A Vintage Wonderland In Bridgehampton To Close Its Doors

Antiques dealers Brian Ramaekers and Barbara Trujillo, who have shared space in Bridgehampton for nearly 40 years, are closing their store at the end of the year. LORI HAWKINS PHOTOS

An assortment of Christmas decorations, stuffed animals, vintage toys, wine decanters, and jewelry greet shoppers as they peer into the windows of the tiny antiques shop next to Pierre’s restaurant on Main Street in Bridgehampton.

Inside, shelves crowded with dishes, a choir’s worth of handbells, and enough old planes, drills, and other hand tools to outfit a workshop give way to racks of jeans, cowboy boots, woolen lumberjack coats, and still more knick-knacks. The rear of the store is dominated by display cases of Native American turquoise and silver jewelry.

But come the end of the year, Brian Ramaekers and Barbara Trujillo, who have shared the space for 35 years, will close the doors — leaving Bridgehampton without a single antiques dealer on its Main Street.

Ramaekers will retire, while Trujillo is already looking for a new space to rent. Biana Stepanian, who has run the Sag Harbor Salvage Company out of a corner of the space in recent years, is looking for new digs as well.

“People ask me, ‘Are you going to miss it?’” Ramaekers said on a recent Saturday as a steady stream of customers browsed the crowded shelves. “But I’ve been in the business so many years, there’s not much to miss. There’s not much that you stumble upon that you haven’t seen before.”

A native of Lackawanna, who had a successful career with Shell Oil selling jet fuel, Ramaekers and his partner, Robert Kinnaman, eventually moved to Houston, where their interest in collecting American folk art and other objects led them to open their own shop, Kinnaman & Ramaekers, in 1969.

A decade later, they were invited to show their wares at the Winter Antiques Show in New York City, and they found their way to the East End, where they opened their store in 1986. They initially rented the building, where Trujillo was already a tenant, before acquiring it about 15 years later. Kinnaman died in 2005.

Trujillo, who grew up on Long Island, worked at shops in Westbury, Baldwin and Rockville Centre, where she learned the business. “When I was a kid, I was always looking at old stuff. I just loved antiques,” she said.

Finding inventory is fairly simple, she added: “Every dealer buys what they like. It’s not more complicated than that.”

And, in Trujillo’s case, it tends to be vintage jewelry, with an emphasis on silver and turquoise.

“American Indian jewelry has always been popular out here,” she said. “We were selling it before Ralph Lauren — he did a lot for American Indian jewelry.”

She said she has been successful for the long haul “because I’m very reasonable. People know what they are getting from me.”

Ramaekers said a good antiques dealer can’t get too attached to the wares. “I never ask myself, ‘Why did I sell that?’” he said. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Plus, he said, it’s difficult to predict just what will sell and what will languish on the shelf. “If I had a crystal ball, I’d sell the crystal ball,” Ramaekers joked.

He said he and Kinnaman would visit antiques shops on their travels and then sit down at lunch to try to recall exactly what caught their eye in a given store. “If it stood out to us, we figured that’s what we should buy,” he said.

Once they established a reputation for fairness, other dealers offered them first dibs on things they were trying to sell, he said.

Although Trujillo and Ramaekers run separate businesses, they look out for one another.

“Barbara is just wonderful to have as someone to work with,” Ramaekers said, noting that when he and Kinnaman would take an extended vacation to Colorado in the winter, she would watch the shop and give them daily reports on sales.

For her part, Trujillo said she would move some inventory to a brother-in-law’s shop in Bellport, while she continues to look for space in the Bridgehampton area.

“This store is a classic,” she said. “A lot of people come here not to necessarily buy anything, but just to see it — and we don’t mind that.”