Demand for antiques space inspires couple to open shop

As a would-be antiques dealer, Steve DeThample found himself on waiting lists for a booth in area antique malls.

Nevertheless, he's been pleasantly surprised by the number of dealers who want space in his new antique mall.

"I thought we'd be half-full when we opened and slowly fill up, but it's just exploded," DeThample said.

DeThample and his wife, Janet, opened the Delano Antique Mall last month in a former events hall on Douglas with 13,000 square feet of space. On Tuesday, the dust-covered DeThample alternated between putting up new partitions in some of that space and talking to people who want to sell antiques there. He already has a waiting list for the 70 vendor spots and a designated consignment area.

DeThample said he became interested in antiques about five years ago. He specializes in old bottles and Dragonware china. But when he wanted to start selling his finds, he found himself shut out of big antique malls like the Paramount on U.S. 54.

"Unless somebody dies, you don't get in," he said.

So DeThample, who'd been in the remodeling business, decided to open his own mall. He's leasing the building on Douglas. He's used his remodeling experience to transform the interior, tearing out walls to open up the space, removing old carpet, staining the floor and making other improvements.

DeThample said his vendors sell antique, vintage and collectable items, but not home crafts. Booths feature things like wooden golf clubs, metal milk jugs, swords, old-fashioned barber's razors and decorative glass slippers.

DeThample said he's still "a kid" in the antique business and learning much from his vendors. For instance, he recently found out that old license plates are much sought after by people who restore cars.

"This is my college, I tell people," he said.

He said the antiques business is collegial, giving credit to the owner of the Paramount mall for helpful advice.

The Delano mall will be open on Friday and hold its grand opening Saturday and Sunday, with booths marking down prices 10 to 30 percent.

Janice Chambers, one of the first dealers to nab a spot in the Delano mall, said its size appeals to her. She also has a booth at the Paramount mall.

"I love Paramount and I do well there, but you cannot get around it in one day," she said. "You can here. I think it's going to do well."

DeThample, in turn, said the success of his mall depends on well-known dealers like Chambers.

"The better the people, the better the crowd, because everybody's got their own following," he said.