Food for Thought Antiques

A WONDERFUL PLACE  — Food for Thought Antiques manager Mary Bigelow (second from right) with volunteers Pepe Conran, Christine Anderson and Bea Griffiths.

For years, Bay Area visitors traveling up Highway 116 to Sebastopol and the coast made a point of stopping at the antique stores south of town — and then, over the last 10 years, as a part of a nationwide decline in interest in antiques, the number of visitors to these stores dwindled to a trickle.

Now one of the region’s flagship antique stores, Food For Thought Antiques, has announced that it will be closing its doors on Sept. 14. The store is no longer accepting donations. 

“We’ve struggled with profitability for many years,” said Ron Karp, executive director of Food for Thought, a Forestville-based nonprofit providing healing food and nutrition services to Sonoma County residents living with serious illnesses.

“We’ve owned the store for 12 years, and there’s been a lot of shifts in the market, one of which is a huge fall-off in the popularity of the whole antique world,” he said. “Antiques are worth a fraction of what they were 20 years ago, like maybe 10%.”

This led to shrinking profits for the store, which was bequeathed to Food for Thought by longtime donor and volunteer Randall Johnson in 2007.

The store is well known for its expansive and eclectic inventory, including its collection of Victorian, retro, vintage, boho and upcycled items, including furniture, rugs, home accessories, jewelry, art and more. An outdoor area offers fountains, pots and statuary and other odds and ends for the garden and patio. 

“We’ve made some changes and gone through some reorganizations over the last five years — made improvements to the building, fixed up the inside, put up a larger sign and made a complete change in the way it looks about two years ago and it seems like no matter what we do it hasn’t made enough of a difference,” Karp said.  “We haven’t been profitable in three years.”

In part, this has to do with the “vintage” building in which the store is located.

“It’s an old building, and we’re responsible for all of the maintenance,” Karp said. “The building flooded during the rains, and we had to hire someone to come pump it out. We had problems with the roof leaking, and we had to fix the parking lot. It was just too much,” noting that the store’s closure coincides with the end of its current lease.

But Karp said the store’s decline in profitability also has to do with a generational shift.

“The other thing is about the millennial generation: they don’t want to own china, crystal or silver,” he said. “And they’re often not interested in anything that’s not new. So that’s part of it.”

Karp said the closure of the store will allow Food For Thought to remain focused on its central mission: providing and expanding food and nutrition services to Sonoma County residents living with illness.

“We’re really thankful for all the people who’ve volunteered and donated to the store over the years,” he said. “A lot of people really love that store. A lot of people have given us really nice things over the years, and we really appreciate the community’s support for the business.”

A closing sale offering steep discounts begins Friday, July 26, and runs through Sept. 14. Shoppers can check Food for Thought’s Facebook page for updates.

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