Jack Partridge, a veteran antiques dealer from North Edgecomb, Maine, has been in the business for 53 years. It's been a good life, he says, in spite of the face that competition is getting tougher, goods are getting scarcer, and prices are spiraling.
He admits that buying and selling antiques isn't as much fun as it used to be and is far harder work these days. He even retired once, in 1960, and closed his New York shop and moved to the Maine seacoast. Finding himself bored with the leisurely life, he soon found a house with a huge barn in back and announced to his wife, Tatiana, that he was going back into the antiques business.
Jack Partridge is part of a well-known English family that has been famous for selling antiques in London and New York for decades. When he emigrated to New York from England in 1930, he worked for several years in family businesses, including the elite Frank Partridge shop that well-heeled New Yorkers patronized for years.
He ran a summer antiques shop in Bar Harbor, Maine, from 1933 to 1939, fell in love with the state, and dealt with many of America's wealthiest families who summered there. Mr. Partridge opened his own shop in New York in 1939, specializing in English antiques as other members of his family before him had done, making two buying trips a year to England and developing his own sources throughout the provinces.
For years now he has been one of the few dealers in fine English furniture in Maine. He became known in the state as "the man who will buy and sell English goods." That meant, he says, that most of the English pieces in Maine ended up on his doorstep.
This year the tall, lean, white-thatched dealer, who still speaks with a British accent, has had to capitulate to Americana, he says, because he has literally been "tossed out of the English market. Prices have gone out of sight and English dealers are now coming to the US to buy from me." He says they can buy cheaper in America t han they can at home.