Festival makes antiquing a year-round sport in South Florida

Unique handmade Bakelite jewelry is always available from Karen Kronimus, Image courtesy of the West Palm Beach Antiques Festival.

Unique handmade Bakelite jewelry is always available from Karen Kronimus, Image courtesy of the West Palm Beach Antiques Festival.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The first of this year’s West Palm Beach Antiques Festival Summer Shows on July 2-3 had lots of competition from the Monday national holiday and a crowded local events calendar, but rainy weather gave customers an opportunity for some dry, air-conditioned fun searching out antiques. Festival owners Kay and Bill Puchstein reported good attendance and strong sales among the wide variety of dealers and merchandise on display at the South Florida fairgrounds.

While many of the attendees were regular customers, some were surprised at finding an antiques show operating in Florida in midsummer and not having to wait until the fall to continue their antiques quests.

The Puchsteins’ slogan for two years has been “Everyone knows there is not a lot of antiquing going on during the summer in Florida but we are going to make West Palm Beach a year-round destination for antiques and collectibles.” The slogan is getting around as more people discover the festival.

One of the dealers who will be at the Aug. 6-7 event and really likes the Summer Shows because of a constant stream of repeat customers is Karen Kronimus. Karen has been around the antiques business most of her life. As a child and teenager she attended shows and auctions with her mother who was a dealer. She feels like she was an original American picker going to rural auctions and first scouting out the outbuildings for hidden treasures for her mother.

As a newlywed she did antique shows on her own on the weekends and held a variety of jobs during the week including working in a hardware store and on a thoroughbred horse breeding farm.

Fifteen years ago she had the opportunity to acquire the entire leftover stock of a Bakelite factory that was going out of business. Not really knowing what to do with it but not wanting to miss a chance, she acquired 13 tons of Bakelite stock in the form of raw bars and unfinished inventory like dice without markings and incomplete sets of dominoes and lots of domino blanks.

With her father as an accomplice she set out to drill correct patterns in the faces of the blank dice and insert colorful beads. She also drilled and painted blank dominoes to complete unfinished sets. On the first weekend she set up at a show to sell her Bakelite inventions she sold $11,000 worth of dice, dominoes and poker chips. Those items are now part of the inventory she displays at West Palm Beach along with Bakelite bracelets and other jewelry she and her father make. All of the jewelry is signed by Kronimus or her father so their work will not be confused with vintage Bakelite objects.

There is a lot more to Karen’s booth than Bakelite. She also is a serious postcard collector and dealer with more that 20 boxes of postcards in her booth at any show. She also has 24 showcases of costume jewelry and a staggering array of buttons as well as tables with shelves to display glassware and silver. She estimates she displays over 10,000 items in her booth.

And you can’t miss her. Hers is one of the first tables you see when entering the festival. She feels like she has two chances at customers – coming and going. Often she makes a sale to a customer on the way out when they didn’t find what they wanted inside. Her regular best-selling items are her costume jewelry because she feels people are afraid to wear their real gems in public. She is happy to buy or trade with a customer and is happy to give an informal opinion of the authenticity and value of a customer’s items.

The format for the entire Summer Season will be the two-day affair, Saturday and Sunday, instead of the normal three-day event during the regular season. Summer season show dates will be Aug. 6-7, Sept. 3-4 and Oct. 1-2 with a full day of setup for dealers on Friday, 8 a.m.-7 p.m.

The Puchsteins have lowered dealers’ booth rents for the summer season.

The popular early buyers admission feature will be continued in the summer starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday before the regular show opening time of 10 a.m. Summer Show early buyers admission has been reduced to $10 and is good for both days of the Show. Adult daily admission $7, seniors $6 with a 1$ discount coupon for adult admission available on the website. Anyone under 16 is admitted free. There is no charge for parking at the fairgrounds.

The West Palm Beach Antiques Festival is held at the South Florida Fairgrounds located off Southern Boulevard in West Palm Beach, Fla., 1.5 miles west of the Florida Turnpike and 1 mile east of U.S. 441/S.R.7. For more information contact the West Palm Beach Antiques Festival at (941) 697-7475, email info@wpbaf.com or visit the website at www.wpbaf.com.


ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


Unique handmade Bakelite jewelry is always available from Karen Kronimus, Image courtesy of the West Palm Beach Antiques Festival.

Unique handmade Bakelite jewelry is always available from Karen Kronimus, Image courtesy of the West Palm Beach Antiques Festival.