"Antiques on Main"

A Full Circle Art Deco Dream

Article by Ron Ortiz

Photography courtesy of the Cincinnati Museum and Rebecca Binno

The term Full Circle can be interpreted to mean the "completion of a journey." Regarding antiques, it may mean, "what goes around, comes around." The Art Deco movement began in the 1920s. It became the rage in Europe and its influence spread quickly throughout the Americas. As like any new movement it faded and except for some devoted fans, fell to the modernism period of the 1950s and 1960s. Today it is again the rage and its influence is again gaining devotees among interior designers and artists.

Full Circle can also be interpreted as "an unceasing movement that has no beginning or end." A visit to Full Circle Antiques & Design owned and operated by Robin and Carl Cohen can complete oneís journey in their quest for quality Art Deco items or similar era pieces. While their establishment had a beginning, there seems to be no end to the wonders that are for sale at "Antiques on Main" in Royal Oak, where the Full Circle continues.

Owner Robin Cohenís love affair with Art Deco began as a student at Redford Union High School when she took a decorative arts class. The class covered the Art Deco period and Robin quickly established an affinity for 20s and 30s Art Deco artifacts. She became an ardent devotee of the period and her appetite for Art Deco increased throughout her young career.

Later, as a homemaker and mother, Robin accessorized her home with items she found at garage sales, antique stores, flea markets and estate sales. Like many of us, Robin had a mentor and he led the way on those "treasure hunts." Arthur Schwartz was her friend, mentor and companion on many of these pursuits. Through Schwartzís tutorage, Robin gained a world of knowledge about the history and value of the artifacts she so dearly loved. That knowledge has served her well in her antique business ventures.

Robin outgrew some of her early buys as she found better quality items and upgraded her collection. Robinís taste became more sophisticated and some items in her growing collection fell out of favor. This upgrading process has consequences as most collectors learn. Robin found herself in the situation of having lots of inventory that no longer suited her discriminating taste as her budget was no longer was able to finance her ever-growing hunt for collectibles.

About that time, the Michigan Modernism Exposition (known then as the Southfield Modernism Show) made its entrance in the Detroit area. Some of Robinís friends convinced her that she had the "stuff" that would sell at an Art Deco/Modernism show. "Nothing like starting at the top with the big Deco dealers!" thought Robin. Fortunately her first venture into the retail world was very successful. Robin and husband Carl have been hooked on Modernism shows ever since. The Cohens do about a dozen big shows every year, traveling to Florida, California, Illinois, Ohio and New York. The pair operates as "Full Circle Antiques & Design" specializing in 20th Century. Aside from doing shows, Robin rented booth space at several local shops in the area. She mostly maintained a strong presence at "Antiques on Main" located on Main Street south of Eleven Mile Road in Royal Oak, Michigan.

That first modernism show exposed Robin to the Detroit Area Art Deco Society and she was invited to attend a DAADS meeting. Her interest in the organization was piqued and Robin became a member, ascending quickly to head the DAADS organization, reigning as its president for almost six years. Aided by husband Carl, who is still the membership chairman, the pair led DAADS through unprecedented membership growth while spearheading fund-raising events that brought much-needed money used mostly to fund the DAADS preservation projects.

Robin and Carl Cohen still are collectors first and dealers second. Robinís interest is primarily in Scandinavian glassware, especially etched glass by Orrefors and Hemslojd. Carl has a passion for Trenton pottery and has amassed an impressive collection. Pottery was an important industry in the 1920s but technology and corporate structures have changed and pottery, especially Trenton, it is becoming scarce and highly sought after. Full Circle occupies about 40% of the floor space at "Antiques on Main." Gay Krug, the previous owner decided to sell in 1999 and offered the business to Robin, her largest and most visible dealer. Robin and Carl agreed to purchase the business and have done an outstanding job of marketing the place, putting in more showcases and attracting reputable dealers. The store features an eclectic mix of antiques and collectibles with lots of Art Deco. In addition to owning Antiques On Main, Robin and Carl also do estate liquidations, appraisals and estate sales. Their website for this part of their business is (aomestatesales.com).

Board Members Bob and Kathie King maintain a large space at the store and feature fine vintage clothing, framed art and photographs as well as various Art Deco accessories. The Kings operate their business as "Top Hat Antiques," specializing in 1930s to 1970s kitsch and vintage clothing. The Kings also travel about the country doing modernism shows.

The more than 30 antique and collectible dealers peddle at this spacious Royal Oak storefront are attentive to presentation. Their offerings - broadly described as Art Deco to Fifties/20th Century - are neatly organized by category, from shelves of cigarette cases, compacts and Bakelite poker chips to rows of cocktail shakers and Fiesta ware. Most are in excellent condition and the shopper can be sure that any item offered is original and not a recent reproduction.

Whether you are an avid collector or just getting to know Art Deco/Modern artifacts, then Antiques on Main is a good place to find the unique items either for your collection or as a gift for that special someone. The store carries a variety of vintage costume jewelry and classic platinum bands, but itís also full of great houseware items and interior accessories. Whether you want a streamlined breadbox or kitschy table lamp Ė you can find it here.

During Robinís reign as President of the Detroit Area Art Deco Society the organization grew as its involvement in the Michigan Modernism Preview Parties became more and more professional with attractive and informative presentations at the DAADS booth. Many of Robinís accomplishments as president of DAADS can be found on the center spread of this issue. She and Carl continue to be DAADS board members and as their business name indicates "Full Circle" has no beginning or end. Hopefully, their involvement with the Detroit Area Art Deco Society will never end as well.

Copyright © 2006 Detroit Area Art Deco Society. All rights reserved.