The total gate at Marburger Antiques Shows, as well as the number of men attending as judged visually and by hamburger and beer consumption, is up. Promoter Rick McConn says its the fourth straight record gate-up some ten percent this year. That he says, is a testament to both Texas and Round Top.
But that hasn’t stopped veterans in the industry who spoke with us but declined to go on the record to sound off with warnings about an event that now stretches over the better part of a month. The shows held down the road in Warrenton, Texas are now open some two weeks before the “main events” like Marburger and the Big Red Barn open their gates.
That, some say, is bringing in wholesale buyers earlier and earlier–buyers that now may never make it to Marburger. It may also mean the retail customers at Red Barn and Marburger never make it to Warrenton figuring that after two weeks it’s been picked over.
Melissa Sands, a Chicago-based dealer and promoter visited the shows at Round Top and Warrenton for the first time this Spring. She spoke with a number of dealer friends at Marburger who indicated they hadn’t been to the Warrenton shows. That may be an indication of issues for a retail customers wanting to visit all the shows.
“No retail customer is going to hang around there for fourteen days,” Sands says. “Everyone told me if I wanted to really get a piece of Warrenton I should have been there the week before. That was discouraging.
“The danger here is creating a dead space between the swing of Warrenton shows and the swing of Red Barn and Marburger. It would be like two different shows”
Dealer Kim Leggett and her husband David have been dealers at a number of Round Top and Warrenton shows for years. This year she says she arrived on Wednesday to set up at Zapp Hall only to find other dealers had been there since Saturday. Worse, many of her regular customers had already come and gone.
Leggett says in the last three or four years its become a race to see who can get there first. That, she says, has made it difficult to do the show.
“Texas is the land of milk and honey,” she says explaining that as the business suffers everyone has counted on these shows to help make up for it, but its difficult for buyers and dealers to stay there for three weeks.
“My customers ask ‘when did this thing start,'” Leggett comments. “I tell them two weeks ago and they respond with ‘maybe that’s why I’m not fining anything.'”
Worse, she says, as a dealer traditionally about half of sales had been made up from merchandise that had been flipped during the week. That has dried up as customers from the coasts have learned to arrive and pick before the dealers do. She says while she used to spend $10,000 to $15,000 spending at early buying, than sum has gone down to $1,000 or so.
Leggett says she has a great time at the Texas shows and while it was still a good show it could have been better. Still staying there for three weeks is expensive and exhausting. As a result, she says she may make the trek to Brimfield instead this fall.
“This same thing happened in Brimfield a while back and almost killed the show,” she adds. “It’s really become the wild west, they have to get a handle on it.”
McConn says he doesn’t know for sure if the extended period of time good or bad, but does say it hasn’t had any impact on Marburger Antiques Show. In fact, he says many dealers are getting worn out by it and looking to shows like Marburger instead.
Still McConn comments that the event should be compressed into two weeks, but everyone wants to be first. That could have the potential to dilute the show experience.
While numbers now are up, the drawn out time period may be more of a threat than some realize. Past evidence shows similar experiences in Brimfield and Nashville. The shows in Brimfield for example are now compressed into five days.
Suzy Kirchberg, owner and publisher of Show Daily, a publication geared for event attendees also says she wouldn’t consider the situation out of hand. “The general report from the whole show area was that this spring was one of the best in recent history,” Kirchberg says. “Marburger and the Red Barn are higher end shows with paid admission. By the time they open, many dealers in the fields have already sold well (often to Marburger and Red Barn dealers). In my opinion, it is just the nature of the show, and it has been the way it is for years.”