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Monday, May 12, 2014

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Jack Fritsch, Co-owner of the Antiques Depot on Nantucket Island and Personal Property Appraiser Our Coverage Sponsored by Maine Woolens

Jack Fritsch

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Jack Fritsch is the co-owner of the Antiques Depot on Nantucket Island, and a professional Personal Property Appraiser. He is well known on-island for having managed the local auction gallery for 23 years, as well as his involvement with a number of community non-profit organizations. He and his wife Ciara are year-round residents of the island.

Jack was a biologist and first came to Nantucket in 1979 to study Salt Marsh Ecology at the UMass Field Station. After graduating from the University of New Hampshire (Magna Cum Laude with a BS in Biology, focusing on Animal Behavior and Limnology, and a Minor Degree in Economics), he continued post-graduate study in Evolution and Behavioral Ecology, conducting research and teaching at the Institute of Marine Science and Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, and at the University of Massachusetts Harbor Campus in Dorchester and Field Station on Nantucket. His biology background actually led directly to his career in antiques.

In order to support himself and his research, Jack began working at the island auction gallery. Given his biology background and passion for the coastal environment, he was immediately drawn to duck, shorebird and fish decoys, as well as scrimshaw and marine antiques in general. When he realized he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life teaching, he left academia and continued as a full-time antiques dealer.

Jack became the Manager of that island auction house, and was responsible for running the gallery, house calls, setting up auction preview displays, research and cataloguing, public preview questions and guidance, as well as conducting formal appraisals for estates, collections and charities. He found learning about antiques not all that different than working in science: both require passionate study, un-biased examination, and endless research. He explains that since antiques are physical history, surviving witnesses of every aspect of our historical arts and culture, in the antiques trade it is perhaps more true than in any other that the more you learn, the more you need to learn. Running an auction gallery for 23 years allowed him to garner a very sound and broad generalist’s knowledge of 17th, 18th and 19th Century antiques from around the world, as well as specializing in Marine Antiques, Decoys and the China Trade.

When Jack went into antiques full time, he was eager to learn, and gather experience as quickly as possible. In addition to the local auction house, he also began working for other auctioneers off-island “over in America”, most notably Willis Henry Auctions (renowned for their annual Shaker auctions) and Chuck DeLuca Maritime Auctions. At the same time he began assisting two local antiques shops, and exhibiting in antiques shows throughout southern New England and New York. He joined the prestigious York Antiques Gallery soon after they opened on the Maine coast, and continued to maintain a booth at that establishment through two changes of ownership until 2008. Along the way he succeeded in working in every aspect of the antiques business.

In 1990 Jack entered a joint venture with established Nantucket antiques dealer Howard B. Chadwick in founding the Antiques Depot. The shop is located on the waterfront of Nantucket harbor (at 14 Easy Street), close to where the old Nantucket railroad depot was located. The shop in fact is situated where the railroad tracks went over open water on trestles (Easy Street was so named because those trestles had been the “easy way” to get from one wharf to another). The shop has the best view in town, and Jack is fond of admitting to visitors that every morning when he arrives at the Depot he marvels at how a little fellow who came out to study fish behavior ended up owning a premier antique shop right on the water in Nantucket!

The Antiques Depot is very much a reflection of its owners. Jack and Howard are both very serious about their antiques: unlike most antiques shops today, they do not carry reproductions, lines of giftware or catalogue decorative accents. A rare breed these days, they carry genuine and authentic antiques and art from the 16th through 19th Centuries, and the occasional estate piece from the Arts and Crafts, Art Deco or Modern periods of the early to mid 20th Century. Jack carefully chooses his merchandise as excellent examples from their period, as well as their decorative impact. Delighting in widespread interests, he keeps the shop extremely eclectic in nature, with a predilection for the unusual and the historically exciting. Jack explains that he wants a visit to the Antiques Depot to be like stepping into the past, and following in the footsteps of the Nantucket whalers and New England seamen as they sailed the far reaches of the world, exploring and gathering the finest objects from cultures as diverse as both coasts of America, the ports of Europe, the exotic Orient, the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest, and the islanders of the vast expanse of the Southern Oceans. The effort has paid off, and visitors commonly remark that his shop is better than a museum! Jack goes out of his way to appeal to interior decorators, other dealers and curators, seeking antiques that are statement pieces that make a room, above and beyond your average fare.

