The Antique Center in Little Falls is celebrating its 25th year of operation this month.
by Dave Warner
When the Alegro Shoe Factory came down in Canal Place, all of a sudden, the two stone buildings along the river were very visible according to Linda Vincent, who started The Little Falls Antique Center business 25 years ago.
She said that the building which is now the Stone Mill had activity in it, but that the Antique Center did not. “We had some ideas about what to do. It was the late 80s and mixed-use was a thing. The thruway was taking over the canal and the governor was talking about a string of pearls along the canal.”
At the same time, Little Falls was being looked at to be one of the seven canal harbors, and there were a lot of tourism plans. “We looked at that building and said, OK, mixed-use would be great, so be bought it.”
She said that there wasn’t even one window in the building when they purchased it and that it was all cement blocks. “It was dark, dirty, with no plumbing, no electric, and no mechanicals.”
How the building looks today, and what is inside it, is pretty much the idea they had when they got started. “We didn’t pay much for it, but we sat on it for a long time,” she said.
A friend told her that Little Falls needed an Antique Center, and Vincent had already worked in retail, so the idea wasn’t that appealing to her. “But, an Antique Center is a co-op and I figured that there was room for 25 dealers and that the income would be decent enough.”
With 25 helpers in there, she thought that she wouldn’t have to work that often, because that would cover all but 5-7 days of a month. “At the time we didn’t have a lot of money, so we did just the first floor,” she said.
Vincent pestered Tony Carlisto enough to where he said he’d help with the architectural design for the building, even though it wasn’t the type of work he normally did.
They opened the first floor on October 1, 1996, with just four dealers. “With that small of a number, I was working 25-26 days a month and I didn’t have much money coming in.”
It took them about 18 months to start getting enough dealers in the building to make the model work. Vincent went to every dealer and show in the area, handing out flyers and letting them know about the location. “The best antique dealers want to know who’s in your shop, who comes, and they said, where’s Little Falls?”
Initially, she said that you get the low-end dealers who don’t worry because they don’t have thousands of dollars of antiques that they’re leaving with you. “It’s hard to get going. However, once we did the work on the first floor and opened it up, it was just so beautiful. You could see the floors sanded and with the windows, the light was incredible,” Vincent stated.
The success with the first floor gave them the confidence to do the second floor, and then do apartments on the third as they had originally planned. “By that time, we were almost full on the first floor and opened the second in the spring of 1998.”
“It took a while, but then we had a waiting list from some of the people who wouldn’t come originally,” she said.
Vincent said that Martha Boyles started with them at the beginning with just one case and she ended up with four floor spots. “She’s still there, doing well, and traffic is good for her.”
After her husband’s accident, she realized it was too much to keep working there and sold the business. “It took a long time to find the right person who wanted both. I was running it and owning it, so we couldn’t find people who wanted to be saddled like that.”
Finally, one of the dealers from Utica came along and was willing to rent the first two floors and run it, so that’s when they were able to work out a deal that allowed Shelly Villata to purchase the building. “That was five years ok, and it was perfect,” Vincent stated.
Debbie and Gary Rotzler now manage the two floors of antiques and Debbie said, “Our anniversary was on September 1st, 2018, so we’ve managed this for three years. Lisa was the manager at the time and she was moving to Florida and they knew that Gary and I would be good candidates.”
Rotzler said that she had always wanted her own business. “We knew it would be tight. What made it appealing to me, is that I’m a dealer, so I knew there wasn’t going to be much money as a manager, but there is as a dealer here.”
She says that she really loves the place. “It’s just a really cool building and I like the business, and like to decorate. It’s just a nice mix.”
“The second floor wasn’t filled as much back then (three years ago), and it kept a lot of people from going upstairs. People want to see at least 80% of the store as antiques. So what I did was bring a lot of my stuff upstairs to expand the antiques up there, making it fuller,” she stated.
The couple has helped other antique dealers get their feet wet by allowing them to rent a small space rather than being committed to a whole booth.
Gary said, “Deb’s staging and marketing skills have really helped as well.”
“If someone’s starting out, I offer to help them do their booth. We’re just a good team, and we really have good vendors that trust in the place and allow me to go in and fluff their booth when they’re not here. We’ve really brought the business up,” she said.
As to the future, both of them said they’re going to try and get more involved in local events and cross-promoting things, now that they’re not working other jobs. “Not being here full-time made it difficult to be available for those things, but now Deb will be more available while I can be down here watching the place,” Gary stated.
For more information, you can call 315-823-4309 or visit them on the web.