64°F overcast clouds


guy johnson 071713 2antiques 2Born in the final year of the Baby Boom, the Antique Center of Red Bank, said to be the oldest continually operating antiques cooperative in America, turns 50 this month.

The late Nan Johnson, an antiques lover who found herself with too much stuff after redecorating her Lincroft home, launched the venture with 12 dealers in an old Red Bank clothing factory in 1964, and it eventually grew to comprise three massive buildings anchoring the borough’s Antiques District.

Now scaled back to two spaces run by her son, Guy Johnson, above, the center plans a celebration this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with refreshments and bargains at 195 and 226 West Front Street.  Dozens more photos can be seen at redbankgreen‘s Flickr page. (Click to enlarge)


A working nickelodeon, below, and old seltzer bottles are among the thousands of items that lure shoppers back in time at the Antique Center of Red Bank. Dozens more photos can be seen at redbankgreen‘s Flickr page. (Photo by Alexis Orlacchio. Click to enlarge)


Looking at it, shoppers at the Antique Center of Red Bank might not guess the glossy oak casing of the 117-year-old Regina Upright Nickelodeon was once caked with numerous layers of paint that had chipped and peeled over its lifetime. Standing near the front of the dimly lit emporium, light gleams off its intricate carvings.

The restored music box again flawlessly performs the task it was built for: insert a nickel into the side slot, and watch a music disc slowly rotate behind a glass pane, producing a melody of delicate chimes. Taped to its window is a small, handwritten note that reads, “Not for sale.”

“It’s too special,” said store owner Guy Johnson, who found the player at a garage sale in Shrewsbury. It had been sitting in the owners’ basement before they decided to sell it, “and thank God they did,” he said.

But while Johnson may have saved the Regina, whether Red Bank’s vaunted antiques district can be saved is an open question. About a year ago, the home of Monmouth Antiques Shoppes, across West Front Street from the Antique Center, was knocked down  to make room for the MW West Side Lofts, a residential and retail project now under construction. That left a huge hole not only in the space it had long occupied, but in an antiques district that vendors have struggled to keep going.

More →