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Berlin, ‘antique capital of the Eastern Shore,’ hosts art mart

(April 16, 2015) Vintage goods guru Bill Outten is looking to grow the legend of the “antique capital of the Eastern Shore” with a new outdoor Antique Art Mart in Berlin that will debut this Sunday, April 19.  
As a bonus is the first in a planned series of monthly events that will run every third Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. is an Antique Road Show-style appraisal session with local expert Charlene Upham.
Outten, who today runs three antique stores in Berlin – Town Center Antiques, Pitts Street Antiques and Uptown Antiques – came to the town 15 years ago from Baltimore, where he, in another life, worked for an investment group that flipped restaurants.
Feeling burned out after years of venture capitalism, Outten began looking for something with a slightly slower pace. His mother, remarried after his father passed away, was a recent Berlin transplant who fell in love with the area. She and her husband also found themselves managing an antique store.
“They were both retired from computers and the next thing you know they had an antique store here,” he said. “She kept calling me and saying, ‘Why don’t you come down here and live for a little while,’ and I said, ‘only if I can open up an art gallery.’”
Outten took the plunge, but the recession hit the gallery business like a ton of neo-Dada abstract expressionist sculptures, and Outten began looking for a slightly safer line of work.
“Antiques stayed around during the recession, so I started getting booths like everybody else, and then I opened my own store, and now I have all three stores,” Outten said. “Now I’m working in the antique capital of the Eastern Shore and I’m trying to get more attention for the antique business.”
In his quest to grow and to expand the brand, Outten hatched the idea of the outdoor art mart, comparing it to “a flea market for crafters and antiquers.”
In order to kick off the first event, Outten called on professional appraiser Charlene Upham. The two have a previous working relationship date back to Outten’s days as president of the Berlin Chamber of Commerce.
“We used to do an antiques road show in front of the Atlantic Hotel during the Village Fair, and I had her do one when I opened up Town Center Antiques last year,” Outten said. “It really helps raise the profile of events, and we’re hoping to do another one later in the year and maybe get the TV involved.”
Upham and her husband, Steve Blumenauer, run an appraisal business in Mardela Springs. Both have more than three decades of experience in the industry.
“People are welcome to bring in family items, heirlooms or valuables for which they would like to get a verbal appraisal performed,” Upham said. “The appraisal will include a brief description of the age, the origin of manufacture, condition and value.”
Upham advised people to bring jewelry, silver, coins and fine art.
“Almost everybody has something along those lines,” she said, adding that a computer database would help to provide comparisons in cases of artwork.
Upham said a professional appraisal acts as “an identification of what the item is.”
“It lets you know where it was manufactured, a circa date, whether it was 100 years old or 200 years old, and we tell the people what the fair market value of that object is,” she said. “Not only is this an appraisal of what the object is, but it is an evaluation also.”
Appraisals are $5 per item, or three for $10. All proceeds go to the Berlin Chamber of Commerce.
More than merely giving people a place to sell their unwanted attic fodder, Outten said his stores contain plenty of treasures, and that the industry itself has historically “helped keep Berlin alive.”
“In the recession everything broke down, but the antique stores stayed,” he said. “At one time that’s all that was here. We had the hotel renovated and then we had a couple of thrift shops and we opened up Town Center Antiques. A couple of years later we had expanded to having a whole half block of antiques, and as it grew more and more things started showing up in Berlin.
“Our antique malls are really like a little community,” Outten continued. “We have 200 different people that bring their own things in here. Each one of them has their own little business in here, they get their license, and it’s their business and we represent them in the marketplace. It’s like a real community.”
The Antique Art Mart will be held in the parking lot of Uptown Antiques at 13 South Main Street in Berlin. Spaces are $30 each, or $150 for the entire season, which runs through October.
To reserve a space in the Antique Art Mart call 410-973-2054.