by Lou Mancinelli
When you enter on a sunlit day, rhomboids of light play off European and Asian porcelain, pottery, jewelry, sterling silver and silver plates, trinkets and frames like the brass and woodwinds of an orchestra.
Owner Gerry Schultz opened The Antique Gallery at 8523 Germantown Ave. 30 years ago after retiring from running a steel company in Trenton. His business partner, Barbara Caplen, joined him four years later.
Indoors there emanates a dynamic atmosphere with the freewheeling vivacity of kids in a toy store. But the two proprietors are not kids in terms of chronological age. And their antique paintings, pottery, canes, figurines and lamps can be hundreds of years old.
Hollowware and flatware from England, France and America date from 18th century to the present. The shelves are adorned with art glass especially French Galle, Daum and Schneider. There is also Austrian Glass by Loetz and Moser mingled with contemporary selections. You can find pottery by Rookwood, Weller and Roseville interrupted by French and England 19th century copper and brass.
“Something comes off of these objects,” said Caplen, the energetic, articulate and world-traveled manager of the gallery. “You can really feel the energies.”
Schultz, 81, played professional baseball as an 18-year-old man, a left-handed pitcher who played for the New York Giants with Willie Mays. Two years into his career he was drafted into the Army during the Korean War in 1952.
The four-letter 1950 Central High School grad attended Temple University after the war, where he earned a degree in accounting in 1958. But Schutlz’s personality expanded beyond the realm of accounting. He likes to talk too much. He likes people too much. He left accounting and entered the steel industry, where he worked for 30 years.
In 1970 he purchased a Chinese vase for $3,000 while he was at a steel convention in Dallas, Texas. On the way home he wondered how he knew if the dealer was honest or not. He was taking an antiques class at the Cheltenham Township Adult School. When Schultz took the vase to his teacher, he refused to see him. Schultz pleaded.
“I want an infusion of your knowledge into my head,” Schultz told him. The teacher became his mentor.
It’s that type of yearning for knowledge and that direct and confident approach that defines Schultz. Mix that with a lust for life and the beautiful, and you have your local antique gallery owner.
Schultz paints also. He took classes at the Barnes in the ‘80s. He’s a member of the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. The 38-year Wyndmoor resident has been married to his wife, Annette Silverman, for 55 years. He’s a father of three, grandfather of eight.
“You have to understand something about this man,” says Caplen. “He could run any business he wants to.” (In the background Schultz tells Caplen not to say such things about him.)
Their shop has been called one of the most eclectic in Philadelphia. When movies are shot in town, staff, directors, and actors visit the shop in search of props. One was used for a recent Robert DeNiro film. Another for an older Harrison Ford flick.
An admirable sense of honesty is a tenet by which Schultz and Caplen operate. They make house calls throughout the Delaware Valley and in New York. They research as much as they can. If they do not know about something, they look for an expert.
“We’re here in life to learn,” said Caplen. When searching for goods it is their own taste, informed by their genetics, experience and personality as well as through discussions with others, that informs their decisions.
“We want to put our best foot forward,” said Caplen, who has worked in various careers throughout her life and studied acting for eight years. After high-school Caplen forfeited a scholarship to Moore College of Art because her father wanted her to go into another field. “We don’t want to guess about anything.”
“I find a tremendous high, I guess I could call it,” said Schultz, “or satisfaction in being around the most beautiful things man has made … Collectors are amazed to see figural match safes and corkscrews, bridge memorabilia and knife rests. The wonderful thing is that the more a collector knows, the more he or she collects”
For more information, call 215-248-1700 or visit www.rubylane.com.