May 2, 2022
We interviewed Rachel Gurley, owner of Gurley Antiques Gallery in Scarborough and her brother Joshua Gurley, a licensed auctioneer and business co-owner. Since 2008, the sibling duo has been working hard to keep the business operating smoothly and talked with us about both the challenging and rewarding aspects of working in the industry.
Tell me a little bit about the business:
Rachel: I am the owner and my brother is the co-owner. He is also a licensed auctioneer. We actually have three businesses we run. We buy and sell antiques, manage this multi-dealer shop and we own and operate an antique promotion business and run antique shows.
What goes into running an antique gallery?
Rachel: Paperwork is an extensive part of what we do, because we have a lot of incoming and outgoing inventory and we also have to pay vendors. Managing antique shows also involves a lot of paperwork.
Joshua: We rearrange the items in the shop on a regular basis as well. We primarily get our items from auctions, although sometimes we get house calls, find items through ads or buy at auctions.
How would you describe your typical clientele?
Joshua: Once upon a time, this stuff was much more valuable, and by that I mean there isn't as much interest from youth. The truth is, you have to have some disposable income. So we don’t see a lot of younger people coming in.
Rachel: I agree with my brother, but I also think there has been a slight rise of younger collectors and buyers, which we’re excited about. As much as the pandemic hurt business in terms of losing that element of face-to-face interaction, it has helped the business as far as the rebirth of interest.
What items seem most popular?
Joshua: We have items here that cater to anybody and everybody, but people tend to gravitate toward what their grandparents may have owned, because that’s their personal experience. We’ve been doing this for a while, so an antique for us is circa 1810 or 1840. But an antique to a lot of people is 1950 because that’s closer to their age interest.
What do you love about doing this kind of work?
Rachel: I love that I’ve been able to bring my daughter here and that we have the ability to involve our families. Our mother was a promoter and a dealer too, so our love for this started young. The best part of our job, honestly, is that we love it. Very rarely do I say I don’t want to go to work. I really enjoy being here.
Joshua: Buying and selling antiques is like gambling. Sometimes we get an incredible score which leads to a fleeting sense of euphoria. Once it has passed and the item is sold, it’s time to move onto the next thing. I enjoy that process a lot. Every time someone buys something you feel justified because they love it as much as you and that’s a beautiful thing, You get to connect with people on a personal level.
I love this line of work because I’m surrounded by art all day long. I get to look at beautiful things and appraise them. There’s so much history too. It’s an all-in-one package deal. We’re blessed to be able to do what we love and make a living off of it.
How would someone interested in antiques become involved/be able to learn more?
Joshua: Anyone can sit in on an auction to learn more about the process. If you visit auctionzip.com and type in your zip code, you can see what auctions are happening near you and when. A lot are online now because of the pandemic, but a few are still in-person. If someone is interested, I suggested they go, sit down, and just watch. You can make a list, take your time, dabble and learn. If you are not self-motivated you cannot do this, it is really hard. But it’s so worth it to us.
Rachel: For those interested in getting into this kind of work or going to an auction, my suggestion is to focus on one thing at a time. When I started, I was just a jewelry dealer, but I learned more over time through exposure and research. It's good to try one thing, focus on one area and then expand your interest. No one can be great at everything, it's impossible. But you can learn and grow over time.
To learn more about Gurley Antiques Gallery, visit their website: https://bit.ly/3OLkXfJ