Genoa’s historic Antiques Plus turns the big 3-0
July 9, 2010
When, at the age of 14, Martha Williams was moved from the bustling, beatnik vistas of the Bay Area into a nearly 100-year-old house in the small, secluded town of Genoa, she thought it was the cruelest thing her parents could have done to her.
“When we first came, I remember looking through the dormer window upstairs,” Williams said. “I looked out across the Valley, and there was one light. That was the Settelmeyer Ranch. I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, I’m being punished.'”
The year was 1962, and Williams was beginning her life in what is known as the Dake House on the outskirts of Genoa. Built in the 1870s by undertaker C.W. Dake, the Gothic-Victorian-style house was used as a Justice of the Peace office and post office, among other things.
“It didn’t take long to adapt,” Williams said. “It wasn’t so bad. We had the peace and quiet, and we could have horses and other animals that we couldn’t have in California.”
Last week, the 1966 Douglas County High grad sat on the front porch of her childhood home, surrounded by crafts and antiques. Framing the house were seven acres of green lawn, lush fruit trees, and the fire-orange blooms of 130-year-old Oriental poppies as tall as Williams’ grandchildren.
Like the poppies, Williams’ roots in the property go way down. This summer, she and husband Bob are celebrating the 30-year anniversary of the small business she runs out of the historic home and outbuildings, Antiques Plus.
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“I grew up with what everyone called old furniture, and they thought we were poor,” Williams said. “Actually, I loved it, and what better thing to do than start dealing in old furniture.”
In the spring of 1980, Williams started dealing antiques in the dirt-floored space of the carriage house on the property. It would be more than a decade before she expanded the operation into the house itself.
“My favorite thing is being my own boss,” Williams said. “The only person I answer to is myself. If I fail, I have no else to blame but myself, and if I do something good, then I can pat myself on the back.”
Over three decades, Williams said, she’s weathered the ups and downs of the economy. She knows the current recession has been extremely hard on antique shops.
“Antique stores are usually the first to go,” she said. “But you can’t just sit back and say, ‘OK world, come to me.’ You have to go back out there and remind everyone you’re here.”
Williams takes off every Wednesday to visit the concierges of local hotels and casinos, to locate prospective customers and make her presence known. She also hosts the Peddler’s Faire during Candy Dance weekend and two antique shows throughout the year. The upcoming Minden Antiques Show and Sales is today and Sunday in the COD Garage across from the Minden Inn on Esmeralda Avenue.
“I’m really out there making myself visible,” Williams said. “I try to keep business in the Valley. There’s no sense taking business to Carson City. If we all help each other, then maybe things will improve.”
Williams is also a devoted benefactor of the Carson Valley Pops Orchestra. But, she’ll tell you, community involvement and aggressive marketing are only part of a successful antique business. The venue itself must be appealing.
“Everything I do on my own property is designed to bring customers into the shop,” she said.
Inside the Dake House, people find what Williams calls “drama.” In the entrance, a ceiling of blue sky and gold foil stars carries the eye to two cherub sculptures, in glowing relief, holding up curtains to the front window. In every successive room, patrons discover a taste of historic style as represented in the decor, in the ceiling treatments, wall paper and drapes, which together bring out the many antiques displayed.
In what used to be the Justice of the Peace office, dusty-rose-colored walls and an intricate floral frieze frame a 1910 oak cigar cabinet, one of Williams’ favorites. In an adjacent bedroom, she’s placed against the wall another favorite: a pre-Civil-War walnut sofa.
“Inside the home, more or less, is what bedazzles those who love antiques,” Williams said.
Upstairs, the walls of Williams’ former bedroom are adorned with prints and paintings. Although she prefers older pieces, she couldn’t help but smile at the Jefferson Airplane and The Who and Grateful Dead vintage posters in one corner.
“We have a lot of diversity here,” she said. “There’s not just one thing to talk about, not just antiques. There’s a lot of curiosity, period. I would say half my customers come here out of curiosity alone and don’t want to buy anything. My job is to entice them.”
Williams sees the longevity of her business lasting into the future, especially with two daughters and three grandchildren in tow.
“My grandchildren love it here,” she said. “They come from regular homes with small, regular backyards. Here, they can go wild.”
Antiques Plus is located at 2242 Main Street. Business hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
For information, contact (775) 782-4951 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.