By John Burton
RED BANK – Paul Gallagher and Ronald Knox think a move to Red Bank will be the right fit for their antique business.
“What’s nice about the area is there is such a vibrant nightlife, restaurants, clubs, you can have art shows and other events,” Gallagher said.
He and Knox, owners of Stillwell House Fine Art and Antiques now in Manalapan, expect to be sponsoring a variety of arts-related events once they move to the borough’s Arts and Antiques District on West Front Street later in the spring.
The men opened their shop in 2003 in a historic farmhouse, dating back to 1839, at 525 Route 9 south, Manalapan. They won the Monmouth County Historical Commission’s preservation award the following year.
That location, a standalone structure on a busy highway, does not allow for foot traffic, something Gallagher and Knox see as an important component to a growing business.
Now, they are undertaking substantial renovations at their new location at 212 W. Front St., an approximately 2,500 square-foot space that is a little larger than their Manalapan space. They expect that being nestled in a cluster of related businesses will allow for the drop-in business they are looking for at the new site.
Knox said he and Gallagher initially considered locating to Red Bank when they were opening their business. They wanted to be in Red Bank but found the cost of doing so at that time was prohibitive. “Thankfully, this building became available,” he said. They have purchased the site.
“Other dealers are excited that we’re going to be moving into the district and have been wishing us well,” Knox said.
The Stillwell House for more than the last decade has specialized in pre-Industrial Revolution antiques, starting at circa–late 1700s. The attraction of that period, Knox said, is that it was the last period that “items would be handmade, instead of mass produced.”
There are numerous items on display in the restored farmhouse, including cabinets, tables, china closets, chairs and sofas, French country armoires, and rugs.
Gallagher said a visit to their location could offer a real education to clients. “We sell an immersive experience” where the knowledgeable collector or those looking for an item or two to enhance the home can understand a piece’s place in history as well appreciate it for its beauty.
“We open the eyes for a lot of people,” Knox said.
“We’re interested in educating people as well as having things we like,” Gallagher said.
Along with furniture, Stillwell House specializes in “vintage decorative art,” housing paintings from the 1700s through the 1960s, Gallagher said.
Most notable among their collection are a series of paintings done by Leon Dabo, a French-born American artist (1864-1960), known for his landscape work. His work has been gaining in importance – along with a rise in price – as the people become more aware of his work, now that it isn’t solely owned by the artist’s family members, Knox said.
The two men were responsible for selling the artist’s estate, which was a coup for them, they said, heightening their profile. They have a dozen Dabo paintings on display and own more than 50 in their personal collection.
The owners’ interests include Meissen porcelain, the Germany-based manufacturer, dating from the 18th century, and other porcelain items.
While Gallagher has always had a passion for such items – he began collecting porcelain at age 10 – it wasn’t always his career. He spent 25 years as a performer, actor and opera singer before starting this business.
Knox’s background is in antiques, having spent a number of years managing the former Pierre Deux, an imported antiques store in New York City’s West Village. His experience has helped as the two travel around the country and occasionally to Europe to acquire items for their shop.