The Kerrisdale Antiques Fair has become a much loved and anticipated event in Vancouver. Now in its 16th year, it remains one of the few antique shows still being held on a regular basis. Offered in the spring and fall each year in the Kerrisdale Arena on the West Side, this show brings together some of the finest dealers from across BC as well as from other provinces…many of whom have been doing the show since it first began in 2002.
For Renee Lafontaine, the show’s organizer, setting up a two day antique show back then was a bit of a risk but she was ready. “I had been putting on our collector flea markets at the Croatian Cultural Centre successfully for two years which gave me the confidence to take on a bigger show.” She had also done her homework and initially sought out some help. “I brought on a business partner to help and we selected Kerrisdale for many reasons — the historic venue, great high-density neighbourhood, lots of parking, affluent demographic, etc.”
It was a lot more work to have a two day show and that was stressful at first for Lafontaine. “I totally underestimated what a huge undertaking it would be to mount a new show, and how much stress came with that…I don’t think I slept at all the week leading up to the first show! So much effort and expense had been put into promoting the show, but would anyone come? To this day, I still worry about that right up until we open the doors and the crowds roll in!”
Her fears were just fears. She didn’t have to worry back then nor does she need to worry today…there is an impressive loyal following of people who come to each show rain or shine. And, every season there is a new crop of eager and delighted shoppers, young and old, discovering the show for the first time. According to Lafontaine, there are between 2500 to 3000 people who attend the show over the two days.
And, the reason people keep coming back is because of the incredible amount of work and care that Lafontaine puts into each show. This is also why so many of the initial dealers have also stayed on to do the show year after year.
Wendy and Maynard Cook from Westminster Antiques remember the very first show well. “As every first show, there was cause for great anticipation,” says Maynard Cook. “We weren’t sure what to expect, but as always Renee, the show organizer, delivered. The buyers were excited to be there and the sellers brought a great display of wares. We sold everything from furniture to crystal and kept selling…with the busy crowds until the show closed.”
The Cooks, like many of the dealers, sell a large variety of items that they carefully select for these shows. “We have jewelry, clocks and bears as part of our display. We have found that the higher quality items sell well at this show and we try to hand pick a few of our better items to bring here.”
Jeff Harris, who along with his wife Jane run Westwillow Antiques, have also been doing the shows since 2002 and have even had the same spot near the front entrance. He remembers back to before Lafontaine had become a show organizer. “Many many years ago when she was a dealer I was one of the people who encouraged her to start doing the shows. There was a definite need. She is very much at home.” Harris goes on to say “she is wonderful at getting all the ducks in line. That is a side to her that we appreciate…her organizational skills. We respect that tremendously. She also has the ability to pull people into the show…and in this business that is a real art.”
Linda Devine has also been doing the show since the very beginning and has also been in the same spot ever since. “I guess what impressed me from the very first was the size of the crowds that waited patiently until the doors opened. Since then, the show has only gotten bigger and better, so I would never give up my prime spot just inside the entrance. I think I have only missed one show and that was because I was away on safari in Africa!”
Devine, who sells primarily high quality antique and designer jewellery, has noticed some interesting changes over time. “I have found over the years that the diversity of cultures in Vancouver is now reflected in the diversity of customers at the show. Young people come to look at engagement rings, older people look for items that excite memories and celebrate events such as anniversaries and birthdays.”
For Justin Tee, who sells antique and vintage silverware, the first show offered more than just a place to sell his wares. “I did pick up some new clients at that show that are still clients (and friends really) today.” He goes on to say that, “the only thing that has changed is we now sell exclusively high-end products because that is all the market wants right now.”
Sandy Sieradzan has very vivid memories from when the show was first held in the historical Kerrisdale Arena (which is a skating rink during the winter). “I remember the first show easily, because it was so cold! I think the ice had just been taken up a few days before and we would go outside to get warmed up. One of the dealers across from us, brought in a heating pad and we would all take turns sitting on it.” Sieradzan goes on to say that “It has certainly warmed up over the years. Thank goodness. But as each year passed more and more people have discovered this show, and we are so busy, no one has a chance to get cold.”
They sell mostly china and silver, “what we call pretties,” says Sieradzan. “Over the years we all try different things, like furniture or primitives. But for us, the pretties work the best. We had a customer tell us one time, that we were like two old crows, always going for the shiny. Then I guess he realized how he had said it, because he spent the next ten minutes trying to stammer his way out of that comment. We didn’t mind. We laughed, as it was true.”
Lafontaine also has some thoughts about how things have changed since the show first began. “Looking back at the early shows, we had a lot more furniture in the mix…the number of furniture dealers gradually declined over the years as the show evolved into more antique and vintage decor accessories, estate jewellery, ephemera — more “smalls” vs. large furniture pieces.”
Her theory is that people are reluctant to make big furniture purchases at a two-day show, since measurements usually need to be taken and people have to figure out how to get it home. “Lamps, chairs, occasional tables, and other smaller furniture pieces tend to be a much easier sell. And as the buyer demographic has changed over the years, so too has the styles they collect. Victoriana was very popular back when we started and now mid-century Modern is having its moment…it’s always been a cyclical business so it’s anyone’s guess what the next hot trends might be.”
But with all that said, Lafontaine cautions those who think that the show is not for them, “Don’t let the word antiques scare you–antiques and vintage collectibles come in all shapes and sizes…and prices! You’ll find retro mother-of-pearl buttons for $1 and maybe an Art Nouveau lamp for thousands…and just about everything in between!”
When asked what seems to sell the best at the show these days, Lafontaine says “jewellery is definitely at the top of the list, and then decorative accessories in vintage and antique glass, china, pottery and silver.” With an average of 60 dealer booths, totaling over 250 tables filled with everything you can imagine, there really is just about something for everyone. Whether you are a seasoned collector, dealer, avid shopper, or just curious, you might want to pop by the show to check it out for yourself.
Kerrisdale Antiques Show
2017 Dates: April 8 and 9 and September 2 and 3
5670 East Boulevard (at 41st Avenue)
Vancouver, British Columbia
Open 10am to 5pm
Children Under 13 Free with Adult
**Most of the images of the items above will be for sale at the show in April (where the dealer is indicated)
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