By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank’s arts and antiques district took a serious hit with the closing of Monmouth Antique Shoppes to make way for the West Side Lofts residences at the corner of West Front Street and Bridge Avenue three years ago.
Yes, many of the dealers who shared the collective’s space found refuge in the Gizzi family’s Riverbank Antiques just down the street, and the umbrella business found a new home in Asbury Park. But the optics, as they say, were less than ideal. The demolition of the building gouged a huge hole in the district, which for years had thrived in part on the ability of shoppers to stroll from one sprawling emporium to another.
But the change created opportunity, the first fruit of which is detailed in this edition of redbankgreen‘s Retail Churn.
At 212 West Front Street, directly opposite the lofts project, Stillwell House Fine Art & Antiques, based for the past 12 years in Manalapan, opened Friday.
The shop specializes in select 18th- and 19th-century furnishings. On an exclusive sneak-peek tour Thursday, partners Paul Gallagher and Ron Knox showed Churn big-ticket rarities: a Chippendale-style Irish vitrine from about 1780 featuring delicately curved glass panes, every one of them original; a giant French armoire from about 1790; Messien porcelains; an imposingly handsome Russian bookcase and cylinder desk from around 1820; a Chinese statue estimated to be 2,000 years old; and numerous paintings by the Franco-American Leon Dabo, in whose work Stillwell specializes.
The taste for pre-Industrial Revolution art even extends to an architectural touch on the building’s exterior. Up above the second store is an oeil-de-boeuf – or “bull’s eye” – window framed by a patina-coated copper piece salvaged from an early American building.
Half art salon, half furnishings boutique, Stillwell caters to clients who, when they buy either, “want the best,” said Knox.
In part, the move from a Manalapan farmhouse was made possible by the lofts project, said the partners, who had shopped at 212 West Front – it was then home to another antiques store – many times before they agreed to buy it two years ago for $375,000, according to Monmouth County property records.
The day they went into contract, giant fence signs proclaiming the construction of the lofts project made their prospective home more valuable: Knox said their real estate agent got 18 calls about the property within days.
The signing of high-end modern furniture dealer West Elm as the anchor retailer at the lofts has further cemented the wisdom of the move, the partners said. Already, Knox and Gallagher have been able to leverage appreciation in their building’s value through a refinancing, Knox said.
Of course, they’ve since sunk untold amounts into the property, gutting it to the studs, ripping out and replacing floors, turning second-floor apartments into a light-filled gallery space with vaulted ceilings.
But they expect to find an eager new clientele, along with their existing customers. And they’ve already gotten warm welcomes from other dealers serving a range of price points, they said.
“People who love arts and antiques love the district,” said Gallagher, “and we’re happy to be part of it.
The lofts, by the way, now has a temporary certificate of occupancy, and by the end of this weekend, nine families are expected to have moved in, principal Chris Cole tells Churn.
Stillwell House will do business seven days a week, whether the door is open or by appointment, the partners said.