BELLEAIR BLUFFS - Recent press reporting the sale of the Alley's northern row of antique shops confirmed rumors that the property was up for sale, but in the process may have hurt business during the holiday shopping season. Whether or not a sale has transpired, Alley dealers say they are open and ready to serve antique enthusiasts and collectors at their same locations, for the time being, anyway.
Perhaps the county's oldest and largest clustering of antique shops, Antique Alley has been a center of the area's antiques trade for twenty-five years. Dealers there now fear sales will plummet because the community has the wrong message and doesn't know the true state of affairs.
"A couple of articles reporting the sale have given our shops bad press. They made it sound as if they are firetraps and closed or about to close. The truth of the matter is that we are open and still carrying the same quality antiques and collectibles we always do," said Nancy Lowery of Collector's Corner.
Added Lowery, "Most of us are holding holiday specials, not clearance sales. Some shops are offering half off pricing, but we are not holding huge fire sales like some people have come to think after reading those articles."
Shirley Brown of Alley Antiques said the Alley each year is a favorite place for holiday shoppers because they can park their cars, grab a bite to eat at the Farm House Restaurant and meander through the close knit shops. "One woman came to our shop looking for gifts for hard-to-buy-for people on her list. She left happy with some unique railroad memorabilia. The Alley is the perfect one-stop place to buy holiday tableware and decorations or gifts to give collectors for their collections. We have wonderful and whimsical items for grab bags and stocking stuffers, too, " said Brown.
Jack Warren of Creations of Yesteryear says, "Everything down here is business as usual. There's no change other than that we now have more bargains." The way Warren sees it, shop owners who have left or intend to leave is par for the course. "This is a normal routine of people moving. Everyone is still here who has been here the longest. Those who are moving soon aren't doing so because they have to, but because they want to try a new location."
Jan Spencer part owner of Jewel Antique Mall neighboring Antique Alley and owner of Lejans shop said, "I have been there for about 14 years and it's always been a pleasure. Lately there has been no effort put forth on the landlord's part to rent shops on his northern section after dealers have moved. With the rumors and uncertainty, it appeared to be a good time to make a move."
In February, Spencer is relocating Lejans along with Lowery's Collector's Corner to a 3,000 square foot property at 1260 West Bay in Largo. Says Lowery, "We'll just be around the corner and down the street from our old shops. And my husband Norm and I will still keep our rooms at Jewel Antique Mall as we have for the past 12 years. Even though we're partially moving we're still committed to the Alley and will participate in their shows."
Concerning the shows, Lowery says, "I'm sure the Alley's south side will continue with them. The owner of that side has told dealers renting there that she's not selling and she has even made some nice improvements to the property."
The shops at Antique Alley have collectively introduced thousands of visitors to Belleair Bluffs. The Alley is host to two annual shows that are highly popular and get wall-to-wall attendance. "Upwards to 70 dealers participate in the Alley's annual shows in spring and fall. It attracts thousands of people each year," says Len Spencer, Jan's husband and partner at Jewel Antique Mall.
The next Alley wide event will be their Chocolate Walk the week before Valentine's Day. The annual spring show will take place in March.
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