Jack takes research and knowledge very seriously, and is frequently teased over the lengthy descriptions he puts on everything in the shop, but visitors are thrilled that the objects are fully identified with their age, salient features, any known provenance, and comments on condition. It’s another reflection of his years teaching at universities: he insists that antiques shops should be friendly and approachable, a learning experience as well as a treasure trove. He loves finding a good home for his antiques by helping his customers find that perfect piece!

He stresses that prices should be fair and realistic; his prices are a New England fair market value and reflect what comparable objects actually sell for in most any shop in the Northeast, with no inflation for their Nantucket location.

Jack is delighted that so many young people visit the Antiques Depot: the oft repeated cliché that the new generations have no interest in antiques is simply not true. He explains that they routinely have people as young as their teens exploring the shop: “They are drawn to the most interesting pieces, the historically important or the exotic. They are fascinated and ask the best questions.” In order to further encourage young people to appreciate their heritage and to recognize antiques not just as art, but also for the story they can tell, the Antiques Depot hosts an annual short story writing competition… with an antiques twist. Young people are invited to seek out that object in the shop which most intrigues them, ask any questions they like then go off on their own research, and then write a short story in which their chosen antique importantly features. The enthusiasm and creativity have been amazing; now in its third year and a part of the annual Nantucket Book Festival, the competition has expanded to include a category for adults to participate (by emphatic demand)! To further encourage young collectors, Jack also teaches a course on antiques for the Nantucket Community School, and has written many articles on antiques for Nantucket newspapers and for his blog.

In addition to running the Antiques Depot, Jack is also a professional Personal Property Appraiser, providing formal appraisals of tangible personal property for Insurance, Estate, Tax or other fiscal or legal needs. He has pursued a professional education in Personal Property Appraising through the American Society of Appraisers and the Rhode Island School of Design. He is fully compliant with IRS regulations, the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) as established by the Senate supervised Appraisal Foundation, and the code of ethics of the American Society of Appraisers. As required in his field, he continues his education through special ASA courses, and by attending symposia and lectures on antiques, decorative arts and related history offered by regional museums and trade associations. His work has kept Jack busy with appraisals both on and off-island, even across the country, including assignments for many non-profit organizations and educational institutions, some of the top dealers and collectors in the nation, and even other appraisers.

Burning the candle at both ends, Jack also makes the time to volunteer with many island non-profit organizations. He is on the Nantucket Book Festival Committee, and is a very active Vice President of the Nantucket Arts Council, helping to keep music, theatre, literature and all the arts alive and vital on Nantucket Island. We are so pleased to present Jack Fritsch as our latest Mover and Shaker.  Peachy Deegan interviewed Jack for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: 
What should everyone know about Nantucket that they might not know? 
Jack Fritsch: Nantucket is a close-knit year-round community of regular folk, not just a summer resort favored by the wealthy. Nantucket is everything you’d want in a small New England town… just 32 miles offshore.

What should everyone know about antiques that they might not know? 
In addition to being better made, crafted by hand, of better quality materials, in a classic ageless style, antiques are very often less expensive than a new, factory-made alternative.

What are the most common misperceptions about the antique market? 
They’re very expensive (not)! They’re old-fashioned and out-of date (au contraire: most contemporary furnishings are copying antique styles). Young people have no interest in antiques (actually they’re fascinated, they watch documentaries and antiques programs, browse shops and ask THE BEST questions).

How should an amateur determine whether an antique is of value and how is valuation treated in the antique market? 
Learning about antiques is half the fun. Visit museums, read, browse shops and auctions, and ask lots of questions. Find reputable, respected dealers and build a rapport with them. They’ll be happy to answer your questions, or show you where to search. Values are the product of the free market, good old supply and demand; values are really set by the consumers, although location and market level will of course also have an influence.

How has the internet changed the antique market so far and how do you expect it to change in the future? 
The internet has created an upheaval in the antiques market, as in most every other area of commerce. The collector now can search the world, and perhaps find a better example or a lower price than at the nearest shop, but at the same time the dealer can now reach a worldwide market, and thus enjoy a much greater demand for his pieces. It balances out. You still need to find good knowledgeable and reputable dealers (online or in town) with whom to build a rapport. When collecting online you must rely upon the dealer’s knowledge, eye, taste and integrity all the more. While in the future more people will devote more of their shopping time to the internet, the nature of antiques will ensure that most collectors will still want to search the countryside as well: it’s not just shopping… it’s a pastime, a relaxation, a mini vacation, a lifestyle as well. In the long run, the biggest change likely to be wrought by the internet will be that most antiques dealers will become better dealers… more knowledgeable and more discerning.

