Grit, Perseverance, and the Luck of the Irish: The Antiquing Scene in Houston Two Weeks After Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey made landfall along the east Texas coast on Friday, August 25, 2017.

Hurricane Harvey made landfall along the east Texas coast on Friday, August 25.  Its winds topped 130 miles an hour.  For over five days, Harvey dumped rain on the area.  Highlands, Texas, recorded 51.88 inches of rain.  America watched the raging floodwaters on television, notepads, and mobile phones.

A month after the 1972 Hurricane Agnes unleashed its furry on Pennsylvania’s Wyoming Valle, I joined a team who was assigned the task of determining which historic structures and sites should be salvaged and restored or demolished.  At the time, I had no appreciation for the for the immediate and long-term destructive power of water.  The images I encountered during the initial survey of the area still haunt my memories.  There was mud everywhere.  The stench was overwhelming.  When I finished that assignment, I swore never to accept a flood damage assessment again.  I never did.

As I watched the flood waters rise and flow through Houston and the surrounding towns, I thought about the family heirlooms, private collections, and antique and collectibles businesses that were impacted by the disaster.  What follows is a preliminary report.  The news is bad and good.

Two weeks after Hurricane Harvey moved north, the bad news is that the flood waters have not fully receded.  Many individuals still are unable to access their homes.  Pumps are being used to drain low lying areas.  In Houston, many of the flooded areas were in old, established neighborhoods, locations that are heirloom and collections rich.  Michael Becker of the Antiques and Collectibles National Association insurance group informed me that he was just beginning to receive calls from clients.

Michael provided me with the names and contact information for three Houston antiques malls that were his clients.  Jim Sparrow, owner of Rummel Creek Village Antiques, told me his only problem at the moment was lack of customers.  Rummel Creek Village Antiques was located on high ground.  The bayou behind the mall reached to the top of its berm but did not overflow.  Jim closed during the hurricane but was open for business by Wednesday, August 30.  He noted that flooded roadways continue to make it difficult for customers to reach him.

Phillip Thompson, owner of Thompson’s Antique Center of Texas, also reported that he was “very blessed” to be on higher ground.  The areas surrounding him did flood, creating a small island of the fortunate.  The “surrounded island” became a continuing theme in talking with Houston’s antiques and collectibles gallery and mall owners.  It is not clear if fate, provenance, circumstances, good planning, or the Luck of the Irish played a hand in the selection of where to locate the Houston antiques and collectibles malls.

Traffic at Thompson’s Antique Center is slow, a situation Thompson expects to continue for some time.  He noted a number of individuals come in to pass the time of day, something to do until they gain access to their homes.  A few customers used their mobile phones to photograph items in the shop.  It is Thompson’s hope they are creating a want list once their insurance claims are settled.  It is equally possible they were photographing pieces in preparation of filing a claim.

Refinishing supplies are selling well.  Thompson commented since old time collectors are not members of the IKEA generation, they have furniture that can be restored.  I agreed and noted that mahogany furniture, at least the frames, can withstand almost anything.

Thompson indicated a dealer at the Market Place Antiques and Collectibles Mall, near the downtown flooded highway junctions, was heading there to deal with some minor water issues.  I spoke with Rebecca, a dealer at the mall, who told me that a little water seeped in through a back door, but, overall, the mall was fine.  A talk with the owner said the damage was no greater than after a normal heavy rain.  The mall, which is open Friday, Saturday, and Sundays, will open for the first time on Friday, September 8.  Rebecca did express concern about the length of time it will take for business to recover and whether dealers will be able to weather the business drop.

Traci Otto-Knighten from the Spring Antique Mall, located at the junction of FM2920 and I-45, said that although the mall was surrounded by water, it remained untouched.  The mall was closed for five days, reopening on August 31.  Customers are trickling in.  For the moment, sales are restricted to odds and ends.

While Houston antiques and collectibles malls escaped the flood devastation, malls in other areas where not as lucky.  The September 11, 2017, Central Edition of AntiqueWeek reported that Christine Solis, owner of Somewhere in Time in The Strand District of Galveston, “lost everything.”  Attempts to reach other shops in the Galveston area were unsuccessful.

Communications slowly are being restored.  Most Houston Antiques and Collectibles malls do not have internet access, a critical element in this digital age in terms of keeping in touch with customers and dealers.  Owner facing flooded homes are cleaning up rather than out shopping.

AntiqueWeek reported that the homes of several Houston area dealers were flooded.  The number of collectors’/customers’ homes will be larger still.  It will be months before the full story can be told.

FOOTNOTE:  Rosemary Krieger, owner of Dolphin Promotions, has canceled the September 15-17 Houston Antiques Art Design Show.  It is the first time in 30 years of business, she has had to cancel a show.


Copyright     ©     Harry L. Rinker, LLC     2017

Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out Harry’s Web site.  You can listen and participate in Harry’s antiques-and-collectibles radio call-in show “Whatcha Got?” on Sunday mornings between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Eastern Time. It streams live on the Genesis Communications Network.  “Sell, Keep Or Toss? How To Downsize A Home, Settle An Estate, And Appraise Personal Property” (House of Collectibles, an imprint of the Random House Information Group), Harry’s latest book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via Harry’s Web site.

Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the 20th century. Selected queries will be answered on this site. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5955 Mill Pond Court SE, Kentwood, MI 49512. You can e-mail your questions to Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered. Please indicate that these are questions for WorthPoint.

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