By Caitlin Switzer
MONTROSE—(April 1, 2014) Ask Charlene Baecker why she has spent so much of her life in the antiques business, and her answer is quick.
“You have to love it,” Baecker said, who owns AA Antiques at the Boardwalk (17648 US HWY 550). “My dad dabbled in antiques—I would go to auctions with him when I was a child. I read and I learned. You have to get the history of things!
“I have been in the business around 50 years,” she said. “I started out refinishing furniture with my husband, and I still have a barn full.”
Baecker is easily the senior shop owner at the popular Boardwalk Shops antique destination. She and her husband Bernie had a store Downtown in 1992, but sold it. In 1994 they constructed the current shop on their own land, and have appreciated the ambience that the Boardwalk’s current owner Dennis Vanderwist has created.
“I’m very happy with Denny,” Baecker said. “He cleaned the place up, and brought in different things. There’s no competition here—everybody does their own thing and loves what they do. It’s good for customers!
“We have eight different vendors here,” Baecker said of AA Antiques. “They are all different; everything from jewelry to antiques. We have shopping for every pocketbook, with prices from 50 cents up to $3,000. And we can answer questions.”
Despite the abundance of real “finds,” the shop is spotless—something Baecker insists on. And she does not charge her vendors any rent, because they help with upkeep and with running the store. Current Manager Joanne Seymour started as a vendor in May of 2013, and has worked as manager for the past three months.
“I have always loved to shop for antiques,” Seymour said. “Back in Indiana, there was a store close by and I got a booth. Soon, it grew to four. I made money, but mostly it was fun, a hobby—I had been a high school counselor my whole life. When we moved here, things started accumulating, and I looked for booth space. I looked in Grand Junction, Delta and Montrose.
“One day I ran into a friend, and she told me to come on down here,” Seymour said. “I called and set up a time, and met Charlene. I liked her. She didn’t have any space open, but she made a little spot for me, and a booth. I outgrew it in two weeks, and it progressed from there.”
Seymour works nine days a month, and takes pride in the fact that the store’s inventory consists of real antiques.
“We don’t have junk,” she said. “And everyone here is so easy to work with.”
Baecker’s years in the business have added to her knowledge, but have not diminished her enthusiasm.
“I love to find out the history of things,” she said. “The old school stuff is truly amazing. I had an old school desk with a chart, made of canvas like they used to do, from the 1880’s. You flipped it, and there was a chalk board. One of the top dealers in the U.S. bought it.”
Baecker is not a big fan of the Antiques Road Show television program, but she greatly enjoys the American Pickers show, which she feels is more true to life.
“If you do this for a living, there is a lot of work involved,” she said. “If you do find an antique, it may need repair and it may need to be cleaned up. Then you have to present it. There’s so much to it!
And after you present it, someone will offer you half of what it’s worth.”
Baecker appreciates the creativity and craftsmanship of the older items.
“Each piece tells us something about history,” she said. “And they made this stuff by hand. For me, that’s the love of it, the time taken to make something. Prison art is wonderful, because those artists had nothing but time. There is also tramp art…there is art in antiques!”
For years Baecker has published an informative pamphlet for the Colorado West Antique Dealers Association, listing local antique dealers and including a regional map. She has collected “everything you can name.” There is one thing she has not done, however.
“I have never yard-saled,” Baecker said. “I have never learned to argue with someone over a price; if they tell me what they want for it, then that’s what I’ll pay.”
AA Antiques is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the winter and from 10 a.m. to 5 in the spring, summer and fall. The phone number is 970-240-8118.