My Out to Lunch guest for this issue is Doug Lane, owner of the popular Aberfoyle Antique Market, located a mile north of the 401 at exit 299 near Guelph. It is advertised as Canada’s oldest antique market and it certainly has a long and illustrious history. Doug is one busy guy, so when it turned out both of us were heading to the Bowmanville Folk Art & Antique Show on Easter weekend, we decided to check out the show and then have lunch next door at East Side Mario’s.
Peter: Thanks for taking the time and meeting with me, Doug. Did you enjoy the show?
Doug: Yes, very much so. It is always an interesting show and there are always a lot of dealers and old friends that I enjoy meeting and talking with.
Peter: How long have you owned the Aberfoyle Antique Market and, for those readers who haven’t been there, maybe you could give us a short history of the market.
Doug: The market was originally located at the Mill across the road. An English lady purchased the Mill back in 1961 and while restoring the property decided to open an antique market on the site. She patterned it after the world-famous market in Paris, France, which was called “the Flea Market”. On a Sunday in September of 1961, she invited 29 exhibitors to set out their antiques, art and collectibles on tables on the grounds of the Mill. It was hugely successful, with 1,400 visitors. It became a regular event on the fourth Sunday of each month, from May through October. Eventually, they moved it across the road to the current location. It was originally a farm and they turned the slaughterhouse into a restaurant and put up all the sheds. It was a very successful market. I remember as a kid living in Guelph driving by it on my way to my aunt’s for Sunday dinners and seeing how busy it always was, with all the cars. Management and ownership changed hands several times and quality loosened. A lot of the quality dealers left, diminishing the overall quality of the market. As other markets sprang up copying the successful model of Aberfoyle and calling themselves “flea markets”, the term flea market developed a different meaning from that original one chosen by Mrs. Owens to mimic the Paris market.
Peter: When did you purchase the property?
Doug: We bought it in 1983. The focus now is to develop a quality antique market and we are open every Sunday from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October. It has been a lot of hard work restoring the place from the flea market it became to an antique market, but we have made improvements every year and work hard on keeping its good reputation.
Peter: I have been to your market several times. It’s always busy and I can always find some interesting items to take home. How many regular dealers do you have at the market?
Doug: We have around 75 dealers each Sunday and add another 95 dealers for our special spring and fall antique shows. The spring show will be on Saturday, May 11 and the fall show this year will be on Saturday, September 21. We put on a nice dinner for the dealers on the Friday night and it’s a lot of fun. The dealers like getting together and it helps make for a friendly show. We also try and work with the dealers to keep booth prices reasonable and I think everybody seems to get along and enjoy themselves. I have never considered myself to be a promoter of any kind, but I think the way we have treated people and good old word-of-mouth has helped make the market what it is today.
Peter: You mentioned some extensive work you have been doing over the past winter.
Doug: We are just continuing the rebuilding phase of the vendor stalls, which commenced two years ago. The new structures all have concrete floors, as well as a truss roof which allows for a much larger and superior display area. The ultimate goal is to have all the structures redone in a way that does not take away from the historical ambience of the market. When conceived, it was a 10-year plan. Aberfoyle is here for the long term as a top destination for antiques, art, collectibles etc.
Peter: I know the admission charge for the Sunday market is only $2. How much do you charge for the spring and fall antique shows?
Doug; The shows have a $5 admission charge and we are open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days on the weekends that the shows are held on. There is an early admission available at 7 a.m. for $10 that many avid collectors take advantage of.
Peter: I always ask people involved in the antiques business if there is anything they collect. Do you have a collection?
Doug: Chairs. I collect chairs.
Peter: I guess that would definitely take up more room than a stamp or coin collection. What is your all-time favourite chair in your collection?
Doug: It is an Art Nouveau 1880-1890 solid oak chair.
Peter: In your 27 years of owning Aberfoyle, you must have come across a lot of weird things that dealers have brought to the market and tried to sell. Is there anything that sticks out in your mind?
Doug: I guess one of the weirdest things offered up for sale that I can remember off-hand was a torpedo. It wasn’t a true antique, but it was an eye-catcher for sure. You usually don’t come across very many of those.
Peter: Well thanks again for your time. We wish you all the best with this year’s market and your two big antique shows in the spring and fall. For further information, call 1-877-763-1077 or 519-763-1077, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit aberfoyleantiquemarket.com