| Jun 05, 2008

Feature Article - June 5, 2008

Back toHome

Feature Article - June 5, 2008 Landmark antique store in Harrowsmith to close its doorsBy Julie Druker

The End of An Era in Collectin: Ola and Syd Shoom of Spike's Corners Antiques, a Harrowsmith landmark for 18 years

Located in what was the original carriage house just beside the Shoom residence and built in 1872, “Spike’s Corners Antiques and Collectibles” has been a landmark in Harrowsmith for 18 years. Owners Syd and Ola Shoom have decided it’s time to close up shop. The shop will remain open, however, until the end of June and everything has been marked down by 25%, another great reason to stop in for one last final visit.

A history buff through and through Syd Shoom explains “Spike’s Corners was the original name of the village of Harrowsmith back in the early 1800s, named after Brian Spike who lived here in town.” Syd adds, “Have a close look at the framed piece that currently hangs at the Post Office in Harrowsmith. It has examples of the old cancellation stamps with the town’s original name.” It was not until the mid-1850s that the town became Harrowsmith, named after Harold Smith, a lawyer in the area who was a speaker in the legislative assembly at that time and a pal of Sir John A. Macdonald.

Syd and Ola moved to the Kingston area in 1975 and began collecting soon after that. Ola recalls, “visiting an antique shop on a Saturday drive to Millhaven and coming across the same type of glass dish that my mother had used as a sugar bowl in her kitchen.” It began that day and they’ve been hooked on collecting ever since.

A pivotal point in their collecting came about when Ola expressed her desire for an old gramophone. Syd began scouting them out and they both grew to love them. Old 78 records and gramophones from 1900 to the1930s became a central part of their business. Word traveled fast, and as their collection and knowledge grew so did their reputation.

The Shooms would purchase the gramophones at auctions and privately. People far and wide would contact them directly, offering them their old machines. Syd became a gramophone whiz and put endless hours into cleaning and restoring these old machines.

And what good is a working gramophone without a record to play on it? The store is chock full of old 78s listed alphabetically by style, country and artist. Syd says, “We have sold thousands of records over the years. Well known musicians including Rita MacNeil, Big Mouth Mason, Jeff Healy and CBC pianist John Arpin have all paid visits to the store. Ola recalls “the great deal of fun they have had over the years speaking with and getting know different collectors.”

But is not only records and gramophones that the Shooms have focused their sights on. An older store ad sums up what else is to be found in the store… “Antiques and collectibles reflecting the daily life of bygone days”. Beautiful and fascinating things like carnival glass, kerosene oil lamps, historical and commemorative items, granite ware, enameled and pressed glass, books and kitchen implements. Each item is carefully tagged with a handwritten label describing the object, where and when it dates from along with other interesting facts and information about it.

Syd explains that “a lot of the fun is in the research.” They both have read many books about collectibles that have honed their skills at recognizing what things are. Syd continues, “The field is changing…collectors today have to be far more aware of reproductions.” These days the laws regarding reproductions tend to be quite lax and often non-existent. While there have always been and will continue to be reproductions being made, today there are a plethora of items coming into the country from offshore mimicking older styles of glass, lamps and other historical wares. Syd adds, “Even reproduction gramophones are being made now. We collectors call them ‘crappyphones’”, (for obvious reasons).

Syd and Ola were not always collectors. Syd worked in the correctional services for years and Ola was a former teacher and a parent aid. While they gave up those regular jobs to pursue their true love of collecting and selling antiques, the time has come to close up shop. “It takes a lot of time and work to keep the business going.”

Syd’s advice to others looking into the antiques and collectibles business:

“Remember…the longer you are in the business, you realize the less it is you know.” They recall with pleasure the times when they’d have a certain item in the store that they could not exactly place. “Inevitably someone would come in and be able to tell you all about it.”

Books are the greatest investment for the collector starting out. Syd advises the neophyte collector to..“save up $100, and buy some really good reference books. Any book that you buy will help you save and make money.”

The business is a definite passion for the Shooms. It seems to be all about caring for and sharing those objects from the past that were made in a time when things were very different. The shop exudes this love for collecting and it is this love that has put the shop on the map. It is a place to step into and lose yourself in…a place where you will find out things that you never knew before. If you get a chance to stop by before the shop closes it is well worth it. Hats off to Syd and Ola Shoom; your passion has touched the hearts and minds of many buyers, collectors and curiosity seekers far and wide.

Support local
independant journalism by becoming a patron of the Frontenac News.