A service call at the Antique Marketplace in December prompted a kidding conversation between Jimmy Bishop and Al Ely.
“He asked me if I wanted to buy it,” Bishop said. His first response was a firm no. Within a week, negotiations had begun and Feb. 21, the historic downtown building had a new set of owners.
Bishop, along with his wife, Donna, their son, Michael and his wife, Melissa, have found it to be a great venture and have many plans for the place.
“I may have started something,” Bishop said. “Donna and Melissa said they are really interested in the antiques. I found out my wife is really crazy about them.”
Walking into the building, the first thing many people might notice is the loud pounding overhead. It’s temporary though, but a necessity.
Bishop knew what he was getting into when he bought the old building — all 7,000 square feet. The roof was in extremely bad shape and at one point before Ely had purchased it in late 2008, there was talk it would need to be condemned. The Antique Marketplace & Tea Room is one of Duncan’s favorite attractions and one of Main Street’s largest buildings.
Bishop’s no stranger to renovating old buildings. In fact, one might say it’s a passion of his to restore them. He’s bought four such buildings in the downtown Main Street district and another three farther east. One of the properties is the old Henderson building, which is also undergoing renovation.
His first job on the Antique Marketplace has been repairing the roof.
“There were 13 layers of roof in some spots. The roof was in horrible shape. I’ve completed about half of it,” he said. The process involves completely stripping all the old roof and tar off to the deck. Already the roof is safer and stronger, he said.
“I also modernized all the electric to help reduce the bill,” he said. That included replacing the heating and air conditioning ventilation system. What’s most noticeable is the work Bishop and his family are doing inside the store. They’ve ripped out the old carpet in the windows and other places. And taken the advice of old-timers by washing the original wooden floor with linseed oil.
Bishop’s excitement is contagious among his family.
Donna brags about the “guy’s booth,” that her husband shopped for — manly-scented candles, sports and hunting items, T-shirts and other unique novelty items.
Melissa is overseeing the store and everything is getting a thorough cleaning.
“I always thought running a store or restaurant would be fun,” she said. “The remodeling is making it cleaner and I absolutely love everything about it.”
Melissa isn’t a stranger to downtown retail or great customer service.
“My grandfather had Campbell’s. If I run it half as good as my grandfather, Buddy Campbell ran his business, I’m doing good,” she said, obviously proud.
Inside the store there are many booths with a variety of products, but Melissa said the place will remain about half antiques and the other half will have booths with new market items.
“We’re keeping it the place everyone has loved, but right now it’s about a 50-50 blend,” she said.
Part of the fun overseeing the store has been seeing what people like to buy. On one particular day an antique bench attracted not one, but three different buyers. The bench had been at the store for six months with apparently no interest.
It’s things like that which keep the days interesting. One of Melissa’s favorite booths to promote is the Stephens County Humane Society’s Friends booth. She said people who want to donate can bring the items to the store and she will price them and get them on the shelves of that booth to help out the organization.
“They won’t have to take them all the way to the shelter,” she said. Profits benefit the Friend’s group which helps support the Humane Society shelter.
And Melissa is busy handling the waiting list for vendors and is working on some changes that will improve the appearance of the Tea Room. There’s plans to expand the Tea Room seating area and its kitchen.
“We have lots of exciting things coming,” Melissa said.
Bishop said in the renovation process, he’s discovered many interesting things — like the fact the building’s about 30 years older then originally believed.
“We are going to upgrade the building but don’t want to take away from the nostalgia,” Bishop said. To prove his point, he showed several antique glass display cases that he and Donna brought back from Missouri during a recent trip.
“We went up there to get one but found two more. We’ll use them up front,” he said. Bishop is in the process of restoring the store’s outside business sign. He compares it to a landmark for Main Street.
“I love doing this. Main Street is an important part of Duncan,” he said.
— Toni Hopper is a reporter for The Duncan Banner. She can be reached at 580-255-5354, Ext. 132 or by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.