When imagining an antique store, many people may think of a store filled with old, overpriced and dusty relics where touching anything is forbidden. However, one local woman is challenging those preconceptions.
Jennifer Bernzweig is the owner of Akron Antiques, located at 930 Canton Rd. on the border of Ellet and Springfield. She grew up antiquing with her dad, who bought and sold vintage jewelry. Since then, she has casually bought and sold antiques on the side. Now working as a real estate agent and running the antique store, she has found that these two part-time jobs work well together.
About eight years ago, Jennifer began creating jewelry from upcycled materials including silverware, thimbles, and pocket watches. She sold her pieces, such as spoon rings and pocket watch pendants, at local craft shows and flea markets and rented spaces in stores.
Jennifer loves making jewelry, but the shows were becoming too much. “It just wasn’t as fun as I wanted it to be… I was doing four to 10 local shows a month,” she says. Northeast Ohio weather was another factor, particularly one show with tornado-like conditions. “I was watching other people’s tents and booths go rolling past mine, and I was like you know what, I think I need to rent a space.”
She finally decided to look for a permanent storefront, mainly so that her jewelry would have a home, but also so that she could sell antiques.
After looking at many different locations, she decided on a building that was formerly an automotive repair shop. Not only did she like the space, she liked the location. Located on Route 91, the store is in a high-traffic area and she and her family live nearby.
Akron Antiques opened in October 2019, only five months before having to close in March 2020 due to the pandemic. The store has since reopened to the public. However, Jennifer says, “I would not have made it through COVID if it weren’t for Instagram and Facebook.”
Jennifer notes that she makes a lot of sales through Instagram. She regularly posts photos of her new finds and different displays in the store. Customers can then comment on the post or directly message her to hold items until they can make it to the shop.
As for sourcing her antique finds, Jennifer’s favorite place to find treasures is estate auctions. In addition, she looks for items at flea markets and yard sales. She has also had customers walk into the store with items they are looking to sell, which she will buy if it’s something she believes will sell.
One of her favorite things to source is furniture. She looks for pieces that are structurally intact, but may just need repainted or some minor repairs. Other items for sale at Akron Antiques include costume jewelry, old books, picture frames and art glass.
“I try to keep my prices really really fair, because that’s how I like to shop,” Jennifer says. When sourcing, she asks herself, “How can I sell this affordably?” Her goal is for the pieces to be sold and used, not sitting in her store gathering dust.
“It’s living history, but it can’t continue if people are afraid to have it in their house,” Jennifer says.
This past fall Jennifer held a trunk show with a local artist inside the store. In the future, trunk shows and even classes will be a common fixture at Akron Antiques. Once it is safer, she also wants to hold hybrid shows, which can include antiques, vintage goods and handmade items. There is a large parking lot next to the building with plenty of space to host vendors. She hopes events like this could help fill the void in Akron, as she points out that the city does not have its own truly local flea.
For now, Akron Antiques is open Fridays and Saturdays 11am–4pm, but Jennifer is happy to make appointments during other times of the week to accommodate customers that cannot visit at those times or would like to shop without other people in the store.
Jennifer works hard to make sure Akron Antiques is accessible and fun. “A lot of people think antique stores are stodgy, expensive and you’re not allowed to touch anything,” she says. “I want people to know that they can come to my store and look for casual [and] fun things. And it’s not going to be crazy expensive.”
You can learn more about Akron Antiques on their Instagram (@akronantiques) and Facebook pages.
Melanie Mohler is a West Hill resident with a love for baking, cross stitch, and local history.
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