by Ardeana Hamlin
of The Weekly Staff
HAMPDEN — The sprawling gray building beside the railroad tracks crossing Western Avenue in Hampden now houses a new business. Arthur Carlow opened the Hampden Antiques Mall at the location. It houses 19 vendors, plus bits of wall space here and there that serve as display areas for items Carlow himself has available for purchase.
Currently in the works are plans to add 55 more spaces for vendors in the building ell which once was a self-storage facility. Carlow is putting his carpentry and building skills to good use doing all the renovating himself, as he did in the main part of the building. “I got the keys to the building on August 14 and I opened for business on September 4,” Carlow said.
Several years ago the building served as a health foods store, and before that, as an antiques mall, thus bringing the commerce conducted in the building full circle.
When Carlow says he has been in the antiques business all his life, he’s not kidding. “I’m a third generation antiquer,” he said, following in the footsteps of his grandfather Juan Carlow and his father Glen Carlow, who operates Carlow’s Country Auctions in Harmony.
“My dad introduced me to the whole antiques scene when I was five,” Carlow said. “I grew up around the public, learning how to be around people, how to talk with them.”
Carlow, who grew up in Harmony, was 7 when he found an old kerosene lantern on an abandoned dump on his way to go fishing in a local brook. He gave the lantern to his father, who auctioned it, then split the proceeds with young Carlow. “That was it, I was hooked,” he said.
During his growing up years, Carlow spent many hours going to yard sales and helping to clear out the contents of houses his father or grandfather had purchased. Those experiences served as the foundation that led him to opening the Hampden Antiques Mall.
“I love to search for the unknown and I love to learn about the past,” he said. He never knows what he might find. Recently, on the third floor of an old house, in the process of clearing out its contents, Carlow found a stereopticon and a trove of photo view cards that went with it. “Squirrels and mice had made a nest of shredded paper over it, but they hadn’t chewed the photo cards,” he said. The stereopticon now occupies a spot on the counter of his store.
Carlow said that in his experience people like to see and touch what they are purchasing. For that reason believes the time is right for the antiques mall, going contrary to the trend to purchase items at online auction sites. “Photos can hide a lot of defects in online merchandise,” he said. “Plus, when you buy at an antiques mall, there are no shipping costs.” Another plus is that customers can, if they wish, put items on layaway at his antiques mall.
Response to the opening of Hampden Antiques Mall has been overwhelmingly positive, he said. “People stop by to tell me they love the idea of what I’m doing here and that Hampden needed a place like this. There is a large community of antiques store owners in this area. And people are always looking for new places to shop — indoors and in comfort,” he said.
Carlow said that if a customer can’t find what he or she wants at his mall he suggests other places in the area, including The Keeping Room and At Home, both in Hampden; the Carmel Route 2 Antiques Mall in Carmel; The Schoolhouse in Brewer; The Roller Rink in Detroit; and Good Deals in Bucksport.
“I have to know a little about a lot of things and I like to hear the stories and history behind what I have in the store,” he said of his job. If the story has been lost, he wonders about its past, where it has been and how it might have been used.
The most unusual item he ever had available for purchase was a baptismal font.
“When I was in school, I didn’t like history very much,” he said. But spending time surrounded by objects weighted with time has changed that. “I get to do what I love,” he said. “It’s the best job in the world.”
As part of his new business, Carlow offers estate liquidation services, takes items on consignment and has gift certificates available. Hampden Antiques Mall vendors offer a large variety of items, including jewelry, paintings, furniture, china, glassware, metal goods and photographs to name only a very few categories.
“Inventory changes daily,” Carlow said. “Vendors come in and add new items all the time.”
Hampden Antiques Mall, 281 Western Ave., is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. seven days a week. For information, call Carlow at 207-949-5931 or email email@example.com.