Columbus, Ohio USA
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Echoes Art & Antiques: Finding Treasure
By Karen Edwards
© PHOTOS BY GUS BRUNSMAN III
Tim Baker, co-owner of Echoes Art & Antiques,
named the shop in honor of his mother, Echo Hanno.
The best treasures are the ones you must first seek. After all, it’s that sense of surprise and discovery, that feeling you’ve stumbled onto something wonderful and unique that makes the treasure valuable.
It’s how visitors to Echoes Art & Antiques feel when they wander past old garden benches and sandstone birdbaths, step onto the porch, push open the door and, in an instant, slip effortlessly into the past – their past, their parents’ past, their grandparents’ past. For here, tucked into the small house at 24 E. Lincoln Street – the house that rambles just a bit like an aging matron lost in her story – is a kaleidoscope of ever-changing relics that span Victorian times to the baby boom, and a whole lot more besides. It may take just a little searching to find Echoes – after all, it’s not on the Short North’s busy High Street landscape – but once you do, you intuitively know you’re on to a treasure.
This is the business that Tim built, along with business partner Ken and with a healthy boost of support from Tim’s mother Echo. That’s right. The shop is named in her honor.
Tim is Tim Baker, Ken is Ken Naponiello, and somehow, it seems impossible to believe that, in another life, the two were bankers, nose to the corporate grindstone by day, and gamely exploring the world of antiques every spare moment between.
Hooked on antiques
Baker grew up with antiques. Both of his parents were avid collectors, and Baker recalls attending auctions from the time he was small. As for Naponiello, “I got him hooked,” Baker confesses.
During the late 1980s, Echo Hanno, Baker’s mother, had rented space at an antique mall in Powell from which she could sell her rapidly accumulating collection. Of course, it was just a matter of time before Baker had a space, then Naponiello joined them with a space of his own. Baker and Naponiello also began working antique shows, and soon the two were doing well enough to think about a shop of their own.
Fortuitously, a “For Rent” sign had sprung up at the corner of Pacemont and High in Clintonville. Naponiello was ready to move in.
“I’m a little more cautious,” says Baker. “I kept asking ‘Do you really think we can make it in our own place?’”
The short answer was yes. The duo opened Echoes of Americana at the Pacemont and High location in the ‘90s and dealt antiques successfully there for five years. Then, as it happened, Baker had dinner with a friend in the Short North and couldn’t help noticing the “For Rent” sign at 24 E. Lincoln. Baker had wanted, for a while, to relocate to the Short North, so standing in front of the property, Baker made a quick call to his business partner and told him about the rental.
“Go for it,” Naponiello said.
Baker did – and they’ve been dealing from the Lincoln Street address ever since – about eight years, now, to be exact.
If you were to wander past the garden benches, step onto the porch and swing open the door, one of the first things you might notice is a glass case to your left, and in it, the black-and-white photo of a tall, decidedly thin African-American. Next to the photo is a colorful primitive wood carving that immediately tips you off as to the identity of the man in the photo. It’s Elijah Pierce, the former carver of Long Street, whose outsider art now graces the Columbus Museum of Art, among other cultural institutions. The piece next to it is one of his, of course.
“We periodically display Elijah Pierce’s work,” says Baker, who procures it from friends. He recalls a painting done by Pierce which he sold for a substantial amount.
The collection of Pierce art is appropriately pricy, but Echoes has antiques and other goods at all price points.
Wander past the front room for the moment – don’t worry, we’ll return – to the more open back room that faces E. Lincoln. Here there is a nice assortment of old books covering a variety of subjects, including fiction. “Books are among our more popular antiques,” says Baker, “especially those around the 1880s.” You’ll also find a sizeable case of antique costume jewelry.
“That’s mom’s collection,” says Baker. At 80 years, Echo is no longer actively collecting antiques, but she’s still able to sell them through her namesake shop.
You’ll also find in the backroom some beautiful examples of art pottery – the kind made in Ohio by the likes of McCoy and Roseville – sharing shelf space with funky ‘50s barware and retro memorabilia. Don’t miss the vintage Christmas ornaments, most of them glass and silvered glass – any of which would make a stunning addition to your holiday décor.
“We’ve found it profitable to leave these out all year,” says Baker. He says on the hottest day of the year, sometime in July or August, he’ll sell a Christmas ornament or two.
At one time, Baker had a teddy bear collection. He’s sold all but one, so be sure to ask to see it if you visit. It may just win your heart as well.
