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Boston Globe: Remember Antique Stores?

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NOTE: note the nice description of a vintage Fiesta display in this particular antique store. Enjoy! -Steve

By Colleen Walsh, Boston Globe Correspondent | January 30, 2005

Long ago, before eBay, shoppers for oddities and curios would visit something called an antiques "store," where they could browse long shelves and even hold objects in their hands before buying them.

While this may seem like an odd way to spend time to the computer generation, the art of the browse is still thriving at the Cambridge Antique Market, a building in East Cambridge housing some 120 antiques dealers who rent space by the month.

In the market for a vintage Mickey Mouse watch? A faux fur coat, an Egyptian land bond from 1905, or the biggest lampshade this side of Boston? The market is the place, though its sheer size and volume are not for the fainthearted.

Located on the O'Brien Highway, the building was once the home of an office supply company owned by John Fahimian,who still owns the space. When he sold the business in 1991, the MIT graduate with a doctorate in chemical engineering decided it was time for a change.

"My father was in the antiques business. I had a history of living in a home with beautiful things," said the London transplant, who has shaggy hair and beard to match and has made his home in the United States for more than 20 years. "I've always wanted to have a co-op, they have them in England. I ran an ad...and a lot of people wanted to rent space, so I figured it was a go."

Fahimian rents the 10-by-10-foot spaces in the store for anywhere from $250 to $500 a month, with the lower floors and prime locations garnering the higher prices. Today he says more than 120 dealers are represented at the market with 100,000 individual items for sale.

Fiestaware in vibrant shades of turquoise, orange, and green abound on one floor, while up a flight, an art deco red and chrome vacuum cleaner that would make Buck Rogers proud awaits. In the basement, pricey furniture from days gone by, the kind with inlaid mirrors that are beginning to fade, sits side by side with posters and paintings.

The clientele is as diverse as the store, according to its owner, who has seen other dealers perusing the selections, young couples searching for items to decorate their homes, and tourists looking for a vacation buy.

The vibe at the store is relaxed and friendly. While individual dealers aren't generally on hand, the market is staffed with employees on every floor ready to answer questions and take items of interest for customers to the first floor so they are free to shop, unencumbered by such things as a bronze profile of JFK.

On the fourth floor, 35-year-old Heather Hartshorn of Lexington slowly deliberated over a giant apple-shaped cookie jar. "I can't decide," she said as she tried to figure out whether it was something she really needed. A career woman and mother of two who has visited the store for years, she said she likes to use the market as an escape. "You can really lose yourself here if you have a lot on your mind." She leaves her 3- and 5-year-olds, who "like to touch," at home.

With a doctorate in political science, she recalls one of her favorite purchases: an Eisenhower charm bracelet.

For Fahimian, seeing the happy looks on the faces of customers who have made a great find is a big part of what makes the market worthwhile. "It's fun to see their reactions when they find unusual things. It's very rewarding."

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