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Round Top Spring Shows Cancellation Deals a Devastating Blow, Forces Dealers to Scramble to Adjust

How You Can Still Support Small Antiques Businesses and Shop Major Deals Remotely

BY // 03.23.20

“It’s with heavy hearts we announce the cancellation of our Spring 2020 show,” read the post on Marburger Farm’s Instagram account on March 13. In the days leading up to the post, preeminent venues such as Marburger and The Compound insisted that the spring antiques shows in Round Top, Texas, scheduled to take place from March 19 through April 5 were still on.

Marburger’s post continues, “In light of recent developments from state and national authorities, senior local officials have decided to cancel all Spring 2020 Round Top antique shows and activities. We are deeply burdened by this outcome, but even more motivated as we look forward to Fall 2020.”

Indeed, the cancellation of the spring shows, while important to help flatten the COVID-19 curve from a public health standpoint, was a devastating blow to the venues and vendors who rely on the spring and fall Round Top antique shows to produce a substantial portion of their annual income.

“Losing our expected revenue from showing at The Compound and Marburger Farm Antique shows is financially devastating for my business, as we just had our 40-foot container delivered to a newly acquired Rice Military warehouse. I had also invested in a wonderful, crusty old house in nearby Oldenburg to stay at during the shows,” Suzanne Coppola of Laurier Blanc tells PaperCity. “I feel like our sector is one of the first affected by the current situation, and it’s proving to have a very serious impact on my ability to keep the doors open longer term, so to speak.”

Coppola, who is a single mom, is currently not taking a salary so that she can protect her employees as long as possible.

Susan Horne Antiques’ showroom in Market Hill is open year-round by appointment, “but during the show we bring it alive with bells and whistles,” Susan Horne tells PaperCity. “We had clients already on their way to Round Top, so we made appointments with them. We practiced social distancing in the showroom and had hand sanitizer.

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“The most important thing is reaching out to other dealers and finding ways to help each other during this difficult time. So many great things are already happening. Paul Michael, the owner of Market Hill, is forgiving us the rent due and applying it to the next show. I know this is happening at several venues. Lodging owners are returning deposits or applying them for the next visit.”

A New, Increasingly Virtual Reality

Part of the joy of Round Top is the thrill of the hunt in dusty fields through sweltering tents, connecting with people along the journey. You never know whom you will run into or what treasures you will find. But this spring, the hunt will have to happen online, which is a challenge for the historically analog antiques business. The situation is ever evolving, with vendors who are still open in Round Top and Houston limiting showroom hours and/or temporarily closing their doors, but many have created virtual showrooms online and through social media.

“The Round Top spring show is the most successful and demanding time of year for my business,” dealer Courtney Barton tells PaperCity. “Like all Round Top vendors, I brought in new inventory for the show, and I’m now focused on how to creatively showcase it to my clients. I’m incredibly thankful that I recently revamped my website so that customers can more easily shop remotely.

“Within a few weeks, our Round Top Spring 2020 collection will be photographed, featured and available for purchase at www.shopcourtneybarton.com.”

Courtney Barton Round Top
Courtney Barton usually has one of the most popular booths at The Arbors during the spring antique shows in Round Top.

Look for a new neutral collection of Kantha quilts with embroidery, a departure from her usual vibrant colors; several vintage one-of-a-kind Gudri pillows; and blockprint pillows in a mustard/ochre color scheme — what Barton calls the “new neutral.”

The family that owns Blue Hills had a wild week. Stephanie Disney tells PaperCity that she found out the Round Top spring shows had been canceled hours before her sister’s rehearsal dinner. The family scrambled to help out their vendors by creating a virtual show that has launched on Instagram stories and via the hashtag #bluehillspring2020. Clients are taken on virtual tours of the tents via their vendor’s Instagram accounts. Clients can direct message dealers directly to purchase, and most of the vendors have the ability to ship all over.

Marburger Farm is also connecting clients with dealers via its Instagram account. Follow the hashtag #MarburgerFarmSpring2020 to find the pieces you were going to bring home this spring in person online instead.

Susan Horne’s daughter Meghan, who runs her antiques business with her, is adding items and editing the website susanhorneantiques.com daily so everyone can access their curated collection of fine European antiques. They are hard at work organizing their Houston warehouse, which will soon be open to designers by appointment. Designers will be able to shop the Houston warehouse and from there will also have virtual access to the Market Hill showroom in Round Top via an iPad.

Laurier Blanc is updating its website as well. “Thank goodness we’ve always invested in online selling, so we are focusing on photographing our inventory as quickly as we can to share with our clients as well as list via other selling platforms with 1stdibs.com and chairish.com,” says Suzanne Coppola. She has been pulling 12-hour-plus days photographing the inventory in Houston with the hopes to hold a sale outside of the Rice Military warehouse.

“For us, essentially wholesaling our inventory right now to provide a financial cushion to ride out the economic storm might be necessary. It’s the unknown factor of timing (and particularly how long) that is the most frightening,” Coppola says.

She has been meeting (at a safe social distance) with year-round Round Top dealers including Jimmy Herron and Dany Wolfs at Excess, Bader Ranch, and Susan Horne, Jessica Fairbrother, and Ender Taschi, who have showrooms at Market Hill, and Lee Ellis and Paul Michael to discuss a potential showroom in Round Top, as people are still visiting the area.

Elizabeth Michael of Paul Michael and Market Hill reveals they have created a Facebook group. “It’s thriving. We hope everyone gets on there and shops. It is not just for Market Hill; it is for all of Round Top,” Michael tells PaperCity. Look to Market Hill’s instagram account as well for exclusive items posted there.

Kathy Johnston of The Compound reveals that their vendors are doing virtual sales on their Instagram accounts and have been tagging The Compound, who reposts. Dealer Amelia Tarbet, whom designer/blogger Emily Henderson recently named to her Top 20 vintage Instagram sellers, posted a particularly gorgeous vintage Portuguese raffia settee that quickly sold.

“I traveled across the pond last November to source some pretty unique pieces for this spring’s Round Top,” Tarbet says. “Despite it being canceled, I’m grateful for all of the support and encouragement received by so many of you.” Johnston is working on a Facebook group for The Compound as well.

Round Top Looking Ahead

“When things settle down and we can maneuver this new normal, we want to organize an antique shopping trail with other dealers, opening our warehouses together for something like Round Top in Houston,” Horne says. “Supporting each other comes naturally. We are a tight-knit community — we are in this together. Helping one another will get us through the days ahead.”

As for Courtney Barton, whose second brick and mortar is slated to open in Round Top in early fall, she says, “I’m deeply encouraged by how the Round Top and Houston communities have united to support one another during this uncertain time. Clients have already called to book one-on-one store visits to view new pieces, and it means the world to have their support.

“My business is all about mingling far-flung places, cultures, and eras to create timeless and storied interiors — and we’ll keep doing this, connecting with customers digitally, by appointment in our Houston shop, and eventually again in Round Top.”

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