By Eric C. Rodenberg
DUBUQUE, Iowa – Kimberly K. Schilling believes in antiques. She also believes in “turning lemons into lemonade.”
Schilling is bullish on the antique markets in the Midwest and the Plains; and as proof, is opening not one, but two new antique shows in Iowa. As owner of Melting Pot Productions, Schilling has been promoting antiques shows for 25 years.
Her newest show, the Antique Spectacular Vintage Market will make its debut the weekend of March 22-24 at the Grand River Center in Dubuque. The show will feature as many as 60 dealers (it can host as many as 80 dealers, Schilling says) at the Grand River Center, 500 Bell St. in Dubuque.
The other new show is her April 12-14 Antique Spectacular Vintage Market, in the city of Waterloo. The Waterloo version of the show came about after the University of Northern Iowa overbooked their facility. That facility had been home for the past 25 years to the UNI-Dome Show and it had a tremendous following. Schilling had managed the last nine of the UNI Dome shows.
She had a tremendous show on her hands but nowhere to hold it.
“But, what can you do?” she shrugs. The other competing event had more of an educational theme, it is an institute for higher learning. You just make lemonade from those lemons.”
And that was the theme – “making lemonade from lemons” – of her communication with her legion of vendors. Waterloo is only 10 minutes southeast of Cedar Rapids with the highly accessible Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center near downtown Waterloo.
Melting Pot Productions is now managing four Antique Spectacular Vintage Markets a year in Dubuque and Waterloo, with two other shows (in March and November) in Rock Island, Illinois.
Business, Schilling said, has been “very steady and very consistent” in the Midwest region for 25 years. With a degree in advertising (and art), she uses every form of advertising – physical or digital – to promote her shows.
She credits the “re-purposing” of antiques that’s currently attracting a younger crowd as good for the business. “I know there’s a lot of pros and cons to re-purposing, but it’s getting more people through the door. I think some of your more savvy young buyers are starting to realize the craftsmanship and durability of older pieces.”
Many dealers have been with Schilling from her first sale in 1994 in Davenport (with 22 vendors) and are staying with her. That show, now in Rock Island, in mid-March drew 70 vendors.
“Our sales were really strong in Rock Island (March 1-3),” Schilling said. “We were fortunate. We dodged a lot of the bad weather … storms and blizzards were happening all around us … people were glad to be out having fun.”
Rock Island now has a waiting list for vendors, she said.
The upcoming Antique Spectacular features “antiques from all over the world,” Schilling says. Booths will be comprised of all manner of furniture, art pottery, stoneware, books, silver toys, advertising and much more.
Currently, there are dealers from at least nine states, including those from Nebraska, Oklahoma and California.
“A lot of my vendors have been with me for 20 years or more – we’re kind of like a family,” she says. “The antiques they have come from everywhere. I look at many of these old and unique items as part of a travel hunting adventure. You never know what you’ll find at one of our Antique Spectacular Vintage Markets.”