Former Mechanic Now Operates Antique Shop
Charlie Foster runs an eclectic antique shop in Stanley
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Charlie Foster, 67, has lived around antiques all his life; his grandparents passed down things to his parents.
That early exposure sparked his interest in antiques and led to his ownership of Carriage Factory Antiques in 2001, an Ontario County business housed in a former carriage factory in Stanley. Some of the shop’s items are from the 1800s. Some are from the early 1900s.
“Antiques have a bad name for being overpriced and not as good,” he said.
He comparison shops to ensure that he prices items fairly.
Wood furniture is a big part of his shop. He likes to provide shoppers with well-made antiques that stand up to wear and tear because they are made of wood and dovetailed and mortised. Chipboard and screwed furniture will not stand up as well.
Foster’s shop also sells decorative and functional household goods, including a blown glass vase thought to be made by an artisan at Corning Glass. The large vase is priced at $895 and came from an estate sale in Rochester.
He also sells small knickknacks, coins, stamps and other collectibles. Purchasing estates is how Foster acquires many of his items.
He reads industry periodicals Antique Weekly and The Trader to see how others price their antiques and to learn more about them. He also uses eBay for research and occasionally selling. He offers a few smaller items in cases in stores in Geneva, Seneca Falls and Bloomfield.
He likes to stock unusual items. More utilitarian items sell well, such as dressers and vintage farm and home implements, he said.
Foster grew up on a farm, so he is familiar with many implements. However, at times he has searched with Google Photos. But he thinks it is more fun to put up a sign, “What is this?” to let customers guess.
That kind of customer engagement, along with his business’s bright red barn and large deer statue outside, helps shoppers remember his store.
“I try to put into people’s heads some kind of a memory,” Foster said.
He kept the name of the shop the same as when he bought it. The structure used to house a carriage factory. A customer from Seattle once stopped in to share with Foster that her great-great-grandfather had owned the carriage factory. She also shared circa 1850s photos and historical information with Foster.
“The great-great-grandfather was making parts for carriages and barrels,” Foster said. “His brother had a blacksmith shop where the driveway was. In the pictures she sent, you could see a muddy road. Routes 5 and 20 were a stagecoach line from Albany to Buffalo.”
More than just a postretirement business, Foster views his shop as a productive way to keep busy.
“I do it for the people,” Foster explained. “Every day I learn something new, whether from someone coming in or at the estates. I love talking with old-timers. They’re the ones who know. Old veterans are full of knowledge.”
While he has had the occasional disgruntled customer, he believes that the good outweigh the bad. Foster, who lives in Hopewell with his wife, Kathy, retired from working as a mechanic at Canandaigua Wine Company three years ago. He had worked there 47 years and transitioned to full-time at the antique shop upon retirement.
“Kathy tries to stay away as she knows I’ll put her to work,” Foster said with a laugh.
He estimates his shop holds about 10,000 items, as he has been buying for the past 20 years.
Photo: Charlie Foster, 67, retired three years ago after working at Canandaigua Wine Company for 47 years. He works at his Carriage Factory Antique in Ontario County.