If you're expecting to find huge antique stores in Merida like the ones you know back home, you are likely to be disappointed. The business of buying and selling antiques here is not a time-honored practice. Yes, around the early 20th Century, Merida was swimming in money, and people imported and built a lot of beautiful furniture and fixtures. They also imported and created many works of art. But these beautiful things are mostly kept in the family. Any antiques that were put on the market were instantly snapped up, either by people renovating and furnishing the haciendas, or by exporters who took them out of Yucatan and into the U.S. or Europe. Most modern Yucatecos have been more interested in new things, from houses to the furniture that goes into them, so local demand for antiques has not been strong either.
Of course these conditions, like everything else around here, are changing. The expatriate Norteamericanos and Europeans who have been moving here are hungry for beautiful old things. And gradually, there are more and more people willing to let go of those things, for a price of course. So it follows that there are people starting businesses to gather and sell them.
We're building a new home in the style of the old colonials, using local materials and following many traditional construction practices. Our house will have high ceilings, mosaico floor tiles, stone, wrought iron, columns and arches. When we are including wood in our design, such as in doors and windows, we are looking for old pieces that we can refurbish and reuse. It seems to us that this both lends our new house a feeling of history and it allows us to recycle and reuse these beautiful hardwoods instead of cutting down new trees. Plus, it's fun to hunt for them!
In addition to the old local doors, there are a few places in town that import pieces from other countries that either look old or really are old, which work well for our lifestyle and this climate.
In our experience, Merida's antique dealers are honest and enjoyable to deal with. Many of them can restore the pieces you buy. Most of them will also deliver your purchases for a small extra charge.
As usual, we're sure our list is not complete. If you know of a good place that we should add, please leave a comment or email us! Also, as you'll see, some of these places do not appear to even have names. We will attempt to add photos over the next few weeks to make them more recognizable, so check back. We're providing you with addresses and phone numbers if we have them, but directions? You didn't think we were going to make it THAT easy, did you?
Of course, finding old architectural pieces is not a science, it's an art. And it depends a lot on serendipity, timing and your pocketbook. Despite the fact that by telling you where to find a window frame or colonial door we are increasing the competition for these precious things, we think a healthy market for antiques will only serve to support the current antique sellers and possibly encourage more to surface. And so, with no further ado...
a.k.a. Dr. Guzman's House
Dr. Roberto Guzman is handsome, cultured and gracious. He has a fine eye for good antiques and probably carries the most dependably beautiful and valuable antiques in town. He has connections with many of the old families and often has goods on consignment. His store is in a house next door to the house he lives in. It has everything from doors to furniture to santos to paintings. The house itself is an antique, as he gathered pieces from many old houses in the area that were torn down and incorporated them into the house that is his store. Be sure to appreciate the old tiled kitchen under the beautiful stone arch. It is probably worth noting that of all the antique dealers we have met here so far, Dr. Guzman is probably the only one who speaks English.
Location: Calle 19 #201-D x 22 y 24, Col. García Gineres
Hours: Mon thru Fri, 9 AM to 1 PM and 5 PM to 8 PM; Sat 9 AM to 1 PM
Proprietor: Jorge I. Vázquez Gomez
Jorge's store is in two large bodegas behind his house. He also can usually be found in Parque Santa Lucia on Sunday mornings until about noon. Jorge is a scavenger supreme and has many wonderful old things that other people might not think to pick up. Need an old lock? Maybe you'd like some old pharmaceutical bottles? A rusty old tricycle? How about an old Mayan doll? A lantern? Jorge probably has it. And old hammock hooks, nails, screws, door pulls, chains, floor tiles. You probably won't find refined antiques at Jorge's, but you might find an old pipe stand that reminds you of your grandfather.
Location: Calle 21 Loe 4 Bis x 38 y 38-A, Col. San Pedro Uxmal, Chuburná
Hours: Whenever you can catch him
Antiguedades by Julio
Proprietor: Julio Alfaro Bates
Julio's old store was in a rundown colonial that made it hard to tell the building from the junk. His new store is a big old corner colonial building that is so full of things, it is still hard to see some of what's there, but at least it isn't in any danger of falling down. Julio specializes in furniture and he employs a crew that is wonderful at restoring the furniture he finds. Behind the house, you'll find doors, statues, tiles and stone for your perusing pleasure. Julio can also usually be found in Parque Santa Lucia on Sunday morning. Besides "buying" and "selling", his card advertises "restoration" and "valuation". If you are looking for a beautiful piece and didn't find it at Guzman's, Julio should probably be your next stop.
