Arts & Entertainment
Photo: Andrew Potter
The Carriage Couple
Estate Salesmen Continue Indian Village Tradition
Originally printed 10/3/2013 (Issue 2140 - Between The Lines News)
The founding pioneers of Detroit's historical Indian Village assembled an architectural community rich in antiquity. Over a century later, not much has changed about the people who live there.
One of the up-and-coming districts for "power gays," Indian Village Estate Sales, LLC owners Jeffrey Emerson and Joseph Rice live in a quaint 19th-century Carriage House just behind the main residence - a mansion - in this historic neighborhood. Traditionally, the living space was reserved for the chauffeur and cook at the residence, who were lovers, which is a fitting tradition for the couple and their knack for collecting all things historical - for "antiquing."
"What you see in this room, Jeff had when I met him. And what I have in my two rooms, I had when I met Jeff," says Rice and Emerson, seated in their constantly ticking living room that houses about $30,000 worth of antiques.
Gilt clocks ding on the hour. There are heirloom ship models and greenstone statuettes. Portraits of people from past eras hang from the walls.
"I kind of wanted to keep the original style or decor that it may have had during the time," says Emerson. "I had been dealing for 25 years in antiques, so I amassed a collection of some of the best stuff. I've sold a lot over the years; upgraded some things for others. And certain pieces are very special to me and I don't want to part with them. I've never found anything that has captured me as much as these pieces have."
Rice chimes in, "It's even better when you have someone to share it with."
The living room overlooks a plush garden, separating the two living quarters, which the couple describes as a larger version of their own living space.
"It's an eclectic mix, but it blends well together. I really did not know much about the antique business until I met Jeff," says Rice. "I was trying to impress him with the fact that I watched 'Antiques Roadshow.' I learned a lot from Jeff. He has a dealer's mentality."
The couple, who have been together for five years, lived in the Carriage House before, but left in July 2010 for Indianapolis. This time, they returned to Michigan to start their estate sale business and take advantage of a community that is oddly untouched when it comes to estate sellers - the LGBT community.
"It tends to be a very heterosexually-oriented business," says Emerson. "There are about 30 estate sale companies that cover the southeastern Michigan area, and to the best of my knowledge there is not one company that is catering strictly to the gay community. Which is very odd to me. Everyone knows that gay people have the best furniture and objects of art."
The kitchen of the Carriage House brings visitors back to the 21st century, featuring modern appliances with a chrome finish. The dining space, though, is a delicate room, with glass trinkets and a cabinet containing an impressive collection of inherited fine china.
Originally, Rice wanted to work with the elderly, as it seemed their collection of items over time would benefit most from estate sales.
"One nice thing about this business really isn't the fact that we are able to buy what we like," Rice says. "It's helping people get rid of stuff when they just don't know how to get rid of it themselves."
Emerson adds: "We go in there and we give an honest assessment of what they have and what we can do."
Beyond the assist of liquidating property, Rice and Emerson hope to provide a certain level of comfort for LGBT clients, during what can be an intimate process as antiques and personal mementos are appraised.
"Give respect," says Rice, about recognizing a same-sex couple. "We've actually been able to go the extra mile without even realizing. And we have a unique perspective, I suppose, on that end. Should something happen to Jeff - and I am in a position where I have to leave or want to leave, but I don't want to take everything with me - I want to be able to contract with an estate salesman that will respect my relationship and what we have together and treat me accordingly."
Considering their collection, the pair hopes when it comes time to appraise their own assets, buyers are at least left with one impression: "That we are really classy - and had good taste."
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