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Richard Gutheil (1951-2007)
Short North shop owner remembered as a gentleman and a generous soul

March 2007
by Jennifer Hambrick

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Richard Gutheil, owner of Rich's Antiques & Collectibles

Some may wonder what will become of Rich’s Antiques & Collectibles, at 1124 N. High St., now that its owner, Richard Gutheil, has died. A longtime Short North resident with deep roots in the area, Gutheil died at his home January 17. He is survived by seven siblings and a large extended family.

Gutheil had been on chemotherapy for lymphoma, his sister Rose Persinger said, but about a week before his death, he told his siblings the doctor had given him a clean bill of health.

“He acted in good spirits,” John Gutheil said. “That’s why (his death) was kind of a shock to us. We weren’t expecting it.”

People liked Gutheil to the extent they knew him, but many who considered him a friend still said he kept to himself.

“He wasn’t a quiet guy, but he wasn’t easy to get to know,” said Mary Martineau who, while executive director of the Short North Business Association, knew Gutheil as a loyal SNBA member. “He was always very personable, very warm and sort of enigmatic.”

“He was a very nice man. He was very private,” said Melaine Mahaffey, owner of Mary Catherine’s Antiques, two doors north of Rich’s Antiques. “I don’t think anybody along there knew him too well, but he was a gentleman and an excellent neighbor.”

Gutheil held a Ph.D. in food science and human nutrition from the University of Missouri, but pursued an entrepreneurial career as an antiques dealer. The change from food science to antiques was surprisingly logical for Gutheil. His parents had owned and operated Bargain House Furniture, a used and discount furniture store, in the Short North since 1958. Rich was following in the footsteps of his uncle, an antiques dealer, when he opened Rich’s Antiques about fifteen years ago in a street-level shopfront in a building his parents owned.

Many remember the store’s Candyland-like path winding amidst heaps of antique furniture and collectibles.

“It’s sort of an old-fashioned antique shop that’s just packed with stuff, and there’s just sort of a little path to get through,” Mahaffey said.

Martineau said Rich’s Antiques was “crammed full of his discoveries. Everything was meticulously arranged by collection, but you’d have to look at everything collection by collection in order not to be overwhelmed.”

Rich's Antiques & Collectibles, 1124 N. High St.
© Photo/ Darren Carlson

“It looked almost like going back in history,” said John Gutheil. “He had almost everything collectible. He probably had 300 or 400 different pepper shakers. Normally real unusual stuff. He had real good collectible glassware in every color imaginable. Glass beer bottles with ‘blob tops’ – a blob of glass with a cork inside. Bottles from the Columbus Brewery District. It’s like history when you’re looking at it.”

Gutheil developed a passion for antique glass, and other antiques dealers sought him out to date and authenticate pieces.

“He was an expert on glass,” Mahaffey said. “He had an extensive glass collection library, so he was very helpful with that. He would help me (identify) reproductions and fakes, which there are a lot of in the glass industry. He was so smart, and I think just the fact that (glass) requires so much reading and so much study, and just the sheer volume of information on different glass makers, he could sort of intellectualize it and made a study of it.”

Though not the career Gutheil had originally planned, family members say he loved his work in antiques.

“He pretty much loved that antiques store,” John Gutheil said. “He wasn’t very materialistic. Money was important, but it wasn’t what drove him in how he operated.”

“Rich was really proud of his business,” Persinger said. “When he talked about it, he’d light up and sparkle. He loved going to auctions, he liked researching what an item was and finding the value of it. He liked the whole atmosphere about it.”

Once Gutheil nearly died in the store he loved so much. John Gutheil said his brother’s wounds were so deep from a 2002 stabbing at the shop that right after the incident police were treating Rich’s Antiques as a homicide scene. Gutheil was stabbed twice, once near his heart, and once on the face, leaving a nick at the end of his nose.

The attack left neither Rich nor Rich’s Antiques & Collectibles any worse off.

“That didn’t really dampen his outlook on people,” John Gutheil said. “He always tried to look for the best in people.”

Gutheil remained not only proprietor of Rich’s Antiques, but also landlord of the apartments above the shop and of other properties in the area. Stephen Austin rents one of these apartments, and remembers Gutheil as a landlord who cared about his tenants.

“When I had an insect bite that I reacted to very badly and was taken into the emergency room, I had to miss work and Richard was really concerned. He went to a deli and bought me food. He asked me, ‘Do you need anything else? Do you need to go to the doctor? Do you need a ride on rent?’”

©Photo/Darren Carlson

Gutheil also owned the duplex he lived in behind his shop. His front-and-side-yard garden was a sign of his continued interest in food and nutrition and another opportunity to give to his neighbors.

“He made sure every tenant got tomatoes and peppers and onions from his vegetable garden,” Austin said. “‘All you can eat,’ he’d say, ‘and if you need some more, just go over and get some.’”

He loved having a garden,” John Gutheil said. “He was cross-breeding a plant – a cross between a potato and a tomato. I think he actually had
a plant grown, and I went in and plucked it. I probably thought it was a weed.”

Gutheil also was landlord to TongDa Auto Body, next to his home.

“He was a super-nice guy,” said TongDa Auto Body owner Tom Lin. “If we needed some help, he’d help us, and if he needed help, we’d help him.”

When Lin opened TongDa Auto Body in 2005, he and Gutheil cooperated on some improvements to the building. Lin provided the labor, and Gutheil paid for the supplies to cover some exposed insulation with a ceiling and to replace an old and drafty door with a brand-new one.

“For me, it’s kind of lucky to have this kind of a landlord,” Lin said. “He was easy to talk with. It’s sometimes hard to find people who communicate easily.”

© 2007 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.