The first time I ventured into the Aberfoyle Antique Market I was looking for a few inexpensive items to decorate my first apartment. As I wandered among the booths that overflowed with wooden duck decoys, antique bicycle baskets, vintage bird cages, and old postcards, I found much more than I’d bargained for. I discovered my own love of history and it’s kept me coming back to the market for years.
The same is obviously true for hundreds of others. On a typical Sunday, more than 2,200 people swarm to the market, which is located on Highway 6, just north of Highway 401. They come from all over Ontario as well as Quebec and even New York State. On one Sunday, they hit a record high of over 4,000 visitors.
Proprietor Doug Lane said that according to surveys they’ve conducted, some people come just to browse among the antiques while others are looking for that special item. “I get phone calls all the time looking for specific items,” said Doug, who took over the market 35 years ago. “They range from a furniture piece, lighting, collectibles, and more.” Some people like the challenge of refurbishing an old chair or table and bringing it back to life. But some just come for the environment. “The low key atmosphere really appeals to shoppers and people in general,” said Doug. “Strolling around browsing at unique, nostalgic, or one of a kind type of items allows the mind to graze, so to speak.”
The Aberfoyle Antique Market has the distinction of being Canada’s oldest antique market. Since opening in 1961, it has grown to include 75 permanent vendors and another 15 to 30 who come on days when they allow outside vendors.
The scenery and landscape haven’t changed much since my first visit. There are still the duck decoys, antique furniture, old cigarette tins, and crystal door knobs. For those who come to buy, there’s lots to choose from. The market literally has everything but the kitchen sink, and there have been a few of those over the years. There are antique wooden hutches, dressers, chairs, tables, and full dining room sets. There are also vintage clothing, jewelry, and hats plus lots of knick knacks. Aberfoyle is also one of the few markets where the vendors are present, and can talk about the history of an item. “I think this has great value,” said Doug. “People coming to the market are, for the most part, not pestered by sales staff but are engaged in a friendly, relaxed manner by the vendors.”
Another aspect that makes the market unique is its family-friendly environment and accessibility.
There is a kid’s playground, large patio shaded by trees and umbrellas, and a quaint cafe that serves tea, coffee, sandwiches, and snacks. The market is also wheelchair accessible and allows dogs, preferably the well-behaved kind.
For most people who visit – myself included – the real fun is in the thrill of the hunt, searching through the treasure trove of items until you find just the right antique for just the right price.
As I wind around the rows of stalls, I can’t help but think that the market’s popularity has grown over the years because so many things are disposable, from throwaway furniture to plastic cups. In contrast, antiques have a story to tell that often has rich meaning or even cultural significance behind them. That’s what keeps many of us coming back.
The Aberfoyle Antique Market runs from the end of April until the end of October. Twice a year the market opens on a Saturday and allows additional vendors. The fall Saturday special will be held on September 22 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
by Denise Davy
Aberfoyle Antique Market