First-time visitors to Summit Lake Antiques are always surprised to find a three-building, fully stocked business in such a beautiful, woodsy area, way out in the country. They may expect to see a tiny, mom-and-pop shop when they turn off of the highway, but what they’ll find instead is a full selection of oak, walnut and mahogany furniture choices, ornamented, as they would be at home, with a number of useful and decorative smalls. Bob and Barbara don’t have any trouble keeping their two showrooms filled. After 30 years in the business and with a sterling reputation, the shop gets “so many calls for so much furniture, there’s just not room enough for all of it.” The Jaspers like the bounty, especially since it gives them the opportunity to hand-pick every piece that comes into the store. They want nice quality items, dating from the Victorian period (of course, they always like to acquire older pieces as well).
The better items among their finds fill one of the two showrooms. The second showroom is more a conglomerate of mixed items, not quite making the cut for the other space; still, you won’t find “garage sale”- type items anywhere. For one thing, the Jaspers don’t themselves shop at estate and garage sales, or at auctions.
“I don’t like my customers seeing me in front of them at line, thinking I’m about to buy something they wanted,” says Barbara. “It’s not important enough for us to do that.”
The Jaspers deeply value the sense of trust they believe they’ve built up with their clientele.
“People know we don’t just buy something, quickly repair it and shove it out the door, so we can go buy more,” she continues.
On the other hand, visitors are welcome to visit the upstairs space in a third building, which houses the store’s workshop, just to see if they can find their own do-it-yourself projects. That’s where all the stuff is the Jaspers “haven’t gotten around to yet.”
The bulk of Summit Lake’s business is restoration for the public. Refinishing and restoration, which the couple taught themselves many years ago, just to enhance their own home’s furnishings, is what settled them in the business in the first place.
Bob had been a banker for many years; he has a master’s degree in business. Barbara had a long career working for attorneys, but decided to stay at home when the family (husband, wife and twin boys) moved out to the country.
Barbara’s refinishing skills gave her something to do on a relaxed basis. She worked with a teenage helper in her own little restoration shop but was also able to close up any time she felt like it – to help out at the boys’ school, for example. She also did shows, with the items they’d repaired and, as her reputation grew, others asked it she’d fix up their things.
“I didn’t want to do that, but it did encourage me to expand the retail part of the business,” she remembers. “Then Bob decided he wanted to come home and work in the shop. With him involved, we were able to start doing restoration projects for others.”
With his dad opting to pursue his own version of ‘the good life’ son Derek was growing up in the business and developing his own expertise. Barbara says he’s just about as good as his dad now in repairing, refinishing and restoring. Derek’s in charge of the workshop staff, and his parents expect him to take over the entire business one day.
Quality restoration is rare in the area, though one other restorer has provided that service for a number of years. Generally, though, there was a niche to be filled and plenty of restoration work available. The Jaspers continue to do shows, as well; it’s great advertising for their service.
The store does a great deal of insurance work, bringing back to life pieces that have been damaged by fire, flood or other catastrophes. Just as often, an individual owner simply wants to fix up an old piece that’s seen better days. The restoration business is definitely full-service, with three full-time staff members working with the Jaspers.
“Those guys can do almost anything,” says Barbara. “No project is impossible.”
Recently, for example, a local couple brought in an oak, drop-front desk that had been painted bright pink (by the woman’s mother, when she was a little girl).
“We don’t mind restoring painted furniture; it’s quite difficult and more expensive”, says Barbara. “We told them it would cost about the same for them to buy a new one, but they wanted this one, because of its sentimental value to them.”
The staff undertook the project for that reason and were as pleased with the results as the owners.
“It came out fabulously,” says Barbara. “We were able to get off all of the old paint and replace certain parts that were missing. The man was delighted with the results; he had it done as a Christmas present for his wife.”
Normally, she adds, you can expect to pay about half the replacement cost for a straightforward, well-done, restoration – repairing and refinishing an oak table, for example. Some projects, though, are far more complicated, like when people bring in a 42″ table and want it restored to seat 12.
