Nov 01, 2019 10:20AM
Walking into Callahan’s Antiquities in Montoursville is like walking through a time portal. A wide variety of antique furniture, jewelry, glass, toys, signs, and textiles fill the front room, whose walls are lined with prints and original framed artwork side by side with antique signs. Cases of coins, jewelry, and small unusual items beckon. The shop is full almost to the point of overflowing with a welcoming abundance, arranged to give shoppers a chance to let their eye wander—and perhaps enjoy a memory. For proprietor Michael Callahan (above), the story of an antique is most important.
And at Callahan’s, all the roads and all the stories lead to home and to family.
Michael wouldn’t have it any other way. “I’m the fifth generation of Callahans in Montoursville,” he says, of the deep and strong roots that influence everything he does. For him, the history of a picture or an antique jug is as important to preserve as the item itself. Even the shop’s building has a great story. He’s researched the structure back to the 1840s. It was once the grocery store and ice house for the borough, and by the time his father bought the building in the 1970s, it was a barber shop, a beauty shop, and had room for more. The Callahans owned it for about a decade, then sold it to a neighbor. When that neighbor moved and needed to sell, the Callahans simply bought it back. It was in this building that young Michael started his antique business, first from the back of the building (originally the ice house portion) and then working his way to the front. As he expanded and renovated, he eventually bought the building from his parents, and today occupies most of it.
The collection is eclectic, filled with some of the major design categories from the mid 1800s to right around World War II. The Callahan’s Antiquities website says it best: “A Fine Selection of Mid Century, Arts & Crafts, Victorian, Primitives, Precious & Costume Jewelry, Military, American Indian, Crocks & Jugs, Vintage 1950s-60s, Deco, Oriental, Antique Weapons, Advertising, Architectural, Coins, Sterling Silver, Scrap Gold & Silver and Fine Art & Prints.” Whew! What makes it all special, however, is the care and the selection. Michael uses a personal touch for all his buying, from going to people’s homes for one item or acquiring an entire household collection. By going directly to the collector, not only does the person selling know exactly how much they will get for their treasures, the historical stories that accompany many beloved items are retained. By buying directly and privately, the items that Michael offers have not been available to buy somewhere else for some period of time.
“It’s all fresh to the market,” he notes. With local connections, he knows Montoursville folks and the community’s history. That can be critical not only in getting a special item to another person who will cherish it, but in providing the all-important history of the item (called provenance in the antique and appraisal businesses), which makes it more unique and more valuable.
Having been in the antique and collectible business since 2004, Michael has seen changes. The younger set has less interest in collecting, he says, but he has the secret weapon of history and storytelling to combat this. He teaches a third-grade class on local history, making both the history and the artifacts that help tell that story come alive. He also speaks at museums, clubs, and appraisal fairs. Everywhere he speaks, he talks about history, the stories of local people, and the things that they used and cherished. By doing that, he breathes life into a small piece of the past for others to see.
He also shows people the value of antiques.
“If people spend the time and develop an interest, especially in furniture and jewelry, they will get better quality items for their money, and also have the history of the piece to share,” he says. Michael notes that the prices of early twentieth century furniture are low at the moment, which means that you can buy an antique table in oak, or other beautiful wood, for about the same price as a new table that is either pine, or maybe not even constructed entirely of wood.
Callahan’s Antiquities does things “the old-fashioned way”—including being a stand-alone store, not part of a cooperative, or a larger store, or a chain. Michael is the one who has purchased what you see, and he is selective—there are no reproductions or other “antique-like” merchandise scattered through the shop. He does try to carry high quality items, but that does not mean that everything has a high price. There is a wide price range, and he buys what he likes, and what he hopes his customers will like.
And for Callahan’s, business means family. His own family works with him and he is surrounded by them as he, his dad (also Michael), and his wife, Kristen, work to prepare items for sale and to greet customers looking for that special something or to add to a growing collection or interest. Kristen works with computer sales, keeping the books, and all the work of running a shop. There is even room, in the back area, for their two young children—growing up in a shop surrounded by all the stories that antiques can tell.
Find Callahan’s Antiquities at 381 Broad Street in Montoursville. Call them at (570) 368-2597 or visit callahansantiquities.com.