By Sarah McPeek
Behind the wide front doors of Farley and Moore Antiques and Collectibles in Mount Vernon lies an extensive archive of history. Carved cabinets and cast-iron chairs, polished china and delicate figurines intermingle with musical instruments, classic children’s toys and musical record albums from all eras.
Al Levenson has owned Farley and Moore since founding it 19 years ago with his wife, Anna Belle, and a community of partners who all shared an interest in antiques and collectibles. Levenson manages the store along with the individual dealers and a group of volunteer workers.
Located downtown at 104 South Main Street, the store’s vast collection of wares occupies 15,000 total square feet and three floors. Levenson has close ties to the location; the space was formerly a J.C. Penney department store, where he worked as a retail salesman while attending Mount Vernon High School in the early 1950s.
“So I’m not moving very far very fast,” he joked.
Mount Vernon has several antique shops, including Black Walnut Holler up the street from Farley and Moore. However, Levenson said the other antique shops are not competitors.
“We kind of cooperatively send people to the other ones as well as ours,” he said. Every antiques store has distinctive items: “Your chances of having the same thing, identically the same thing, are pretty rare,” he said.
A trip through the mall-like store is an exploration of the past. Each of the store’s 30 booths is held by a local dealer, every one displaying a wide variety of merchandise collected at auctions or other venues, or purchased from individuals hoping to sell their antiques.
Levenson deals from his own booth in the mall, and is also an avid collector of antique golf clubs. Like Levenson, many customers are specialized collectors after particular items. His advice is simply to wander around, because “you never know where it’ll pop up.”
Farley and Moore’s patrons are as diverse as its wares. Collectors come from all over Ohio and beyond — as far away as the West Coast, Germany and Italy. The mall is a popular destination for Kenyon and Mount Vernon Nazarene University parents when they are visiting town. Levenson recalls many regular family customers, including actress Jamie Lee Curtis and her daughter, Annie, a member of the class of 2009.
Levenson thinks Kenyon students love the mall especially for its collection of record albums, one of the most sought-after items. He was surprised to hear customers tell him that music from LPs has better sound quality than newer digital formats: “I always thought that some of the more modern advancements in recordings and stuff like that would have been far superior, but evidently not.”
Professor Emerita of English Judy Smith, a devoted customer and close friend of the Levensons, has many fond memories of afternoons spent among the artifacts. In an email, she described the mall as “a treasure trove of the unexpected. … Al and his wife, Anna Belle — and all the other owners and dealers — have created a space that offers knowledge and surprise in a place that is very welcoming and treats you like family.”
Farley and Moore Antiques and Collectibles is open from noon to 5 p.m. every day except holidays.