Last ‘Dance’: Downtown Auburn antique shop closes due to COVID-19
Tom Patterson believes people in the antiques business should be honest.
This fall, however, the person that Patterson had to be honest with wasn’t a customer. It was himself.
And the truth Patterson had to confront was that his business, Dance Hall Antiques, could no longer survive due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Sunday, the shop welcomed its last customers after more than 25 years in business, the last seven at 35 Market St. in downtown Auburn.
Patterson, 72, told The Citizen on Tuesday that before the pandemic he wasn’t planning on retiring anytime soon. His business partner, Dale Ross, passed away five years ago, but Patterson continued to run the shop by himself afterward. Or at least he did until Sunday, March 15, the last day it was open before having to close due to New York’s COVID-19 guidance. It didn’t reopen until November.
Around that time, Patterson realized that he should only reopen Dance Hall Antiques to close it for good.
“I kept tossing back and forth. I said several prayers to get the right answer, and I think it came,” he said. “The pandemic just took its toll. Economically, we couldn’t do it.”
A native of the village of Waverly in the Southern Tier, Patterson came to Auburn in 1968 to study retail business management at Auburn (now Cayuga) Community College. But he ended up with a nursing degree, which led to a 43-year career as a registered nurse at Auburn Community Hospital. Meanwhile, in 1995, he and Ross established Dance Hall Antiques at a nine-room farmhouse they renovated in Genoa. Before that, they rented space from Bakers Acres in Lansing, where they did business under the name Country Antiques.
Over the next seven years in downtown Auburn, Patterson was reminded again and again why he started selling antiques. He loves researching their history, he said, and appreciates their craftsmanship. Among his favorites are Eastlake furniture, a style of ornate designs from the late Victorian era, and Hummels, a series of hand-painted porcelain figurines that originated in 1930s Germany.
Dance Hall also had a reputation for glassware and ceramics, Patterson added, with pieces from renowned names like Hall China Co. and pottery brand McCoy.
But what Patterson loved most about carrying those names, he said, is sharing their history and their craftsmanship with his customers.
“Everyone is so kind, and there’s rarely a disgruntled customer,” he said. “If you don’t have what they’re looking for, they’re polite and they move on.”
After a clearance sale that started with a 60% discount and ended with $5 bag deals, Dance Hall is mostly empty. The reaction to the shop’s closure has been heartening, Patterson added.
In retirement, he’ll keep making himself available for estate sales, as he’s licensed to help families part with the contents of a loved one’s home. He also volunteers at Holy Family Church.
Still, Patterson will miss his customers. Without them, he said, Dance Hall Antiques never would have found its footing.
“The people are my life,” he said. “I love meeting and helping them. That’s what life is about.”