Location: Calle 75 at Calle 72, across from Parque San Sebastian
Hours: He seems to be open most days, normal business hours
Luna del Oriente
Proprietor: Jeff and Deb Ullrich
If you aren't married to the idea of Mexican or Yucatecan antiques, but just want something old and beautiful, the new kid in town is Luna del Oriente. Jeff and Deb are Asia-philes who have traveled and lived in Asia, speak Chinese and paid a lot of attention during history lessons. They go through a lot of pain, heartache, travel and aduana (Customs) meetings so that we can have beautiful Chinese armoires and Indian headboards here in Merida. They are also building custom doors from wood reclaimed in those countries, as well as reclaiming doors from old buildings. The furniture and doors that they have for sale are mostly from tropical climates originally, so they are well suited to our architecture and environment. New shipments are always coming in, so check back often.
Location: On Calle 65 just east of Calle 68 on the north side of the street, Col. Centro
Hours: Call for an appointment for now
Proprietor: Israel Koh Bonilla
This old store just recently decided to have a name (which we suspect is supposed to be "Bagdad" but we're just reporting what's printed on the business card). It was right down the street from where we used to live, and we have enjoyed watching over the years the various treasures and junk that Israel has managed to scrounge up from around the area. He has a good eye for kitsch as well as quality, and you'll find everything from a solid armoire to an old maiden aunt's fur stole. You just never know what you're going to find, so it pays to drop by often.
Location: Calle 49 #504 x 62 y 60, Col. Centro
The Antique Lot
Proprietor: Luis Herrera Peréz
This place has no name, so we've just given it one. Luis and his associates have an open lot where they store the things they find in their constant forays. In our latest visit we found old glass water bottles, sewing machine tables, a few French roof tiles, protectores, doors, stone statues, school desks and a whole lot more. Luis has a regular stock of wooden furniture (tables, roperos, vitrines, etc.) that he restores on site. He also sometimes makes things to order. Recently he had some lovely carved floor easels that we thought were a little expensive, but awfully pretty. Hmmm... maybe we should go back. Another time he had a huge stone fountain with a carved head from which the water flowed. Mysterious and obviously very old. It was gone in less than two weeks.
Location: The corner of Calle 50 and Calle 81, Col. Centro
Hours: Most days
Cel: We don't have a number for Luis. It's best to just show up.
Proprietor: Cecelia and her son
Again, a place with no apparent name. But if you love to look for diamonds in the rough, then this will be fun. Cecelia has a huge room full of junk, and more in the driveway on the side. A few things up front are dusted off, but mostly you are on your own. Out front she sells old books to passers by, but if you ask permission, you can walk around in the back. You may discover old magazines, chamber pots, record albums, chotchkes, soda bottles, textbooks... and a lot of dust. A list of things we've bought at Cecelia's? Old watch springs, a minature Coca Cola bottle with coke in it, a miniature rooster, a few old books, a wooden vitrine for our Day of the Dead altar, two small handmade wooden chairs, and a little wooden side table that we had to throw out a year later because it was rotting away. Fun!
Location: On Calle 61 just east of Calle 64 on the south side of the street, Col. Centro
Hours: Weekdays, about 10 AM to 5 PM, but no promises
Cel: No idea. Frankly, we're not even sure her name is Cecelia.
Proprietor: Arq. Maria José Cetina Cachón
We were so pleased to see this store open when it did, about two years ago now. The owner is a young woman who appreciates the Retro style and has gone about combing the local area for antiques and mementos of the mid 20th Century. We walked in there the first time and saw our first transistor radio from the 1960's. There is a section of the store that has clothes, both new and used. And there are some new things of a retro design. But there are some wonderful old things too. And we especially love how she integrated the old mosaicos into the floor of the store... very whimsical and different.
Location: Calle 60 #428 x 47 y 49, Col. Centro
Hours: Mon-Fri 10 AM to 2 PM, 5 PM to 8 PM, Sat 10 AM to 2 PM, 5 PM to 9 PM
Other Places to check out: (thanks to our readers for the suggestions)
Alberto's Continental - Yes, its a restaurant but Alberto also sells antiques. Just ask! Located at the corner of Calle 57 and Calle 66.