Other than your shop, who do you feel are the best antique shops/dealers in the USA and why? Who do you feel are the best antique shops/dealers in the UK/Ireland and why? 
The best antiques dealers in any locale are always the most serious, studious dealers: the individuals who are passionate about their field, and not just dabbling in antiques because they think they can make some quick money. These include both the long established well known and respected dealers, as well as the hardworking and enthusiastic young dealers that you can tell are going to be around for a long while. These include both the widely eclectic generalists, as well as the finely tuned specialists. You’ll know them when you see them: the best dealers and shops are those you will keep going back to, always enjoying a browse, and always noticing something great and intriguing. The best dealers always have “the eye”, a natural connoisseurship to appreciate and recognize quality, taste and the unusual. (I wasn’t going to mention specific names, but if I must: George Stacpoole in Ireland is excellent; among the outstanding dealers in New England are Dennis Raleigh in Wiscasset, and the Antiques Associates of West Townsend in MA.)

What should we know about Howard Chadwick? 
Howard Chadwick is a gentleman of the old school, an increasingly rare breed. A retired opera singer, he brings a taste of class and gentile elegance to the antiques business. Descended from a very old island family, he has witnessed over 70 years on Nantucket and is an invaluable link to local history and lore.

Which antique that you have come in contact with has changed your life the most and why and how?
 Ever since I was a very young lad, my father took me to museums; our favorites were by far the great New England marine museums like Mystic Seaport, The Bath Maritime Museum and the New Bedford Whaling Museum. The past has always been very much alive for me, and antiques allow me the opportunity to relive that past. There was one particular antiques shop in Boothbay Harbor (Maine), now long gone, that specialized in nautical items. It was one of my favorite stops every summer, and gave me a chill to realize that you could live with museum pieces like these in your own home! The shop owner had a framed collection of Clipper Ship sailing cards (beautifully illustrated business cards that advertised when a ship would be sailing) that held me in awe: I knew what they were from my museum crawling, and knew they were so very rare. It was an inspiration to learn that rather than just being collected, they could also be mounted and displayed as quite beautiful artwork. The same dealer had a complete deep sea diving helmet and suit: I became hooked on the exotic and unusual.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence? 
My parents for sure. They prized education and knowledge, and encouraged me to read and learn about my own interests, beyond just doing my best in school. They introduced me to the whole of New England, and lit a lifelong passion for our Yankee culture, literature and history. They raised me with a love and appreciation for all the arts. They instilled in me the importance of honor, integrity and fairness. They showed me that you can do whatever you want, but whatever it is always strive to do your best.

What are you proudest of and why? 
Living my life my own way, and conducting my business on my own terms. Instead of a career in big business and an assured income, I pursued the lean path of academia. When it was time for a new direction, I became a self-taught antiques dealer, and sole proprietor of my own business. I still look and behave more like a field biologist than a gallery owner. My collection of antiques has always reflected what I love and am fascinated by, rather than trying to follow every brief fad and fleeting hype. I’ve done it my way. The single most amazing accomplishment? Every day when I open my shop, I look out my window overlooking the harbor, and marvel over how a little fish biologist like me ended up owning a premier antiques shop right on the Nantucket waterfront!

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do? 
Curate a museum exhibit. (I have actually been working on one…)

What honors and awards have you received in your profession? 
There are no trophies or ribbons handed out in the antiques trade. I would say the greatest honor is my reputation, and the respect of my peers – other dealers, scholars, curators and customers alike.

What one word best describes you and why? 
Passionate. Even better is “Endlessly Fascinated” – I delve into my interests with an enthusiasm that borders perhaps on obsession, and have so many diverse, eclectic interests.

What do you take your sense of identity from? 
I am very clearly, for better or worse, the product of all my past experiences, especially my passionate love affair with New England lore. At the same time, I am very conscious and proud of my heritage from Germany, Ukraine and Canada. Having an Irish wife and spending so much time in Europe over the last 20 years has surely molded me as well.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan? 
And Nantucket? On the water.

