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February 27, 2012

Shop Talk: Andes Art and Antiques

Daily Star

---- — How long have you lived in the area?

Since 2004. You’d think it would be culture shock for a girl raised on 59th Street in Manhattan, but it’s not. Andes is the perfect place to be an entrepreneur in almost any business that doesn’t require a subway to get to it. Andes is the new America with lots of promise for business success. My gallery is a perfect example, and there are many businesses locating in these mountains that don’t need access to windows on Main Street. I’m finding people with whom I do business prefer to come here _ Why not? It’s paradise.

Tell me about your business:

Andes Art and Antiques shows the best fine art, furniture, decorative arts, jewelry and rare books that were produced over two centuries. Occasionally we have a contemporary show to pay tribute to the talent that comes to our attention all the time. There are outstanding young artists and photographers, furniture makers and artisans who deserve recognition. The antiques in the AAA Gallery are mostly American country and occasionally European. Right now we are preparing for our Mid-Century Modernist show that will open over Memorial Day Weekend. My partner in the show, Dr. Bobby Bui, is a professor of psychology at the college in Delhi. Dr. Bui has had a lifelong love for Mid-Century design and workmanship, and we have been collecting the most exciting pieces dating from 1930 through the 1950s. Everything is affordable, and many stunning pieces can only be found in museums around the world. This show is an opportunity for new and seasoned collectors, and a brilliant investment to buy and live with great art and design.

Describe a typical day in your business:

Lots of waiting. The gallery is located in a small barn behind my Victorian house on Main Street in the mountain village of Andes. Fortunately, a main road runs through it, between Kingston/Margaretville and Delhi/Oneonta, so we do get traffic. During long lulls between crowds storming the barn doors (not gonna happen), there’s always something to do. The days fly, and there never seems to be enough time. You’d be amazed at how many people have come to trust us and bring us wonderful objects to buy, and of course the phones ring off the hook some days. It’s a nice life and a good career building a business in what actress Jane Fonda calls this time of life _ The Third Act.

How did you get started in this line of work?

My parents were pack rats and they loved to buy. They filled three properties in Vermont and when my Dad died, it took a seven-day auction to even make a dent in the accumulation. Like any kid, I said “never!” Here I am loving it as much as they did and thanking them every day for the appreciation of beauty they instilled in me.

Where do you see this business in five years?

Wow! Who knows? Not to get political, but a lot has to do with the economy, which, you may have noticed, is in a slump. Art and antiques is an established, good way to live well and invest in the things with which we surround ourselves. It’s certainly lower risk than most options, but who knows where our world is going. I do know we have major inquiries about our inventory from places with unpronounceable names _ everybody wants to collect and there’s plenty of money in other countries.

Describe a memorable moment in your workplace:

Francesca Zambello, the head of the internationally acclaimed Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, joined forces with Andes Art and Antiques to have an operatic fundraiser in our barn. It was thrilling to work with the great impresario and when the curtain was about to go up, an enormous blizzard came down. The Glimmerglass stars, already on the road traveling toward Andes, called to report the roads virtually impassable and they had to turn back. We knew the show must go on. Friends had gathered in the gallery for the Glimmerglass event, the first of its kind in the little hamlet of Andes. Daniele Hendrix and Deborah Raymond hopped in their jeep, took the back roads back to their house, and returned with a guitar.

What have you learned from your work?

Ah, every day is a learning experience in the art and antiques business, and it’s hard to know where to begin. I’ve learned that beauty and talent come in many surprising and unexpected forms. Good taste and bad taste are highly individual, and we work hard to keep the level of excellence uncompromising and high in our gallery, according to our standard. Many people admire our judgment and we boast a long list of happy people who trust the gallery to help them make good decisions. Remarkably, hardly a day goes by that some superb artifact or artist doesn’t come through the front door for sale or appraisal. Conversely, bad taste abounds, and there’s no way to convince somebody who believes they have a treasure when they don’t.

What is the most challenging part of what you do?

Risk. Every time the gallery makes a purchase, my taste, confidence, intuition and courage are on the line. We pass that along to our clients who depend on our judgment, so we work hard not to make too many mistakes.

The most enjoyable?

To live in this pristine watershed environment, surrounded by lush landscapes, and add to that some of the most beautiful art and antiques ever gathered under one roof _ It’s a thrill. Even when business is down, our spirits are up. All we do is look around us _ indoors and outdoors, we are surrounded by beauty and there’s no pressure from a frenzied civilization. That’s more than enjoyable _ it’s a life goal, and I’m so grateful.

How do you define success for your business?

My life and business are successful exactly as they are. If this is as far as the business ever goes, I consider it successful. It’s the power of enough. It will never have franchises around the world. Everything here is beautiful. Everything is one of a kind. Everything here is quality. My house is beautiful. And the commute to the gallery is 15 steps from the kitchen door. Sounds like success to me.

What are some advantages as well as drawbacks of doing business in this area?

The best part of living and working in the mountains is the ease of living and the surrounding beauty. The drawback is winter when cold weather and snow slows tourism and business down, but then community and friends come together, sit by the fire and schmooze until spring breaks through and business booms again. Beats Florida, if you ask me.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

Sounds a bit arrogant, but we don’t have any competition that we’ve ever run into it around here. You’d have to find a Madison Avenue gallery or a small museum gallery in Europe to find the collection you’ll find at Andes Art and Antiques, and we’re affordable. People come from all over to check in with the gallery. We’re located a quick drive from the city. Our slogan is “Come climb the mountains, it’s worth it.”

What advice would you give to someone trying to enter your field of work?

Come on up and open a business in this exciting little village. It’s like Woodstock must’ve been just before it became a center for arts and entertainment. There’s so much opportunity here for a fraction of the cost of opening anywhere else. This is the best-kept secret and greatest bargain in the entrepreneurial marketplace. There’s room for everyone and opportunity for growth and pleasure. You’d be amazed at the exciting people of all ages who are settling in Andes. Join us.

Shop Talk interviews are conducted by Cassandra Miller. For information, call The Daily Star at 432-1000, ext. 255, or email