Saturday, March 27, 2010

JRM Antiques Opens in Old Bedford Depot Train Station Building

JRM Antiques held it's grand opening on March 17th in the Bedford Depot Building at 80 Loomis Street. I recently spoke with John Monahan, it's owner. John has been an avid collector for the past 15 years. He started collecting as a hobby then he expanded to become a Power Seller on eBay as well as a volunteer to help others price and sell their collectibles. About a year ago, John retired from his day job to spend time boating and golfing. Shortly after his retirement he saw an advertisement soliciting request for proposals (RFP) for the Bedford Depot Building. He thought that since the building was already very historic, it would be a great place to sell antiques and collectibles. So he filled out the RFP and on December 21st, was awarded a three year lease for one of the rooms (about 530 square feet) in the Bedford Depot building.

The store features items from the 1850's through the 1970's.

JRM Antiques focus is on Antiques and Collectibles for three periods: Nouveau Art (which John considers mid to late 19th century), Art Deco (mainly 1930's) and Modern Art (1930's-1970's). The store features a wide variety of products ranging from about $5 to $850 with most products in the $15-50 range. In fact, some of the original items he collected are now in the store. When the store acquires antiques, it spends time cleaning them up and does a lot of research with guides such as Kovels to set pricing.

A recently acquired table is being cleaned up in preparation for display in the store.

One thing John really likes about the antique business is the close relationships with customers. According to John, antiques stores tend to have lots of interaction with customers and typically wind up a first name basis. The store does take items on consignment and also will go to estates to offer advice.

The display cases features some of the consignment items.

John has been very pleased with the store opening. He states that he gets a lot of traffic from the Minuteman Bikeway and has gotten customers who have biked in from Arlington, Cambridge and Boston and then seen his store. According to John, a lot of bicyclists come by to browse and then will come back later to make their purchase, although he has sold a few items that wound up placed precariously on the bike for the ride home.

The view from the Minuteman Bikeway which has been a large source of customers.

The Store is Open Thursday through Sunday but stays open until 8pm on Thursday which according to John, has been very successful. John is also working on a website for the store that will also include more high end items.

As far as future plans, John is in the planning stages of working with the Bedford Historical Society to put together a show in Town. John is also looking forward to working with the Bedford Farmers' Market. Ultimately he would like to expand his store in to one of the adjacent vacant storefronts in the Bedford Depot and add small furniture to the list of items he carries.

Front of the Bedford Depot Building. Several rooms in the building are still available for rent.

The recent renovation of Bedford Depot Freight House along with the new retail business is proving benefical for the Depot Park area. The area looks a lot better and is attracting a lot more people and is becoming a destination. I think the final piece of the puzzle would be the addition of a restaurant. While the Bedford Depot building is probably too small for a full service restaurant (although possible in another nearby building), the addition of a small cafe or even a seasonal Ice Cream shop would be a nice addition.

In a bunch of my recent discussions with new retail business owners in Bedford, many of them have had to face unexpected hurdles with the town resulting in delays and additional costs in opening their businesses. While many of these zoning/permitting/signage hurdles are reasonable from a town perspective, they can be mostly be mitigated with advanced knowledge by the business owner. Some of the surrounding towns such as Lexington, offer a liaison to help guide new retail business owners and attract new businesses. While this may not be economically feasible for Bedford, this might be a good role for the Bedford Chamber of Commerce to proactively take on. For example, the chamber could work with landlords and review new Bedford business licenses to seek out new businesses and then send out a guide/checklist on opening and running a business in Bedford. Not only would this help smooth the new business opening, but would also likely boost membership in the Chamber as the new businesses would see the immediate value that the Chamber is providing.

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