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan? 
The Strand Bookstore on lower Broadway. 
 And Nantucket? The Bookworks.

If you could hire anybody who would it be and why? 
Brian Eno. He has nothing to do with antiques, but has such a tremendous artistic sensibility, forging the zeitgeist. One can always use a little more “oblique strategy” in their life. Lou Reed would have been great for the same reasons.

What is your favorite drink? 
A well-built classic Tiki cocktail from the Trader Vic or Don The Beachcomber school, especially a Suffering Bastard made with cucumber.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party? 
Dr. John was hired to play a private party at a private club on Nantucket some years back. A huge fan since the early 70s, I tried everything I could to get into that party. I even called the club manager (who I knew through antiques) and… no luck. He said there was absolutely no way anyone not on the list could get in… they were even going to have security outside on the fairways and tees surrounding the clubhouse so no one could even get near. I was crushed!
On the last night before the party, near last call in the nightclub I was managing at the time, a friend calls me over to introduce me to someone he was chatting with… turned out to be Dr. John’s drummer. The roadies had missed packing his high hat cymbal, and knew there was no way you could find one of those 30 miles offshore. Turns out we had one that some band had left behind years ago.
So, the following night I go strolling in through the front door of the clubhouse, carrying my cymbal, nod to their doormen and tell them “I’m with the band”. I spent the night standing on stage, on the drum riser, running drink orders for the band. Yea, I even ran a drink for Dr. John himself, setting it down on his piano as he was singing and playing. Talking about being in the Right Place! 
The look on that club manager’s face when he saw me… definitely the funniest moment at any cocktail party for me.

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan?
 Oriental Garden on Elizabeth Street for great Dim Sum. 
And Nantucket? 
Le Languedoc

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature? 
Damon Runyon’s world 
 And Nantucket? 
Edouard Stackpole’s novels.

Who would you like to be for a day and why? 
Robert Louis Stevenson, to have the opportunity to live inside his imagination even for a moment!

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why? 
 A sandwich, of course! Can there be a greater honor? 
 And Nantucket? 
A schooner. My own boats keep sinking; if someone else named a boat after me, then at least a part of me would still be out on the water!

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience? 
Walking the length and breadth, soaking up the feel of the neighborhoods. 
And Nantucket? 
Years hiking through every salt marsh on island, and dragging beach seines through every pond, in every month of the year.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else? 
I think roaming around Chelsea and the Village, a neighborhood with a vibe you don’t find anywhere else in the world 
 And Nantucket? 
Going to Great Point, the sand spit at the end of the island; its like the maelstrom at the end of the world, peaceful and wild at the same time.

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why? 
Without doubt my father. I would cherish being able to have even just one more chat.

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience? 
Catching Paul Schaeffer and his original quartet, with Patty Smyth on vocals, killing a half hour set of Led Zeppelin. 
 And Nantucket? 
I was manager of the biggest nightclub on island for ten years, and got to see so many fantastic bands; the highlight would be Joseph Hill and Culture… many times.

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world? 
It's not so much giving back, as not taking in the first place. I grew up hiking, camping, mountaineering… living outside, then by vocation became a field biologist. I have always been supremely conscious of living small, in an ecologically sound manner with the least disturbance to our natural world. Truly, we all need to take as little as we need, and leave little more than our footsteps behind.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated in Manhattan?
 The most underrated might be how cosmopolitan the city is, with the opportunity to meet and learn from people from every culture in the world. The most overrated might be how cosmopolitan the city is… other cities (London comes quickly to mind) seem even more diverse. 
And Nantucket? 
Today our history is underrated and underappreciated; newcomers tend to see the superficial layer of expensive restaurants, shops and golf courses. Our reputation for being slow paced and relaxed has become over-rated, and during the summer life has become just as hectic as over in America.

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it? 
Cuisine and Drinks, a topical and informative column about an endlessly fascinating subject.

Have you tried The Peachy Deegan yet and if not, why not? 
 I have not yet had the pleasure, I guess because you haven’t made one for me yet!

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
 I am very involved in promoting the arts on Nantucket, as a Vice President with the Nantucket Arts Council, and as a volunteer with other non-profits including the Nantucket Book Festival, Nantucket Historical Association, Artist’s Association and others.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?

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