Thursday, August 5, 2010
A new antique store opening soon uptown comes with plenty of history - both in its merchandise, and in the business itself. Arnie Miller and his wife, Lynda, opened for business in Pennsylvania in 1968, and have since operated in New Jersey, London and most recently, Cape Town, South Africa, for 10 years. Now, they're making the shift to Charlotte, offering one-of-a-kind pieces from 1690 to 1950 for sale and rent.
Miller-Topia Designers opens Aug. 17 at 601 S. Cedar St. in Charlotte, near Bank of America Stadium and next to Hartigan's Pub, in 5,000 square feet in a renovated brick mill. The store, Arnie Miller says, "specializes in the unusual," which quickly becomes apparent - a Namibian-made chair covered in wildebeest skin sits in a window, not far from a rocking goat (yes, not a horse) from a castle in Scotland. The Millers also stock more traditional pieces, too, though, such as an oak draw-leaf table from about 1830, and an original bronze Tiffany floor lamp, with graceful curves. Items are primarily European and American, with many purchased through fine estates. Also on the floor are clocks, bronzes, paintings, lamps, books and engravings, including two clocks from the Ritz in Paris.
In its previous incarnations, Miller-Topia regularly rented antiques for use as props and set decor on theater and movie sets and for photo shoots - including in the movies "I.Q.", shot in New Jersey, and "Invictus," filmed in South Africa. Though there isn't as much of a film industry in Charlotte, Arnie Miller acknowledges, people here still like antiques. And as in the past, the store is not just selling items, but renting them as well, to the public and professionals alike.
When they were living in South Africa, the Millers visited Charlotte, liked its warmth and energy - "Charlotte is up and coming," Arnie Miller said - and decided to move here, rather than back to the Northeast. They began planning their move in early 2009, not exactly a high point for the region's economy. But, says Miller, "The pendulum swings. Sooner or later the economy will come back, and people love to decorate with the kinds of things we sell." And, he says, though the store is still in the midst of pricing its goods, the aim is indeed to sell: "We're not running a museum."
Miller liked the store's location near the Cedar Design Center, home to other art- and architecture-related businesses. Inside, it's arrayed for easy, relaxed meandering, with a mix of large and small items - and at least one little prompt to help sway shoppers: "The best time to buy an antique," reads a small sign standing on a table, "is when you see it."