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Right now, Leroy Raber couldn't say what is "hot" in the antique business, but it's not because he doesn't watch his inventory sales or pay attention to trends.
Raber, who owns Walnut Creek Antique Mall, said in the past several years, buyers have been sporadic in what they have been looking for. The 11,000 square-foot antique mall is filled to its maximum capacity, holding 45 vendors that come from all over Ohio and two from Pennsylvania.
When Raber started in the antique business, he didn't have any experience except the education that came from his own interest in primitive collectibles crudely made with old square nails, often including carpentry and masonry tools. In June, Raber will have managed the antique mall for 13 years after retiring from working as a farrier (shoeing horses) for 20 years.
"I guess you could say I got hooked on it," he said. "I liked them, but I had no experience with it."
Now Raber runs the store with the help of Ruth Chupp and Katie Miller. In his first few years in the business, Raber said he saw a lot of trends. Every year or two, the trends would change, but in the last six years vendors and shoppers haven't stuck to buying one thing.
Raber noted that the economy might have something to do with people not jumping on the bandwagon as much with such fast-changing trends.
With customers constantly looking for something different, Raber said he tries to move products as much as possible.
"It's like I tell my vendors, I want to see changes. We don't want to run a museum. We want to sell."
Vendors' booths are organized by theme, ranging in a variety of antique cookware, dolls, glassware, clothing, toys, magazines and much more than most people could take in with just one visit.
"We want people to know that we probably have what they're looking for," Raber said.
Competitive pricing also drives Walnut Antique Mall's merchandise and draws repeat customers. Raber said he found that selling under book value as much as possible gives people what everyone is looking for -- a bargain.
Customer traffic used to peak in October, but according to Raber, things have changed in that area of the business as well. In the last two years, the heavy traffic of the tourist season in the Amish Heartland occurs in mid- to late August.
The more even distribution of customers, however, has brought more stability to the business and given visitors more time to relax and shop. As soon as the weather warms up, shoppers are out and about visiting the sites.
"People like to have quiet and tranquil times when they come here and anymore people have to come on the off-season to avoid all the hustle and bustle," Raber said. "Really it's made it better for us."
Walk-ins will find old gospel music playing and one-of-a-kind finds arranged in displays in the building.
"It's interesting to see what people bring in," Raber said. "To me, it's amazing what people do collect. It's stuff you'd never thought."
Walnut Creek Antique Mall is open 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Mon.-Thu. and Sat.; Fri. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Call for more information at 330-893-4010.