By Kathianne Boniello
Like fine wine and good shoes, the antiques business is one which evolves over time and requires a special touch.
After 30 years and four shops in the neighboring community of Great Neck, Little Neck resident Lawrence Levine knows full well the pitfalls and pleasures of the industry which defies today’s fast- paced world.
“I never know what to expect,” Levine said of the perennial hunt for antiques. “It reminds me of my youth and going on blind dates. If you don’t know the person, you don’t know what to expect.”
When the lease on his current Great Neck shop at 136 Middle Neck Rd. expires later this year, Levine said the store will close.
With a liquidation sale now underway to reduce his inventory of fine mirrors, chandeliers, tables and other intriguing pieces, Levine said he is not quite ready to let go of the antiques business and may begin to work from his Little Neck home.
“I’ll probably decide at the last minute,” Levine said with a laugh.
A Brooklyn native, Levine first moved to Little Neck in 1970 and got involved in antique dealing after his wife Rona began a successful career in interior design.
“I did her early layouts,” said Levine, a former dancer who later became involved in machine design and research for a scientific research company in Queens.
It was on early shopping trips for Rona Levine Interiors Ltd. that Lawrence Levine developed an eye for antiques.
The mystique of antique hunting comes from the risk involved, said Levine.
“Sometimes I go into a home and talk to people for hours and don’t purchase anything,” Levine said. “A good part of the business is socializing.”
Sometimes amid the socializing, Levine said, one can find an antique worth picking up.
“When I get something that’s special at a fair price, it’s like I’m rejuvenated,” he said. “I know that if I like it and I’m affected by it, my clients will be.”
Those special pieces include a pair of large indoor/outdoor urns Levine picked up in England roughly 25 years ago; a large, black, wrought-iron hat stand with detailed Victorian figures; a dainty chair with delicate mother-of-pearl incorporated into the design; and a small chandelier with green glass beads.
“This is not a commercial product,” Levine said as he eyed the chandelier. “There’s a special quality about it.”
Levine has had four shops in Great Neck, changing locations on Middle Neck Road as different storefronts became available. Lawrence Levine Antiques has been in the current spot for five years, he said.
After first specializing in art glass, an area that includes fine lamps, chandeliers, vases and other glass products, Levine said, the store eventually broadened its inventory to appeal to the wider community.
Levine said people often think high-end antiques can only be bought on Madison Avenue, not Middle Neck Road.
“There’s a stereotype of art buying,” he said. “People will often pass up a good buy in a local shop.”
But the professionals know otherwise and Levine has done much of his selling to Manhattan dealers who have come to his store looking for a bargain.
“They can sometimes double or triple the price just by going into Manhattan,” he said.
While antique dealing can be profitable, it is also an emotional investment, Levine said.
It can be difficult selling items that strike a chord, Levine said.
“But when you’re selling, you have to sell what people will buy,” he said. “A lot of these things can’t be ordered again.
“It’s a mixture of the ages,” he said.
Lawrence Levine Antiques can be reached by calling 516-482-3490, or on-line at Levine.Lawrence@verizon.net. The shop is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday.
Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.