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Thursday, August 6, 2020

Halifax is losing one of its last antique shops

Both the shop and the building it calls home are remnants of Halifax's history that will soon be gone.

Posted By on Thu, Aug 6, 2020 at 9:15 AM

click to enlarge The building has been sold to a developer and will be torn down. - VICTORIA WALTON
  • victoria walton
  • The building has been sold to a developer and will be torn down.
After 25 years in business, McLellan Antiques & Restoration on Agricola Street is closing its doors to customers. Owner Jim McLellan will still spend his semi-retired days restoring furniture, but only on a part-time basis.

“My restoration will continue on a smaller scale. I won’t be doing pianos, dining sets, I won’t have employees — it’ll just be a one-man operation,” he tells The Coast in between helping customers find pieces in the narrow, cluttered storefront (2738 Agricola Street). Walking into McLellan's, dozens of dim light fixtures adorn the walls, antique kitchenware sits atop 100-year-old tables, and an antique gramophone with a petal blue bell sits nestled beside a velvety red chair.

click to enlarge Owner Jim McLellan came to Halifax from California in the '90s to open his Agricola Street storefront. - VICTORIA WALTON
  • victoria walton
  • Owner Jim McLellan came to Halifax from California in the '90s to open his Agricola Street storefront.
“We specialize in furniture, lighting, weapons, tools,” says McLellan. Some items, like a cash register and a solid oak wood hall tree, he’s keeping for himself. But everything else will be put on sale over the coming weeks before the shop closes at the end of August.

When it does, it will leave few antique shops in a city where there used to be many. “There used to be six antique dealers in the area, and they all closed down around 15 years ago,” says McLellan.

Finer Things Antiques & Curios (6438 Quinpool Road) and Hayes Antiques (5737 McCully Street) may well be the only antique shops remaining on the peninsula. Dartmouth store Retrospekt (166 Ochterloney Street) sells mid-century modern furniture, and a group of local vintage vendors and thrifters have popped up on Instagram, but with a different vibe than the piled-high storefront of McLellan’s.

Originally from California, Jim McLellan moved to Halifax in 1995 to open his own store. But over the past two and a half decades, era-specific shoppers have become few and far between.

“Fifteen years ago people stopped largely buying antiques, especially furniture, especially Victorian furniture,” he says.

For several years, McLellan says the storefront hasn’t been profitable. “My restoration side of the business is booming and it’s always done well. But it’s kind of had to support the sales side, so that’s why I’m going to close the store permanently.”

click to enlarge Once the shop closes, McLellan can be reached via his email, - VICTORIA WALTON
  • victoria walton
  • Once the shop closes, McLellan can be reached via his email,
In place of the small, two-storey blue house the antiques shop is in, will eventually grow a development. McLellan originally planned to sell the building to a women’s charity, but the deal fell through at the last minute.

“The same day, the developer that bought the properties next door, he offered me extra money and so I said OK,” he says. “I didn’t want it to be torn down, but there you go.”

Although the storefront will close, McLellan will continue to repair and restore furniture at a new workshop. He says “it’s time” to move on, and despite his best attempts to preserve the building, it was only a matter of time before gentrification continued to creep into the north end.

“It’s been gentrified a lot. Whole blocks, you don’t have to go far. just off Almon, on both sides of Robie,” says McLellan. “I don’t know where all the people are going to come from to fill the condos, but they keep building them.”

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