GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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April 22, 2013

50 years of antiquing

Essex's White Elephant Shop marks major milestone

ESSEX — Essex may be home to the fried clam.

But anyone driving along Main Street passes by more than a few of the town’s 30 antique shops, and one of the oldest ones around is marking its 50th year in the industry.

White Elephant Shop owner Rick Grobe defined a white elephant as “something that no longer has use to it’s current owner,” but Grobe said the shop has something for everyone.

An antique big wheel bicycle, a motorized kayak and an old-style barbers chair are just a few of the classic items found at the antique shop on Main Street.

The business itself is marking its 50th anniversary, while the outlet shop, just a mile down the road, will be celebrating 25 years in Essex. The husband-and-wife duo Rick and Jean Grobe have owned the shop since 1985.

Grobe grew up just outside of Saratoga, N.Y., where his family had purchased and old barn, getting his first experience in the salvaging and antiquing business.

Rick Grobe said had been interested in salvaging and antiques since his early 1920s. He said part of his interest came from the history each object holds.

“Everything has a story to tell,” he said.

The outlet shop contains an old projector from the 1920s that once belonged to the town of Essex, in addition to antique bottles from Rockport’s Twin Light Beverage Company.

Grobe said Essex likely became a hot-spot for antiquing after the end of World War II and the resulting baby boom, people moving and clearing out houses always provides great inventory, he said.

Robert Coviello, who heads the Essex Merchants Group and co-owns Main Street Antiques and Robert Coviello Antiques, said Essex, as a whole, has the “perfect configuration of all attractions.”

He noted Essex has wonderful scenery and has easy access from Route 133, spurring the antique business in town. Coviello said people like coming to more than one antique shop at a time, adding that the more-than 30 antique shops don’t always compete with each other.

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