objects have real design potential. Many people can’t see the contemporary use of artifacts from the past.
“Helping customers with that aspect of antique collecting is one of the other facets of this profession. I have always furnished my own home with antiques rather than contemporary furniture.”
FISHER’S HOME IS A showplace itself, both in furnishings and as a structure. Located on Wolfe Street it was the first home in the nation to be refurbished by the Federal Housing Administration when they began to encourage preservation and rehabilitation.
Purchased for $1,600 in 1931, it was opened to the public in 1935. Upon its rejuvenation, it was featured in House Beautiful and various architectural magazines, according to Fisher. He purchased it in 1997. “We think the main portion of the house was built in the 1770’s,” he said.
Fisher recently returned from one of his four major buying trips per year. This one took him to Nashville, TN. “I travel a great deal to get my merchandise because it’s getting harder and harder to acquire,” he noted.
“The market is rapidly diminishing. There is only so much out there. It’s not a wonder why prices are escalating no more than they are,” Fisher insisted.
“There’s not going to be anymore where these pieces came from. The market is shutting out a lot of people who can no longer afford the prices. But, there is also a lot out there that is very over priced,” he acknowledged.
FISHER ALSO VIEWS his business, selling, acquiring, and just observing antiques, as a chance to show and see “a tremendous amount of human endeavor. For the price of entrance to an antique show you get to spend a whole day, if you choose, observing history.”
He attributes his early success to receiving “a lot of encouragement from dealers who had been in the business for many years” and a good eye, although he does admit to sometimes buying on pure emotion. As an example he held up a rather rough-hewn birdhouse and exclaimed, “I paid far too much for this. But, at the time, I just had to have it.”
Fisher feels most people are too driven by mass marketing and style magazines. “People don’t have enough confidence in their own judgement,” he observed.
Just then a customer lifted a small painting off the wall and noticed it had two cows almost hidden in the landscape. “I’ll take it,” she said. “I love cows.”
They are country.