Sandy Collins, owner of Serendipity Antiques and Interiors, is a Southern gentlewoman who spent several years “swimming with the sharks” in the corporate world of the Northeast. Before becoming a record setter in a Boston financial planning firm, Collins was a very successful realtor in New Hampshire, selling 22 million dollars in new homes for a prominent builder in southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts. Then, as it often does, “life happened,” and she and her husband decided to return to Alabama to be near her aging parents.
It was her mother who cultivated Sandy’s love for antiques and collecting, something that never waned despite her travels. Sandy started out collecting glassware, and then “When we lived in Kansas, I discovered auctions. I started buying antiques, collected, and after returning to Alabama, began to travel to the Lakewood Antiques Show in Atlanta,” she said.
After moving to Athens, she rented her first booth at Regency Antiques, which was then owned by Bill and Nancy Johnson, and eventually purchased Regency in 2004. In June 2011, she sold Regency Antiques, thinking she was going to actually retire. The new owner called it Champagne Lane, and it was open from 2011 until late December 2014. In early January of 2015, the shop reopened as Serendipity, and Sandy is “back at it” as the owner. She says with a smile, “Antiquing is an addiction, and the best part is the hunt!”
I asked her what she and the vendors that make up the huge store near the Athens Publix on Hwy 72 that is now known as Serendipity have to offer that has led to their ongoing success.
The first thing is education and resources. In addition to being a collector for about 40 years, Sandy has a huge reference library on antiques and collectibles, and has learned to recognize “the real deal,” as opposed to a fine reproduction. She knows what is a fair price, keeps on top of the market, and stays abreast of what is hot and trendy.
She is also careful to not try and “sell,” which is something I personally appreciate greatly. “When people come in, we listen, we care, and we do our best to find what it is that they really want,” she told me. Sandy then put it another way: “We help people find what they were already looking for.” She added, “We also make a note of what it is that they wanted and couldn’t find, and if it comes in, we get in touch with them.”
I also observed that she maintains a high level of integrity. While I was in the store for the interview, a customer found a glass shade that would have worked well for an antique kerosene lamp. It looked perfect, was about to be purchased, and then the staff noticed that at the back of the shade there was a nearly undetectable crack. She could have gone ahead and closed the deal, but chose to point it out to the customer instead, and allow her to make an informed decision. That impressed me.
I always love it when I have the opportunity to be a customer of an Athens Now client, and that day I became an enthusiastic one. For awhile I had been looking for an antique school desk, the kind that has curly ironwork supports on the side, would have been bolted to the floor back in the day, and hopefully, had an inkwell. There was a beautiful one in what is called the “John Wayne” room toward the rear of the store, and it was more than reasonably priced. I called my husband, announced that at last I have “found it,” and happily snapped it right up.
I was also looking for a pair of cut glass salt and pepper shakers for our special February 14th dinner, and she took me throughout the store, clearly demonstrating a thorough knowledge of the items available at each vendor’s booth. While I did not find exactly what I was looking for, I have no doubt that Sandy and the “Serendipity Crew” will keep an eye out for it, and that when the time is right, it will arrive!
So, if a school desk or a salt and pepper shaker set is not your thing, what is at Serendipity that may catch your fancy? “We have a bigger selection than ever of advertising memorabilia and other popular collectibles,” she said, and I noticed the most unusual antique manual typewriter I had ever seen not far from where I found my desk. Sandy’s personal favorites range from Limoges china to 18th century furniture to glassware from the ‘30s and ‘40s. “The selection of vintage back to the 1800s is great,” she said. “We also have a lot of advertising signs, which are red hot, as are the re-purposed items.” Going green and recycling is at the forefront of a lot of our customers’ agenda, as more clients are realizing the value of buying used or vintage furnishings for their homes.
She has noticed that young people in particular are getting into the re-purposing trend, and she loves to teach them what she knows and help them avoid pitfalls while they are “on the hunt.” With a happy sigh before I left she told me again, “Antiquing is an addiction, and the best part is the hunt!” If you need a guide for your “hunt,” come to Serendipity Antiques and Interiors, where Sandy and the dealers will fix you right up.
Serendipity Antiques and Interiors
22335 US Hwy 72 E, Suite B
Athens, AL 35613
Hours: Mon-Sat 10-5, Sun 1-5
Facebook: Serendipity Antiques and Interiors
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner