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Shop houses look-alike antiques without expensive price
DE SOTO, Ill. -- The cluttered aisles of Ken's Antiques and Reproductions in De Soto are reminiscent of grandma's attic. They're dimly lit, drafty and filled with bric-a-brac that recalls a bygone era.
But shoppers must be careful not to get too caught up in nostalgia when prowling Ken's. That's because many items that look as if they were hand-crafted a century ago probably were stamped out last month somewhere in the Far East.
"About 90 percent of our stuff is antique reproductions," said Mark Clerk, who manages the operation for his father, Ken Clerk. "We have a few antiques."
Ken's primarily is a wholesale seller of antique reproductions. Its customers are antique dealers from Maine to California, as well as Canada. Retailer shoppers are welcome, however, at its pole barn near the corner of U.S. 51 and Illinois 149.
The Clerks have a store and warehouse space in the tiny Jackson County village packed with everything imaginable that looks old, but is actually new. Need a cast iron bank, ceramics, lamp, vase, china cabinet, poster, quilt, clock, hat pin, mirror, stained glass, oak furniture or even a suit of armor? Ken's has it. They also stock aluminum lamp posts, fountains, statues, benches and more for outdoor use.
A broker from Hong Kong visits museums around the world to garner ideas for reproductions, he said. Clerk will also purchase antiques and provide the reproduction makers with either a photo or the actual item from which to work.
"Anything new from the Far East takes about one year to make," he said.
What is new could easily pass for something old. Clerk dragged out two oak secretary units. One was a true antique, the other a production. The similarities were striking.
So are the prices. Clerk said reproductions cost about one half an original.
Walter Buss of Olney, another wholesale antique and reproduction dealer, says the popularity in reproductions was sparked around the time of the nation's bicentennial, but interest started leveling off last year.