How does an art and antiques dealer keep his third-generation family business relevant in a world where consumer goods are just a click away? Cape Cod native Joshua Eldred ’96 believes that technology and consumer education will play a vital role in growing his business.
Eldred recalls a time when the parking lot at Eldred’s Auction Gallery in East Dennis, Mass., was filled with cars on auction day. While the capacity crowds of yesterday may never return, he believes the industry and his business are making positive strides to attract the next generation of fine art and antiques buyers. “The Internet is the most compelling piece of technology in a lot of ways because it allows [a much broader audience] to interact in the auction. They can sit there and watch the entire auction and participate without being there.”
After Colby, Eldred moved to Boston to work in finance, but he never lost his passion for art and antiques. Fascinated by the potential to couple the antiques trade with emerging technologies, he left his position to work for a start-up antiques portal, Antiques America, and eventually a company, Artfact.com, that offers buyers access to a global database of fine and decorative arts, antiques, and collectibles, as well as live auction bidding in real time. In 2006 Eldred decided to bring his experience back to Eldred’s Auction Gallery, which specializes in antiques, Americana, fine art American paintings, and Asian art and antiques.
His biggest challenge? “There used to be more people buying at the bottom,” Eldred said, “even it if was just an inexpensive piece of furniture.”
Chains like Pottery Barn and IKEA are capturing a large share of the entry-level market. Glossy catalogs and efficient websites make it easy to place an order instantly and have it shipped the next day.
Eldred believes that younger buyers overlook his corner of the market because of misperceptions about pricing and a general lack of exposure to fine art and antiques. He urges young buyers to get their feet wet but advises against buying art and antiques simply for investment. “You should buy a piece,” he said, “because you love it.”
—Colleen Creeden ’02