Love of antiques captured Bellefonte native

The best part about dealing in antiques is the opportunity to enjoy a unique piece for yourself for a time.

That really interesting statue or lamp that caught your eye can be added to a home’s decor for a while before the time comes to sell it.

“I don’t hold on to as much as I used to,” Victorian House Antiques & Artisan Gallery owner Mitch Bradley said. “But it is nice to have the business as a filter. My wife and I will enjoy something at home before we put it in the store.”

Bradley, a Bellefonte native, said he’s been dealing in antiques since he was about 13. He remembered visiting a similar store and befriending the owner, and the two would buy and sell to each other.

After that, he was hooked.

Although the store has been open for eight years, he said, he owned a similar store in New Jersey for 12 years. Bradley said he always wanted to be his own boss, and antiques were a love of his, so it made perfect sense.

At about 1,500 square feet, the store doesn’t have a lot of room for stock but makes up for that in variety. Furniture, art, jewelry and memorabilia can all be found in the nooks and crannies of Victorian House.

Bradley said he deals mainly in objects from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, though some modern pieces can be found.

Among the more unusual pieces he said he’s come in possession of is a pair of apothecary displays dating from the mid- to late 1800s. The large stoppered bottles are quite uncommon, he said, especially with the glass stoppers.

“They were used in pharmacies to indicate it was a pharmacy,” he said. “Before literacy was widespread, businesses used symbols so people could see them from the street.”

Although the store doesn’t deal in a particular item specifically, Bradley said, he likes to have a lot of different styles of furniture in his store with different types of woods. Cabinets and desks line the walls and aisles of the store.

One cupboard, he said, an 8-foot-tall carved oak English piece, carries the heftiest price tag in the store at $2,200.

He said he does a lot of private buying as people contact him when downsizing a home or settling an estate. He’s selective about what he buys, but said there’s plenty out there if you look.

“My favorite slogan is, ‘The best time to buy an antique is when you see it,’ ” he said. “It’s not like I can pick up the phone and order three more.”

Rather than going to auctions, he said, he enjoys going to houses that are being settled, maybe after a relative has died. With no one having purchased anything for a number of years, it’s like an untapped find.

Of course, there are always those unique buys that got away, Bradley said, such as a fishbowl stand in the shape of a 5-foot-tall mermaid, popular during the 1920s and ’30s. He wanted it with all his heart, he said, but his wallet wouldn’t let him have it.

It ended up selling for about $3,000.

Victorian House offers a selection of rings and other jewelry, a venture Bradley said he recently started getting into. He said he doesn’t purchase any costume jewelry because the shop is too small, but he does buy in gold, silver, diamonds and other gems.

“Anything that’s a good quality or unusual,” he said, “I still enjoy finding all those things.”

As a one-man show, Bradley said he can’t offer too many other services beyond sales. Delivery is an option for larger pieces. He also does informal appraisals.

He said he’s found his clientele to be about 70 percent collectors and 30 percent people looking for decoration.