BALLSTON SPA: Out with the old

Two village antiques shops are closing their doors in September, leaving the owners wondering if the market for antiques, like the items themselves, has become a thing of the past. Other store owners say antiques shopping is a timeless tradition, but reconfiguring space and being creative with merchandising is becoming a necessary price of staying in business.

Low Street antiques closing

Ron Regels will be quietly shutting down his small Low Street Antiques shop Thursday, Aug. 30, after four years in business. Regels said he's seen a consistent slowdown of foot traffic into his place, particularly over the last year.

There are a lot of reasons why I'm closing, mostly because business is bad, but it's never really been good for me, said Regels, who previously had a store in Broadalbin. "I saw a drop-off after (the terrorist attacks of) 9/11, but I have no idea why. The last seven months have been terrible, and I haven't even been covering my rent."

Regels believes the size of his place, more of a shop than a store, also contributed to sagging sales.

"People go to the larger places; it's like the mall syndrome," said Regels. "People would walk in my doorway, look around and walk back out. It was insulting. Maybe it's the wave of the future, that small shops are dinosaurs."

Flourish together, flounder alone

About six years ago, the village established itself as a mecca for antiques shops, attracting several antiques businesses from the city of Saratoga Springs. The entrepreneurs found lower rental rates, quaint locations, and a small-town flavor conducive to pedestrian sidewalk traffic.

There were about eight antiques shops in the historic village, complemented by village parks, one with a natural mineral spring, the Brookside History Museum and the National Bottle Museum, eclectic restaurants like the popular Sunset CafE, and the artsy Coffee Planet, offering live music and photography exhibits. The Whistling Kettle, an upscale tea and lunch emporium with outside dining, opened a few years later on Front Street, and major renovations at the elegant, historic Medbery Inn and Spa were completed, offering a top-of-the-line tourist destination.

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