|By DOUG SCHMITZ
LEBANON, Ohio – After selling her retail business and working for several years as a meeting and event planner, Donna Welsch wanted to get back into her own business that would allow her some flexibility.
“My mother was an antiques dealer in St. Louis, doing shows around the country, so I had been exposed to antiques most of my life,” said Welsch, co-manager of Miller<’s Antique Market, where there<’s an “antique show every day,” its website declares.
“My daughter had traveled with her for several summers doing shows as a teenager and kept telling me how much fun they had,” she added.
But due to her responsibilities at home, Welsch said she was unable to travel to do shows.
“However, at this same time in early 1988, Gerald Miller, a hometown boy from Lebanon, Ohio, decided to retire from his very successful interior design business in Los Angeles and return home,” she said.
Subsequently, Miller bought a beautiful antebellum home and a downtown building that had formerly been a car dealership to convert into an antique marketplace, which Welsch said was “a monumental task.”
“One weekend in early spring when my husband was in Europe on a business trip, my daughter and her husband convinced me to go to my first-ever, on-site auction,” she said.
“Needless to say, I was hooked,” she added. “Several weeks later when my mother was in Cincinnati doing a show, we took her with us to check out Gerry Miller<’s antique market in the making. She was impressed with what she saw and encouraged us to rent a space.”
Miller<’s Antique Market opened its doors to dealers in 1988.
“We signed up to take a space on Aug. 1, knowing it would take a few weeks to accumulate enough merchandise to fill a space,” she said. “The place was filling up fast and by the end of the year, Miller<’s was full. There are a few of us who have been here since the beginning.
“We have husbands, wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, brothers, friends, former customers and walk-ins who have become Miller<’s dealers over the years,” she added.
In 2000, Gerald Miller retired again, this time for good, Welsch said, and sold Miller<’s Antique Market, including the building to K & D Alexander Enterprises.
“Currently, we have a full mall with over 80 dealers with a staff of 12, including co-manager Karen Herzog and myself,” she said. “I never dreamed when we rented our first space in 1988 that 30 years later we would have been managing Miller<’s for 10-plus years.”
Located on 201 S. Broadway St. in Lebanon, Miller<’s Antique Market<’s 80-plus dealers offer a wide selection of antiques, collectibles and vintage items.
“We have become the place to shop for good primitives, country antiques and furniture, including kitchen cupboards, trunks, traditional antiques, pottery, Victorian pieces and jewelry, southwestern and Indian jewelry, tools, art, textiles, vintage clothing, linens and Christmas items,” Welsch said. “Our dealers shop at auctions, estate sales and private sales, and have personal connections to purchase the best of the best.
“One dealer sells a lot of Victorian lockets, along with religious items and bronze statues,” she added. “Thousands of postcards fill one booth and another has signs, baseball cards and memorabilia. Cases contain exquisite smalls. From $1 hankies and $900 cupboards, to $1,800 paintings, Miller<’s sells it all.”
Moreover, she said vintage painted furniture has made its debut the past few years and seems to have found a steady market.
“Our customers still seem to prefer country and traditional furniture and accessories,” she said. “Small pantry items, tobacco tins and bottles have gained popularity recently. Sets of china and silver-plated items are not selling as well as they previously did.”
Welsch said the mall has many repeat customers who travel from all over the country to shop at Miller<’s Antique Market because of the quality and variety of the merchandise.
“They appreciate the way we remember them and treat them when they come for a return shopping trip,” she said.
“We also continue to have first-time customers who come in and say, <’Wow, a real antique mall. How long have you been here?<’ When we tell them we have been here 30 years, they are quite surprised.”
For more information visit millersantiquemarket.weebly.com or call (513) 932-8710