Archive for Sunday, April 29, 2007

Antique collecting starts early, proves fruitful for young owner

April 29, 2007


— Some kids collect things like Matchbox cars and comic books, but not Shane Rufener.

At the tender age of 8, he started accumulating coins. During visits to the bank, he'd ask the teller for a couple hundred pennies and pick through them - extracting the copper coins he wanted to keep.

So interested was he in the old cash, he attended coin shows. Fact is, he preferred them to a baseball game.

Over time, he mastered the skill of buying and reselling coins and moved on to bigger things.

At 14, when boys often spend far too many hours playing video games, Rufener was working for an antique wholesaler. He helped the man buy antiques and liquidate estate sales. Handling the pieces gave the teenager a keen knowledge of how much antiques were worth, and he began dealing in antiques.

His bedroom was packed with valuable old furniture. And his closet? Well, it was stuffed with more antiques than T-shirts and blue jeans.

Before he was even old enough to drive, Rufener bought a van and asked his mother, Christine, to drive him to pick up or drop off antiques. As fast as he was selling pieces, he was buying more. And when his parents' Rittman home was bulging with things like old dressers and trunks, he approached his father, Loren, about putting some stuff in the storage shed.

By then it was clear - this was no fad. So, at 15, he asked his dad, who was contemplating retirement and looking for a way to make some supplemental income, if he would consider constructing a building and leasing it to him.

Pop agreed, and with peach fuzz on his chin, Rufener opened Antique Warehouse.

It wasn't a run-down storefront where the boy hung his shingle, no sirree. It's an 8,500-square-foot building surrounded by open land in Rittman.

Since he was barely tall enough to peer into a teller's window, he saved his money. In addition to selling antiques, he mowed yards and performed other odd jobs. And while his buddies were going to the theater, he opted to keep his money tucked deep inside his pockets. It wasn't until he was 18 that he agreed to pay to see a movie.

Many of his friends thought he was a little "crazy" for working so hard and loving relics, but that didn't much bother him.

Every dollar he had made in his short life - all 15,000 of them - he put into the store. Now, the two-story warehouse has an inventory valued at about $250,000. Not a bad profit in five years.

Now 21, he's married to Abby. She gladly helps him with the store when he needs her assistance. And he's still watching his pennies.

The couple lives in Marshallville, a couple of miles from the store. With the price of gas, he often rides his bicycle to work to save money.

The building is filled with things like antiques, glassware, books, quilts, toys and stained-glass windows. A good selection of antique furniture isn't always easy to find. Yet Rufener generally has 500 or so pieces in stock. Last month alone, he sold more than 100 pieces, including dressers, armoires and tables.

For the young owner, this is more than a business.

"I love it," he said, looking around the warehouse. "And there isn't a piece in here I don't like - or it wouldn't be here."


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