Purchase Story

The Nashville Show by Jenkins: Change Is in the Air

Nashville, Tennessee

When visitors to the Nashville Show this year bought tickets at the front door, the first thing they saw was an artist’s rendering of what the new exposition buildings at the Nashville Fairgrounds will look like when collectors return in 2020. Construction is already underway, and modern techniques can quickly assemble the design with its multiple exhibition spaces. Nashville is a thriving, widespread metropolis with local wealth and an ever-growing influx of tourists, drawn by music, history, and food. And the improved fairgrounds, just off Interstate 65, will draw additional visitors with an expanded schedule of offerings in the new quarters.

Monty Young Antiques & Art from Shelbyville, Tennessee, south of Nashville, specializes in southern furniture and folk art and shared a side booth with Jelly Cupboard Antiques of Kingston Springs. The Georgia pine hunt board with a good provenance and old refinish was $6200; the hooked rug of a peaceful dog was $875.

Suzanne Baker Antiques, Westville, Indiana, shared a large booth with the Schlichters of Mustard House Antiques, Greenfield, Ohio, and Colleen Boland Alpers of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Baker had brought this pair of formal portraits for $1475; the portrait of a charming young girl with flowers was $885.

Suzanne Baker Antiques, Westville, Indiana, shared a large booth with the Schlichters of Mustard House Antiques, Greenfield, Ohio, and Colleen Boland Alpers of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Baker had brought this pair of formal portraits for $1475; the portrait of a charming young girl with flowers was $885.

Years of multiple February market events have demonstrated one fact—both antiques dealers and collectors love gathering at the early spring shows in Nashville. Exactly where to have these events has been a challenge because of the lack of affordable exposition space. All the spots available had their drawbacks—too expensive, too small, too large, too far away. The old Heart of Country Antiques Show founded by Dick and Libby Kramer led the way, utilizing convention venues at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, but as the hotel grew into multiple atria, load-in was a legendary nightmare and prices overall escalated.

Show managers Steve and Jon Jenkins began multiple shows as tailgates in close proximity to Heart of Country. Jenkins Management is based in Indiana and presents just under 20 shows a year, so Jon, Steve’s son, has a full-time job. Steve Jenkins, who originally brought the firm into Nashville, still exhibits antiques at the current show, and this year Jon had his 11-year-old son Graham on site, helping with each day’s activities. Definitely a family business.

Jean Doty of Jean Doty Antiques, Beaumont, Texas, brought two well-designed Delft chargers. The one above was $1150; the one below ($950) was flanked by individual tiles priced at $245.

Bill Rawski of Zap Props, Chicago, Illinois, has a 36,000-square-foot warehouse from which he sells and rents props for film, television, and stage productions as well as restaurant interiors, commercials, photographs, and big events. Bill Rawski stands by a framed Richfield Gasoline advertisement priced at $2500. The illuminated Blatz Beer sign, $12,000, is double-sided.

Neil and Barb Finbloom of Schoolhouse Antiques, Kirkwood, Missouri, presented this hooked rug depicting a New England sleigh ride, priced at $495; it was one of two rugs made by the same hand. The top bird is a rare circa 1900 dowitcher by James Casey of Newport, Rhode Island, priced at $975. Below is a contemporary yellowlegs by Rand Gleason of Pembroke, Massachusetts, $325.

For the Jenkins shows in Nashville, it would take a separate volume to chart all the permutations over the years, but those adjacent venues near Opryland underwent changes as well. Nashville still offers three events in February, but they have ended up in areas of town that are far apart. After experiments with hotels, tents, and other options, the Jenkinses eventually combined their roster of dealers into one show at the roomy but faded buildings on the Nashville Fairgrounds. For years, the city has promised and planned an update to those facilities. Finally, in 2019, the project is underway.