A project like that can be done, says Barbara, but there are many painstaking steps. Runners must be changed and new leaves created. For the latter, the staff starts with raw lumber, which needs to be planed, then sanded, both by machine and then by hand. After adjusting and pinning (pegs) to produce an exact fit, the new wood must be color-matched to the original piece. (Derek is the shop expert in color matching.) That’s also true for the tiny straight legs that must be fitted and added under the table (such pieces are now being manufactured again, after a number of years). They’re needed to help support what could formerly stand up with just a single pedestal.
All those steps are why restoration can sometimes take so long, something people who haven’t done similar work themselves may not quite understand. Barbara, though, knows from experience, since, years ago, she questioned her own husband’s speed in the restoration process.
“I was frustrated seeing how long it was taking to glue a chair together and asked him, why are you so slow? Why can’t you just do it like this or …..?”
Bob didn’t argue the point; he decided the best tactic was to let Barbara try it herself.
“I gave up after a half hour or so and I had made no progress whatsoever. I hadn’t had any idea what an involved process it is. You have to get the old glue out and the new glue in, then carefully clamping it all together; it’s so difficult to do without getting glue all over everything! Then you have to take off what excess there is and re-color those areas.”
Barbara believes in being very upfront about the time and costs that will be involved in any particular project. Again, with pieces that will hold many happy memories for the owner, cost often doesn’t seem to be a factor.
“A lady brought in a white vanity, and I told her I’d seen a similar one for sale for half the price she’d need to pay for this (difficult) restoration. I told her the project would cost more that it was worth, but she still wanted to do it; the vanity meant a lot to her.”
That honest approach is a company tradition.
“We have a good reputation for being fair, and work hard to keep it,” says Barbara.
That reputation is also built on the skill of the shop’s work. One woman, for example, brought in a piece that was, simply put, in terrible shape.
“When we were finished, she thought we’d done everything over, but we had just patched the veneer.”
The staff is expert at such repair. When the occasional piece is beyond help, the old veneer is saved, to be used on future projects.
If you’re more interested in shopping for something new (to you, that is), you’ll find everything from bedroom sets to big breakfronts and buffets. Special finds included a three-piece walnut bedroom set: bed, commode with mirror and dresser. The Victorian pieces are marble-topped and date to the late 1800s. Barbara’s current favorite is a Victorian settee. It’s accompanied by a little footstool of the same era. The settee has been reupholstered in a diamond tufted period velvet in dark maroon. (The Jaspers work with a skilled upholsterer who has their own shop. They refer customers to them; and they’ll send their own customers to the Jaspers when wood repair is needed. It’s a good relationship, and everyone, especially the customers, have been well-satisfied.)
From the ‘20s and ‘30s, you’ll find all kinds “furniture your grandma would have had in her home.” A postered bed has each end topped with a pineapple finial; a Duncan Phyfe-style mahogany table by Mersman has the typical “swooping down” legs with capped toes.
There are lots of round oak and mahogany tables, and the Jaspers are always looking for chair sets to match.
“We’re very eclectic,” she says, “but you can always find pieces that work together,” like one recent customer who purchased a large curved china, a triple doored bookcase and a library table.
Oak stacking bookcases, tables and chinas have proven especially popular with customers.
Among the decorative smalls available are pictures and mirrors, china and glassware. (An entire cabinet is filled with carnival glass.)
“There’s not tons of smalls, since furniture is our specialty, but all the cupboards are full,” says Barbara.
Summit Lake Antiques is enjoyable to visit (“people like to just rummage around in here“) and easy to find. It sits just three-quarters of a mile off Highway 8, the area’s major beach highway. (Visitors from Seattle or Canada heading to the beach must pass right by.) There’s a big blue freeway sign marking the exit to Summit Lake Road; the antique store is announced on the sign as a local “Tourist Activity.”
The setting is beautiful – up in the forests of the Black Hills. Even with a beautiful evergreen backdrop, however, Barbara has managed to take advantage of all the sun that’s available to her as an avid gardener. You’ll find the shop buildings beautifully landscaped with flowers and perennials, adding to their customer-appeal.
The bottom line? “People have a lot of fun out here,” she says.