ANTIQUES GALLERY FACES WRECKING BALL

With dealers scattering to new locations, redbankgreen took a final spin through the Monmouth Antique Shoppes Tuesday. (Click embiggen symbol to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

The building appears to sigh and lean, as though aware of its fate. Inside, nooks and corners that once teemed with the cast-offs of the decades have begun to empty out.

It’s a sad time at Monmouth Antique Shoppes, one of the anchors of Red Bank’s vaunted Arts & Antiques District. Eviction notice in hand, owner John Gribbin has informed his 23 remaining dealers that they, like he, must be out by the end of the month, ending a 29-year run.

“It’s not the best time for me to talk,” Gribbin told redbankgreen Tuesday, as he had also last week. “I’m trying to find a home for me and my dealers, and it’s not easy going.”

More than a dozen of the displaced shops are finding a new home just a few doors east, at the Gizzi family’s Riverbank Antiques. (Click to enlarge)

The wood-frame building, at the southeast corner of West Front Street and Bridge Avenue, was once part of the Eisner uniform factory complex – “a sweatshop,” said Gribbin. Now, it is slated to be razed to make way for the MW West Side Lofts project, a mixed-use assemblage of luxury rental apartments, street-level retail, live-and-work artistsÂ’ spaces, a parking garage and a Triumph Brewing Company restaurant.

No permits for the demolition or ensuing construction have yet been issued, according to a borough official. But Monmouth Antique Shoppes and Ambiance antiques, which occupies a neighboring building owned by the lofts developer, have been told to clear out. They were recently given 60 days notice, almost six years after the lofts plan won approval.

Unaffected by the action is Guy Johnson’s Antique Center of Red Bank, which occupies two sprawling buildings, including the giant barn-red structure at the intersection’s northeast corner and a second warehouse opposite Brothers Pizza.

The diaspora has proven to be an awkwardly welcome boon for Carla Gizzi, who runs her family’s Riverbank Antiques business just a block east of Gribbin’s. She’s busily making arrangements to accommodate more than a dozen displaced dealers.

“I feel horrible for John, but it actually enables us to stay in business, and we’re keeping these dealers in Red Bank,” Gizzi said. “We’re consolidating and enabling them to stay.”

Among those making the move are Reggie Hawn and Cheryl Figliola. Hawn, who’s been at the shoppes for less than two years, said she’s “looking forward to the day when we can all reunite under one tent,” reforming a group of dealers with complementary specialties.

“What made us successful here was that we’re all collectors first,” said Figliola, a 17-year tenant of the shoppes. “Everyone found their own niche.”

Gribbin said he doesn’t know where he and other dealers, who together operate as a sort of cooperative, selling each other’s goods when dealers are absent, will wind up. But he sees his business’s departure as part of an inexorable slide toward oblivion for the antiques district.

“As to me, I’m leaving Red Bank,” he said. “This industry has been a major draw for the town, and it’s going away slowly.”

Just across the street, another storefront formerly occupied by an antiques dealer stands empty following the recent departure of Plum Cottage, which relocated to Fair Haven.