Rare curios, vintage housewares, and framed Victorian paintings, and thousands of other dazzling items in a jumble, are inside the door of Sloan’s Antiques in East Buffalo. The hand-painted sign to the right of the bunker of a door says it all: “Props Art Furniture.”
Chances are that, while browsing, you’ll be in the company of members of the Sloan family, film professionals on the hunt for props, and cultural tourists from far and wide.
All of these types of folks were present at the large-scale antique emporium on a recent afternoon: there were three Sloans on hand, a movie’s art department person was busily combing the wares for a production in town, and there were tourists from Detroit roaming about.
Max Sloan, the patriarch of the operation, can usually be found sitting on his throne of sorts on the ground floor of this three-storied business. No one is allowed on the top, fourth floor. Around him swirls the shopping, and ongoing conversations. Max’s wife, Liz, and his children, Jessica, and Josh, are part of the business that was founded by Max’s parents in 1955.
A wall adjacent to where Max likes to sit displays original and reprinted Sloan family photographs as well as press clippings about the interwoven histories of the founders and how the store came to be. This information can also be read on the Sloan’s website.
Max shares that his parents, Sol and Gertrude, both born in Romania, were Holocaust survivors, emigrating to Buffalo after sponsorship by an aunt and uncle. They moved to Buffalo with their two small children and, as with many, their surname was altered upon arrival: Shlomovitz became Sloan.
The original location of Sloan’s Antiques was 729 William Street, a business that evolved as community needs changed, where neighbors shopped for sporting goods, housewares, antiques – and junk. Success led to moving across the street, into much larger digs at 730 William Street, between Smith and Shumway Streets. This building, Max says, was the former Wolff’s Furniture store, opened by Nathan Wolff in the late 1800s. Max says this area was a thriving business district of largely Jewish-owned shops in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood.
It’s difficult to say what one will discover in the hodgepodge that await on each of the three floors that are teeming with architectural salvage, artwork, and period pieces ranging from Victorian, Art Deco, and mid-century modern. Walk around a corner and there may be a gaggle of 1940’s wooden radios, a Victorian chandelier, or a claw-footed wooden table. Or a stuffed bobcat whose curiously oversized eyes might haunt your dreams. When describing the store, Liz says “It’s creative chaos.” “It’s a collage,” adds.
This writer could not leave Sloan’s on a visit one day without a black Victorian-era cast iron coatrack with its intriguing array of hooks and a small, ovular mirror. “There’s the twin of that upstairs,” Max said, “but it’s in white,” ready to pinpoint its exact location. There may be a seemingly chaotic array of items, but the Sloans can, and will, direct you to any item in stock. It’s possible to shop for the myriad of items online via eBay, and Etsy, but the in-store experience is where it’s at – along with the time spent with the engaging proprietors.
“This business is about building relationships, and history, with so many different people,” says Josh, adding “we love working for the movies, renting or selling props.” He continues: “People visit here from all over. The guys from Detroit, Michigan are looking for a curiosity cabinet, they Googled antique stores and came here. This place is a museum, too. You don’t have to buy anything — you will get a history lesson being here.”
“My parents were in the furniture business,” says Max, “they worked 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week. They were not afraid of hard work; this was an opportunity to do what they wanted after what they had been through during the war. My uncle, who sponsored my parents coming to Buffalo, was a tailor on South Park Avenue. You could not go on welfare, you worked, and you had your freedom. My father had been a peddler before he came here. It was in his blood.”
Sloan’s Antiques is located at 730 William Street in Buffalo. The store has limited hours, from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. It’s possible to make an appointment as well, by calling the shop at 716-553-5314.