This year’s event, held February 14-16, opened for early birds at 9 a.m. on Valentine Day and had around 120 dealers. Part of the charm, as always, is the combination of well-known East Coast dealers who appear together elsewhere with dealers from the Midwest, far West, and South who meet up only in Nashville. For example, Barn Star Productions show manager Frank Gaglio was spotted on the floor, traveling ahead of three spring shows he had on his schedule. Gaglio was an exhibitor at Heart of Country long ago and still makes regular visits to look over the February shows and chat with dealer friends. Exhibitors sell, buy, reconnect with regular customers, and share directions to new restaurants in town. Dealers and collectors return each year to share finds and friendships over the weekend.

Local Tennessee dealer Michael Hall brought a Williamson County (Nashville) sugar chest, circa 1820, cherry with tulip poplar secondary wood, priced at $9500. Above was a framed Tennessee state flag from the 1940s.

Show promoter Jon Jenkins had a spot of his own this year where he successfully deaccessioned a pair of large architectural mirrors—they do make the room look larger. Singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow, who often shops the show, had picked up several items from his display.

George Lovejoy “Doc” Rockwell (1889-1978) was an American comedic vaudeville personality who headlined at the Palace Theatre, New York City. For many years, he wrote a humorous column for Maine’s Down East magazine. Bill Powell of Franklin, Tennessee, easily sold a theatrical collection that included these lobby displays.

Quite naturally, everybody was talking about the future of the show—did Jon Jenkins have all the answers? In recent years, the layout of dealers at the fairgrounds has been spread over three separate structures, with formal walled room settings where you enter in the Creative Arts Building and more casual booths in the nearby Exhibitor Building and Banquet Hall. Jenkins pointed out that, even in their present condition, the fairgrounds’ buildings were solidly booked for events; the venue will be even busier from now on. A logical question is how the Nashville Show will change. Will there be greater uniformity among the exhibitors’ booths, or will the wide variety of shows continue?

Jenkins explained, with a touch of humorous frustration: “Every facility we’ve had in the past has had a ‘yeah, but’ factor. From the hotels to the tent, to the time in Hendersonville, to the fairgrounds, dealers would say, ‘I don’t want to be on the third floor’ or ‘I can’t put my stuff outside’ or ‘I don’t feel comfortable in a tent’ or ‘I don’t want to be in the back room.’ Now, from a promoter’s standpoint, I won’t have to deal with those anymore. I think the show in future will probably be eighty-five percent walled spaces. But I’m certainly not going to deny a space to somebody who’s been with us for thirty years but doesn’t use walls. It doesn’t make sense, and I want to have the widest ranging show possible in terms of merchandise.”

Jenkins is now well into the challenging process of laying out a master plan and attempting to honor everyone’s wishes. He continued, “It will be easier to make sure visitors don’t miss anything. I haven’t seen every other major show in the country, but just from my own experience, the great percentage of people who travel into the events in Nashville—probably sixty percent—come here just to see those antique shows. That being said, those people who have driven for hours or flown across the country don’t miss part of the show—they make sure they see everything. I have been doing this long enough that I do research and put great thought into the process.”

Jenkins is now thoughtfully dealing with exhibitors’ special requests—who wants to be up front or in a corner or by the dock or just next to their best friend: “I have a stack of maps with requests on them, which I will eventually get around to charting later this year. I have two big shows between now and then. But at the fairgrounds in Nashville, the steel is up on the foundation, and it’s all pre-fab, so it’s simple to construct. That’s why the building project is progressing considerably faster.”

Although he might add a few dealers, Jenkins plans to keep the show close to its current size next year when the new facility opens. “I don’t think we’ll have too hard of a time selling it out. I think that’s a good size; I don’t want to be any bigger at this point in the market. I’m ecstatic about having this facility. Finally, after all the challenges we’ve had in Nashville, trying to make really unique and difficult facilities work, it will be nice to have those challenges off the table.”