Tucked away in a corner of the backroom is a rack with greeting cards. Baker and Naponiello design the cards themselves from hundreds of vintage photographs they also collect and sell. The cards’ uniqueness is a huge selling point, so if Echoes supply is a little low, don’t be surprised. The cards sell quickly, and while Baker says they generally keep up with demand, consider this fair warning. You may want to visit the shop frequently for the best selection.
The greeting cards are part of a new “product development phase” for Echoes that Naponiello guides. To better understand all this implies, let’s return to the front room.
Catty-corner from the shop’s tiny counter sits a shelf of Mason jars in which candle wax has been poured. These candles feature some of the most imaginative – and realistic—scent you can imagine, including a hazelnut that smells like one of Starbucks’ exotic blends. The candles are a soy-paraffin blend, and they’re made right in the Short North shop.
“We started making candles when we were in Clintonville,” says Baker. The pair had bought candles from an outside vendor, originally, but when the vendor decided to stop making candles, the two chose to do it themselves. Now, they even make customized candles for others.
Candle making led naturally to soap making, and the line of Echoes soaps can be found on shelves immediately across from the register. Again, these are made with creativity and care, and you’re likely to find soaps here you won’t be able to find anywhere else. Try bubble-gum scented soap, or soap that smells like Longhorn leather. There is soap flecked with pieces of lavender that Baker crushes with a mortar and pestle, and there is soap embedded with pieces of loofah, a natural sponge that’s good for exfoliating dead skin.
The candles and soaps are big sellers for Echoes – especially during Gallery Hops when they practically fly out the door.
“During Gallery Hops, we try to widen our aisles,” says Baker, a necessary step for the crowds that pour into the shop to browse and sniff.
“We hear comments like ‘I love the way this place smells,’” says Baker. People even wax nostalgic over the Mason jar candles. “It reminds them of their grandmother or mother who canned during the summer,” says Baker, so they plop down money for a chance to relive the memory every time they light the candle.
Of course, Echoes is still an antique store, and Baker says “hot items” in his store include Civil War items, American art pottery, books and garden items. Echoes buys antiques largely from clients with items to sell, though they occasionally go to shows and auctions. They will do appraisals as well, especially if the item brought in is also for sale.
Ken Naponiello is an eBay Powerseller. The online auction has become a large component of Echoes' sales, and Ken works full-time at it.
The eBay factor
Like most antique businesses these days, however, eBay is a large component of Echoes.
“It’s Ken’s full-time job,” says Baker.
Naponiello works from home, selling not only antiques from the Echoes collection, but also from a range of clients who learn he’s an eBay Powerseller (a title awarded to high volume traders) with 5,000 positive feedbacks. For novice eBayers, and those who know nothing about the online auction, that’s an impressive record, and explains why clients from around the country ask Naponiello to place their items on auction.
“If it’s smaller than a breadbox it’s perfect for eBay,” says Baker, explaining that larger items present shipping issues. “But one of the first items we sold on eBay was a 1957 Chevy to a buyer in Sweden and we got it to him within ten days after the auction ended. If we can do that, nothing is impossible,” he says.
What has Naponiello sold on behalf of clients? Jewelry, marble collections, fish lures, Roseville pottery, even a violin collection – to name just a few.
“We like to be added to the buyer’s ‘favorite seller’ list,” says Baker. That allows an online relationship to begin, as eBay buyers can then periodically check out what Echoes/Naponiello has to sell.
From August to December, eBay sales make up about 60 percent of Echoes’ business, says Naponiello. During the summer, however, that figure drops to about 20-30 percent of business as people take to the road and antique.
“I don’t think antique shops will ever really go away,” says Baker, “because there is a certain population out there that still likes to see and touch the object they’re buying.”
Buddy, another friendly face at Echoes.
Echoes Art and Antiques has a fairly steady stream of on-site customers, thanks to its Short North location.
“We get a lot of convention center traffic,” says Baker. A corner sidewalk sign leads them to Echoes front door – all the way from places like Israel, France, China and South Africa. The shop receives plenty of local traffic as well.
“The Short North is a totally different world from Clintonville,” says Baker. He explains that the neighborhood here is younger, more diverse, more open, and more creative.
Baker says he feels lucky to be living his passion. So does Naponiello.
“I could never go back to the corporate lifestyle,” says Baker.
And the way things look, neither one of them will have to. The shop is doing well, eBay sales are doing very well, and there’s always another new product idea just around the corner for this creative duo.
You might say they’ve found their treasure – and are making it easier for the rest of us to find ours.
Echoes Art & Antiques is located at 24 E. Lincoln St. off of High St. Their hours are Wednesday through Saturday 12-6, and Sunday 1-5. Call 614-291-9101.
©2006 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.