Winter antique show opens at Brookline Event Center

BROOKLINE – Although there are many flea markets in the summer, including those in Hollis, Londonderry and Salem, dealers don’t have many places to set up in the winter.

A large winter antique market that has been held in Lancaster, Mass., for many years is no longer open. Ron and Kathy Pelletier, well-known for running the Brookline Auction Gallery, recognized the need for dealer space in the area and have begun hosting a biweekly antique show at the Brookline Event Center on Proctor Hill Road.

“Normally, a winter show would start in November, but we didn’t start until January because this was a last minute thing,” Ron explained. “It’s something we’ve talked about since we built the new building. We were approached in December by a lot of people who said, ‘You have got to help us out.’ This is a mix of antiques and collectibles, but we don’t want it to be a flea market where you find everything.”

The show began on Jan. 19 and will be held on every other Sunday through the end of April. There is room for 26 vendors inside the center, and plenty of room for others to set up in the parking lot. Pelletier said the indoor spots have been filled every week, with a waiting list. Dealers come from a 50-mile radius, from Portsmouth to outside of Boston, to sell their wares.

Early birds welcome

The show was originally planned to run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., but the Pelletiers adjusted the schedule to better suit the needs of the dealers and visitors. Early-bird admission now begins at 7:30 a.m. and costs $5. The entrance fee drops to $2 from 9-11 a.m., and late arrivals can browse for free until the show closes at 1 p.m. Parking is free, and refreshments are available for purchase.

“The first week, we had close to 200 people come through,” Ron Pelletier said. “The second week, the weather was lousy and we didn’t get as many, but we still got quite a few. People come first thing, and the dealers and true collectors will be in and out by 9 o’clock.”

On Feb. 2, Kathy Pelletier said about 80 people showed up for the early-bird period, and plenty more during the rest of the morning. Due to the relatively mild weather that day, 16 outdoor vendors set up, the largest group since the show began.

The outdoor vendors, a lively bunch

The tour in the parking lot, where dealers had items displayed on tables, tarps on the ground, and some even selling right out of their trucks and vans. There was furniture, bicycles, scooters, license plates, magazines, dishes, tools and numerous other treasures.

“It’s been a good day, worth coming; the weather absolutely helped us today,” said Tim Casey, of Hidden Treasures in Peterborough. He and his partners specialize in 18th century furniture and were sitting in some comfortable looking antique chairs, surrounded by an assortment of tables, even a Victorian wingback potty chair.

One customer said he was a regular at the Hollis Flea Market and misses it, but was glad to have the chance to walk around the Brookline show. When asked what he hoped to find, Bill said, “The occasional tool, the strange, the different, generally not over $5.”

Jamie Dube cuts quite a figure in his black top hat, which last weekend was decorated with a red scarf, a shiny gold button and a large spider pin.

“At the European flea markets, in France and Poland, all the dealers wear top hats,” he explained.

Dube is from Hudson and has been selling at flea markets and antique shows for more than 30 years. Today, he has a variety of tools, books and blue willowware China dishes for sale. Two custom-made display cases house billiard balls, post cards, patches and other curiosities. He said he bought the doors to an old cabinet at a yard sale and fashioned them into the ideal size display cases.

Treasures abound

Mike, a dealer from Andover, Mass., has a large display of music and television memorabilia, but he is quick to show off a beautiful violin in its velvet case.

“It’s from the early 1900s,” he said. “I got it at a high-end estate sale in Andover and now I’m trying to find a new home for it. Everything here is vintage, like stepping back in time. This is not a flea market – some of these pieces could be in a museum.”

Jim Smith, the dealer at the next booth, joins the conversation.

“You see different flavors because we hand-pick the stuff,” Smith said. “Everybody has different taste. This is a great show. It’s the first time I’ve done it and I made some good money. You can’t sell good stuff unless you have educated buyers. If you come here, you will find something here like your grandmother had. A wide variety of treasures abound here.”

Joel Swenson is set up close to the front door. He knows a lot of people from the Hollis Flea Market, and was instrumental in helping connect dealers with Pelletier. Last weekend, he sold some inlaid decorative screens, old luggage, a Schwinn bicycle and various other items. Sticking out of his truck is a vintage Bing surfboard, which is reminiscent of a Beach Boys tune.

“This was made in California in the late ’60s,” he said. “They don’t make them like this anymore. The back fin is molded, not detachable, and these strips are sanded, glued and covered with fiberglass.”

26 more dealers inside

Although 26 dealers are set up inside the event center, it is pleasant to walk around and does not feel overcrowded. Everything from antique toys and costume jewelry to manual typewriters and farm implements can be found here.

Mike Kaulback, of Leominster, is wearing a vintage cap from the Virginia Military Academy.

“I’ve been collecting military (memorabilia) since I was 10,” he laughed. “That was 57 years ago. I started with World War II stuff and never stopped, and now here I am trying to sell it.”

A man in a World War II Veteran cap is eagerly browsing through Kaulback’s items. Edward Guillemette, who is up from Dracut, Mass., served in the Battle of Normandy under General Patton. He is part Mohawk, and his tribal name is Onkwetase, or Man Who Comes Around. He selects a few uniform patches from a box, which Kaulback discounts for the veteran.

One booth has a gleaming display of silver and silver plate items for sale, including forks, spoons, cake servers, ladles and other serving pieces. Another has a beautiful display of costume jewelry and lots of children’s books.

“It’s a stroll down memory lane,” said dealer Kelly Desmarais. “People love to collect, they really do. It’s nostalgic to go back to their childhood. Jewelry is always a big hit, too.”

Bonnie Mee and her husband drove from Kittery, Maine, just to shop at the Brookline market and found several treasures to bring home, including children’s magazines from 1912.

“Instead of going out to dinner, we do this,” she said. “We collect just about everything from crank record players and old instruments to old papers and magazines. They have a lot of great stuff here for not a lot of money.”

Upcoming dates

The remaining dates for the antique show are Feb. 16, March 2, March 16 and March 30, and April 13 and April 27. Go to for additional information.

“You never know what people are going to bring,” said Ron Pelletier, regarding the vendors. “They try to bring what they think will sell. It’s a guessing game for them, too – what do people want?”