The best place to follow the Nashville Show is online (www.tailgateantiqueshow.com) or by looking for the Facebook page (search for Tailgate-Music Valley Antiques Show). The 2020 event will be held February 13-15.

Nicholas Domenick of Baden, Pennsylvania, had a dramatic carved and painted tobacco store trade sign for $7800.

Jeffrey Roelof and Brett Grinwis of Kalamazoo, Michigan, had an intriguing collection of embellished antique top hats for $4000, perfect for a parade or a retro sixties celebration.

Mario Pollo of Holliston, Massachusetts, and David Zabriskie of Lake Placid, New York, set up a unified display. The Spanish trestle table (6'7" long) was an early sale. The painting above the table―a romantic but mythical scene―was offered for $3355. Two’s company, but add a pack of cavorting cupids and you have a crowd.

Greg Kramer (right) of Robesonia, Pennsylvania, chats with a client in his expansive exhibit-packed booth at the center of the Creative Arts Building. He carries something for everyone—furniture, folk art, rows of game boards, cases of redware—take your pick.


Tony Lewis of Knoxville, Tennessee, displayed this Georgia meat safe decorated with punched urns, hearts, and stars; it was $3600.

Michael Paul Gunselman of Wilmington, Delaware, filled his space with American transportation toys and vintage advertising. The black and red wrecker truck in front is a 1927 Buddy “L” model priced at $2100.

Francis Crespo of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, had everything from decorative furniture to quirky folk art such as his favorite well-dressed duck.

Hunt boards are one of the desirable southern furniture forms sought after by collectors. John R. Joiner Antiques, Newnan, Georgia, had this example in green paint from Glascock County, southwest of Augusta, available for $13,500.

Exhibition of Tennessee Quilts at the New Tennessee State Museum

Quilt collectors on the hunt in Nashville had an additional treat during the 2019 antiques week. The exhibition Between the Layers: Art and Story in Tennessee Quilts had opened at the new Tennessee State Museum just in time for the February shows; it will continue through July 7. The exhibition, organized by Candace Adelson, senior curator of fashion and textiles, draws examples from the institution’s well-documented collection of quilts stitched in every corner of the state. The oldest is a dated 1808 patriotic quilt made by Rebecah Foster at Nashville in Davidson County; the design features a blue central eagle and shield surrounded by the names of the 17 states in the Union at that time.

Side trips to the museum were often included as part of the educational offerings at the Kramers’ Heart of Country shows, and visitors will remember that the collections were located for many years on the lower levels of a state office building. Last October, a magnificent new Tennessee State Museum opened at the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park in downtown Nashville, not far from the historic Tennessee State Capitol building. The facility contains permanent and changing exhibitions ranging in date from artifacts of the First Peoples to 19th-century furniture to contemporary folk art. For more information about the museum’s history and collections, go to the website (www.tn.gov/museum).

From the balcony at the museum, there is a clear view of the historic Tennessee State Capitol building, completed in 1859 and now surrounded by modern buildings in the heart of Nashville. The Classical structure was designed by noted Philadelphia architect William Strickland (1788-1854). Instead of a dome, the building is topped by a lantern structure modeled on the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens. In the foreground is the Nashville Farmers’ Market, where modern buildings now house a city meeting place active since the early 1800s. Albertson photo.

The new Tennessee State Museum is located on a corner of the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. Opened in October 2018, the building was designed by EOA Architects of Nashville with Sheila Dial-Barton as the lead architect. Photo courtesy Tennessee State Museum.

This Sunburst variation quilt was a family project stitched by Lucy Jane Nunnelee and her three eldest daughters, 1855-65, when they lived in Maury or Hickman County, Tennessee. The swirling design may have been laid out by Lucy Jane’s husband, James “Marcus” de La Fayette Nunnelee (1826-1876), using his surveyor’s instruments. Photo courtesy Tennessee State Museum.

Originally published in the June 2019 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2019 Maine Antique Digest

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