Local antique stores get mention in New York Times
By Kathryn Purcell
It doesn't happen all that often.
Businesses in Rutledge and Madison, Georgia, are typically not feature material in a nationally recognized newspaper. But open the Escapes section of the Friday, November 28, 2008 edition of The New York Times and begin reading the article "Antiques of the Old South," and it becomes readily apparent that that is exactly what happened.
In his article, part of the "American Journeys" series, writer Nick Kaye vividly outlines a trip antiquing through northeast Georgia. Beginning in Atlanta with Chamblee and the not-so real Buckhead, he makes his way east, through "wide cotton fields and farmland studded with hay bales" to the cities of Rutledge and Madison, as well as Social Circle and Greensboro. Throughout the article, he traverses the aisles of local antique shops, stopping to savor the store's wares and listen to the stories of owners and customers alike.
Kaye, a native of Atlanta who moved to New York for 6 years (during which he began work for The Times) before electing to move back to the South, initially received a very vague assignment. He recalled reading in a guidebook that the area was fertile ground for antiquing.
"I went to look further into that to see if it was true, if it was worthy of a piece," Kaye said, in a telephone interview. "I started doing some research...I started going out, making some trips to Conyers, Covington, making my way east. I made my way to Rutledge and Madison. It was really a revelation."
It was then that Kaye realized the potential for material.
"It was kind of a vague assignment that I kind of turned into a two-headed story - shopping in Atlanta and out there," Kaye said. "It was tough because I quickly realized I could do a whole story just on Madison and Rutledge, but I kind of wanted to tie it to Atlanta just for a national audience coming through Atlanta, coming through here antiquing."
Pam Jones, of Rutledge's Barn Raising, recalls her initial conversation with Kaye.
"He just came in like a customer...and started chatting," Jones said, in a telephone interview. "He introduced himself; he said The Times had sent him out to do an article on antiquing in small town America. He was very friendly and I enjoyed talking with him. Some of the customers joined around and they would tell him things as well."
Jones answered questions about the antiques within the Barn Raising, as well as about the history of the business and the history of the city's hardware store, also owned by Jones and her husband, Paul. A result of this particular part of the conversation, the story behind how a Cole Boll Weevil Killer from Rutledge ended up in the Smithsonian shows up in Kaye's article.
"I just loved it," Jones said, of The Times article. "In as few words as possible, he really captured antiquing in small town America."
Making his way to Madison, Kaye visited Antiques on the Square, Attic Treasures, Saffold House Antiques, Madison Markets, J&K Fleas An'Tiques as well as The James Madison Inn.
While the article came out just last week, local store owners were contacted several weeks prior to Kaye's visit.
"We had known, of course, that they were going to do the travel feature," Joann Stewart, of Attic Treasures, said, in a telephone interview. "It has been in the pipeline for a while."
Like Jones, Madison antique store owners contacted by Kaye were thrilled with the coverage.
"He did spend a lot of time in the shops in Madison," Don Lane, of Saffold House Antiques, said, in a telephone interview. "I think it was a good article overall for the shops in Madison."
"We've been in international magazines, antiquing magazines, but this is the first time we hit something with that size circulation in the U.S.," Stewart said.
In fact, the local shops featured in the article are already beginning to see the effects of the publicity.
"It has already done something for our business," Jane Royal, of Madison Markets, said, in a telephone interview. "We've already gotten some e-mails, and one in particular that I'm aware of is from upstate New York, e-mailing to see if we have certain scales or weights. We had some customers in Baltimore for Thanksgiving traveling to Macon, so they came straight from there here to see if we had a bed and ended up buying three rugs...It was just exciting to see that just a blurb on that would reach people so quickly, especially just driving from Baltimore to Macon."
"I think we've gotten customers, customers who have not been in before and who, in the last two days, have come in because of it," Theresa Bishop, of Antiques on the Square, said, in a telephone interview. "I do have a Web site and I've seen quite a few hits on the Web site because of it...Friends of mine have called and said 'Oh, you're in The New York Times!' I didn't realize so many people here have subscriptions to The New York Times."
Even The James Madison Inn, given a short mention in the article and tagged in the "Collectibles to Knickknacks" sidebar, has benefitted from the article.
"We have actually made reservations from the article specifically," Mary DiLetto, of The James Madison Inn, said, in a telephone interview. "We were absolutely thrilled."
Given the increase in non-local business, shop owners here hope the effects of the article don't wear off too quickly, especially given the current holiday season.
"I am very excited, especially this time of year, too," Royal said. "I think it was very good for business. The timing couldn't have been better...I think it has such a domino effect, and I hope that we see more [business] in the weeks and months to come."
"I think it's great publicity for Madison; tourism is so important to Madison," Bishop said.
With this recent national publicity, it may just be that the county is in for an increase in tourism.
"It's the kind of place you know is out there, but you don't really come upon," Kaye said, of his impression of his travels in Morgan County. "I think Madison could definitely profit from more exposure. At the same time, I think it's important for that exposure not to change the place."
To read The New York Times article, visit travel.nytimes.com/2008/11/28/travel/escapes/28american.html?ref=travel. Also, there are additional pictures of Rutledge and Madison available on the slide show that accompanies the online version of the article.