MIDDLETOWN – Andy Anderson is retiring from his hobby.
After 52 years of running Locust Antiques, a business that owner A. Stephen Anderson maintains that grew out of his hobby, he is in the process of closing up his shop at 487 Locust Point Road for good.
The reasons for shuttering the business now? Anderson shrugs, noting “age” – he’s 81– “the economy” and the overall “quality of things” produced now as opposed to the antiques and collectibles that have dotted his shop’s shelves for more than a half-century.
“It’s been a good life,” he said, maintaining he has “no regrets” about his career choices, retiring now and closing his shop.
“It’s been a good time, given it wasn’t suppose to be a career; it was a hobby.”
Anderson, who goes by Andy, grew up in Rumson. He would regularly scour the neighborhood and drag home interesting items that people were looking to discard – much to the initial chagrin but then acceptance of his parents.
After mustering out of the Army in 1955 and spending some time in Florida as a self-described beach bum, Anderson wound up getting a job at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City. Having gone to McDowell School of Design in New York, Saks hired him to design women’s wear, what Anderson labeled “day wear” for some of the store’s most elegant customers, including the Firestones and Helen Keller.
He continued to indulge his hobby, more accumulating than collecting items that struck his fancy. Then the Locust Point Road shop, a former general store and post office, became available.
Anderson recalled his first sale – four Hitchcock chairs that he sold to a woman driving a Volkswagen Beetle, that somehow she and Anderson were able to load into the car. “It was a chore,” he recalled. “I don’t know if she ever got them out.
“Luckily, I had a full-time job to support my hobby,” he said of the early years, when his mother, Thelma Anderson, would run the store for Andy during the summer months. “She was a very social person,” who knew many, many people. “People would bring sandwiches and pass the afternoon” in the store, Anderson said.
When Saks discontinued its custom line, leaving him out of work, Anderson had a couple of interviews and offers. “When I got off the train in Red Bank,” he said, “I knew I wouldn’t take any of them,” deciding, instead to dedicate his time to Locust Antiques.
“I just tried to figure out how to do this,” he said.
The shop now is largely vacant with only a few pieces remaining to be picked up by purchasers. Anderson expects to have it all wrapped up and closed by the end of the month. Between now and the final day, he said, he was spending his time “digging out and throwing out” years of accumulation.
During its run, the collection was what Anderson called “eclectic” with items that included furniture to every kind of bric-a-brac.
Everything in the shop wasn’t an antique in the truest sense, but were things that piqued Anderson’s interest and those of his clients for one reason or another. His loyal customers had come to rely on and trust his taste.
“People would call and ask ‘What do you have for $150 for a wedding gift?’” and Anderson would suggest something like the set of candlesticks he had found in one of his outings to an auction. “They would tell me ‘I’ll be there tomorrow’ and just love them.”
Anderson’s taste and eye led him to work on a number of area show houses in Monmouth County and elsewhere in the state over the years. Along with running the Locust location, Anderson was one of the first dealers participating in the Red Bank Antiques Center when it began in 1964.
Old things appealed to him because “they were better made then; the quality was there. Now everything is made of plastic, mass produced, disposable,” with that individual touch gone, he said, explaining, in part, his desire to step away from the business.
“I’m not into the Internet and all that stuff,” he said.
He believes online activity has changed the business substantially, leaving behind what he liked about it – meeting and talking to people.
His love of old things extends to his cars. He currently owns a variety of them, including a 1962 Chrysler Imperial, 1972 and 1974 Mercedes Benzes, a 1985 Lincoln Town Car, and two Cadillacs, dating back to 1985 and 1990. “I never bought a new car and I never anticipate buying a new one,” he insisted, “because they’re nothing but plastic.”
His plans for the future? “People keep asking me that, asking what will you do?” he noted. “I say something will turn up.”