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A Passion for Antiques

Woman juggles Diamonds & Rust, Inc. with head-hunting business.

Blood stirs through Marcia Hall’s veins when she comes across unusual items, say orange slag — pottery from the 1950s and '60s — or a 50-year-old baton with accompanying instruction booklet. Hall, an historic Centreville resident, can’t just buy one of whatever she finds. It starts off with one, but then she buys another, then another, and soon she has an entire collection of pink milk glasses or beaded purses from the 1920s and '30s.

"It’s in your blood if you’re a collector," says Hall. "You want one, then two, then a bunch. I’ve been this way since childhood."

Hall, owner of Diamonds & Rust Enterprises Inc., an antique and collectibles store in Chantilly, buys whatever sparks her interests, and often goes through phases buying and selling entire collections of items such as English chintz and ceramic head vases. Lately she has focused on items geared towards women, collecting old hats and doll clothing.

"Sometimes people don’t ever care about these things. But some people have an attachment to the past. People who like antiques want to hold on to the past," she said.

Suzanne Killian Gear of Reston, herself a collector, thinks Hall has a fabulous eye. "She gets interesting things," said Gear. "She had beautiful unusual greeting cards that had antique photos and very unusual captions — very funny," said Gear.

Hall described a "Dennis the Menace" puppet she bought. "It had a broken head," she said. "Two sisters bought it from me. They bought it for their mother after her house burned down." The sisters were trying to replace all the items they had grown up with, Hall explained.

FIVE YEARS AGO, while taking Sunday drives into the country with her husband to shop antique malls, Hall made a discovery. "I found out that in antique malls, people run their own businesses."

Hall, a business owner herself at the time — she ran and still runs her own head-hunting company — decided that she wanted to try something different. "I’ve always been entrepreneurial. The antique business was something new and exciting."

Hall rented space in an antique mall, and began selling some of the items she had collected through the years. Around this same time she also discovered eBay.

"I got hooked on eBay," said Hall. "I started buying at first, and I was a nut. I was hooked on the whole concept. I was even getting up at night to buy." Hall soon realized that she could sell her antiques through eBay as well. "I had too many," she said.

OVER THE NEXT two to three years, Hall continued to work her head-hunting business full-time, and did her antiquing and collecting on the side. Then 9-11 occurred, and with the economy stagnating, her head-hunting business suffered. She didn’t have enough income to support the number of employees she had, and was forced to lay some of them off.

After the layoffs, Hall realized she was renting too much office space. On the weekends, she still pursued her hobby, renting space in antique malls to sell her collections. "I thought, why am I doing this – why am I paying them rent?" After talking with her business advisors and accountant, Hall chopped her office space in two, and decided to run both businesses at the same time and in the same place.

With the front half of her office devoted to displaying and selling her antique collections, and the back half devoted to her head-hunting business, Hall found herself working at least 12 hours every day. She realized she had to cut back. "At times I said, what am I doing this for? The main business is the important one. I could give up antiques, but I love it."

With the antique business pulling in revenue, Hall hired employees to help run the antique half of the office. Hall admitted that she loves to buy and read through antiquing magazines, and that she loves looking at anything on eBay. What she does not love, though, is being a decorator.

"That’s not my strength," she said. "I delegate that."

AS A WHOLE, antique businesses are not doing well these days, she says. "Antiques are luxury items, things you don’t have to have," said Hall. "Several dealers have gone out of business. I’m very fortunate because I’m paying this rent regardless."

Halls says she’s sort of figured out the retail side of antiquing; if it’s a rainy day, of course you’re not going to have as many customers. eBay, on the other hand, remains a challenge. "It’s been the hardest to figure out. So far I haven’t seen any rhyme or reason to things other than Christmas."

Hall continues to purchase and sell antiques that interest her. She dedicates one room in her shop to collections of women's clothing, hats, and purses, and a hutch in the main hall displays collections of English china and ceramic head vases. "I am gearing towards women's clothing," said Hall. "Trying to please everyone gets me in trouble. I'm a collector myself, and if I think this is cool, then this is cool."

Diamonds & Rust is located at 4515 Daly Drive, Suite N, in Chantilly, and can be reached by phone at 703-222-9085.