A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 171

The former Horseman Antiques on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.

Tuesday, November 17

Recently, Emily has decided that she must have a dresser or chest of drawers in order to store her clothes more handily. (In general thanks to the lockdown, our house has become more of a furnished residence and less of a make-do, weekend getaway.) She has found a couple of such chests for sale on eBay, but they are located far away—in Florida or somewhere—and sellers do little to facilitate shipping. We might arrange for such a piece to come here on a moving van that’s loaded primarily with someone else’s stuff. But even that would be likely to cost $200 or so, and the furniture we’re seeing isn’t free—even when the seller drops the price a bunch to entice Emily.

So I woke with a thought: What about that old strip of antique stores in Brooklyn that we often went to back in the ‘90s? Does it still exist?

It seems not. A 2008 article in a small Brooklyn publication describes a guy we bought stuff from on more than one occasion: “Norman Benjamin, the owner of Boerum Hill Restoration, says his store and others are closing or have closed because of shifting consumer tastes and the ‘upscaling’ of the neighborhood. ‘Twenty years ago, every address on the block was an antique store,’ says Benjamin, who opened his store in 1979 and will continue to operate a restoration business out of the back of 375 Atlantic. ‘There were easily 30 of them.’ Benjamin notes that most of the stores carried Victorian or turn-of-the-century antiques, which he believes have fallen out of favor with many consumers who now look for mid-century pieces.”

And that article appeared a dozen years ago! A 2018 article updated the sad decline of that antique-store strip. The 18,000 square foot Horseman Antiques closed after 53 years, selling its Atlantic Avenue location for $18 million, the article says.

Apparently the industrial-antiques City Foundry still existed in 2018, as did the curio-oriented Holler & Squall. But much of the commercial space along Atlantic had been taken over by trendy restaurants and clothing boutiques. Who knows what further damage the pandemic has wrought? Many of these spaces may simply be shuttered now, with their future unclear.

What happened to the vast inventory of desks, pianos, chairs, chests, and odds and ends that once filled such stores? Some may have gone upstate to shops in towns like Hudson or to Pennsylvania. Other stuff is probably just in cobwebby basements or Salvation Army outlets.

There are still a couple of antiques shoppes out on the East End, but their wares carry steep prices. Bridgehampton once sported a whole row of antiques stores, now all but vanished. There were a few more such places in Amagansett.

And the places that do still exist are open only a few hours a day on a couple of days each week. Don’t forget your mask.

Dinner: chicken paprikash, noodles, and a green salad.

Entertainment: Episode 3 of season 5 of The Crown, and more old episodes of As Time Goes By and All Creatures Great and Small