Page closes chapter: Longtime Antique Mall owner uncertain of plans as he gains new tenant, Trader Joe's

Hungryneck Antique Mall vendors have until Feb. 5 to remove their items so that owner Mike Page can turn the keys over to his new renter, Trader Joe's.

Hungryneck Antique Mall's doors are closed to the public. Any remaining vendors have until Saturday to take out what remains so that property owner Mike Page can hand the keys over to grocer Trader Joe's and start the next chapter of his life.

Page sold the majority of the Johnnie Dodds Boulevard antiques shop's goods in a Jan. 22 auction for about half the amount he wanted. He said that's the way it seems to work. "You get half as much as you expect."

As vendors loaded up their belongings before Monday's closing, many asked Page; "What will you do now?"

"That's the $64,000 question," he answered.

Page, 57, grew up buying and selling other people's old things at Page's Thieves Market, an antiques and auction business that his now-deceased parents started in 1958. His father, an electrical contractor, bought a bankrupt hardware store and sold the contents.

Then they began taking buses and trucks to the Northeast, buying items from shops and estate auctions. Page said those types of sales were big events. People came with lawn chairs and food and watched as a person's entire life was sold one trunk and box at a time.

Page said they have a saying: "We sell dead people's things because live people won't let us have their good stuff."

Once the truck or bus was full, Page and his father would return to Mount Pleasant and resell the items at Page's Thieves Market. Experience taught him what to buy. Once you spend $100 on an item that you can't sell, it sticks with you, he said.

"Buying is the hardest part of the business," Page said.

When his parents died in the 1980s, his sister, Linda Page, took over Page's Thieves Market on Ben Sawyer Boulevard.

Mike Page switched to selling cars wholesale. In the early 1990s, he saw a plane, a Wilga tail-dragger with a radial engine, on the cover of a magazine and took a trip to North Carolina and bought it.

When he returned, he told his wife, Crystal, "I think I might have screwed up. I might have bought something I can't fly."

He had a commercial pilot's license but needed to take lessons before offering to tow advertising banners behind his impulse purchase.

"An old pilot is a bold pilot. There are very few old, bold pilots, so I stopped," Page jokes.

He was encouraged by a friend to buy a load of furniture from Pennsylvania in 1993. Page and friends rented the Hungryneck Mall site for 30 days, planning to leave after the furniture was gone, but Page just never left.

The site was made up of two separate buildings at the time. He later found out that the man in the neighboring business didn't have a lease and rented it out from under him, Page said. Page did help him move his things. He added mall vendors after he leased the second half of the site. The business was successful, and he bought the building in 1997.

Trader Joe's approached Page in October 2009 about purchasing his site and the surrounding land, but it wouldn't meet his price, so he agreed to lease it instead.

Several people who came to look over the store's remaining items last week told Page that they hated to see him go. Page said everyone is telling him that, but they also say that they are glad a Trader Joe's will open.

"Nothing stays the same forever," he said.

Page officially notified mall vendors about the closing on Jan. 5, when he sent them their monthly payments. Employee Dan Blackburn said some antiques dealers were devastated when they heard the news. Blackburn plans to open a new place called Six Mile Antique Mall near Twin River Lanes by April.

Reach Jessica Miller at 937-5921.