Scene One: Antique Mall Rejuvenates Old Theater

First Take: Last weekend, I checked out The Webster Groves Antique Mall, 103 Lockwood Ave., Webster Groves, Mo., which opened June 1 in the former Ozark Movie Theater (circa 1921). The theater operation shut down in the 80s; the venerable building most recently served as HQ for Sterling Pen Company. Because of the nature of the space, the mall is quirky, and a tad confounding, but it has promise.

With no clear paths to booths, which meander up and down “aisles,” it’s easy to feel that you missed one here or there. Some dealer spaces are intimate for their separate rooms (were these offices in previous incarnations?), while others seem to hide in nooks cobbled together on what appears to be a balcony landing. (Its’ difficult to tell what’s what, without really studying the layout, because some of the interior is closed off). The shortest cases I’ve ever encountered in an antique mall grace a large, open area, and also sit desk-height on tables (a bit too low) that are set up rather like rows of desks in a lecture-style classroom. The ceiling has been peeled away to reveal skylights; the random rays of natural light cast a wonderful glow on the walls, floor and merchandise.

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The mall features an eclectic mix (this is good) of old stuff and fine antiques (as is typical, prices range from fair to pricey), newish items (drat!) and artworks handcrafted from vintage findings. I’m tempted to rail on the notion that brand new merchandise – no matter how cute(sy) – has no place in an antique mall … just starting out, maybe they needed dealers? Either way, it flies in the face of what an antique mall is meant to be, but c’est la vie.

Bottom line: the opening scene at Webster Groves Antique Mall is worth checking out, if just to bask in some hometown history, but there’s also a decent chance some tchotchke will catch your eye. Of course, I made a couple of purchases, including a cast iron black crow (reminiscent of Hitchcock’s movie, so why was I not completely creeped out by it instead of finding it utterly irresistible?) and a porcelain salvage piece that could serve as a candlestick, as suggested by the dealer’s tag, but will more likely become a bookend.

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