Written and photographed by John Torsiello
Wayne Mattox is sitting in his and wife Kathleen’s kitchen on a warm morning. The space is meticulously and attractively decorated with subtle colors, paintings. A stove backsplash adorned with antique Portuguese porcelain tiles visually teases you. The couple is up early, getting set for another busy day at their business, Wayne Mattox Antiques & Auctions located on Woodbury’s fabled “Antiques Row” at 63 North Main Street.
Mattox is nattily dressed in a white and blue shirt that suggests a Caribbean vacation is in order. When you meet this and antique connoisseur you are taken aback, because on the phone he sounds much older, a pleasingly gravelly voice the culprit.
“I get that a lot,” he says with a smile. “I sound older than I am. I was a disk jockey at one time and they say I have a good radio voice.” Indeed, Mattox, was once approached about the possibility of doing a nationally syndicated talk show on antiques, although a divergent path to care for an ill relative derailed that opportunity.
Mattox, whose shop has been in operation for 15 years, has become a trusted source for fine quality American and European antiques. The Mattox’s — they have been married 10 years — gallery is housed in a Greek Revival home and specializes in 18th and 19th century American furniture, paintings and folk art as well as primitives and antiques with historic appeal. There are formal, painted and high country furniture pieces scattered about the first floor gallery, as well as brass andirons, weathervanes, medical antiques, early iron, glass, ceramics, textiles and other items. But, you will come across whimsical items as well, such as an old set of wood-shafted golf clubs and a miniature character statue of the late, great New York Yankee baseball player Yogi Berra, tucked in among the more refined items.
Mattox is known as an expert in areas of American furniture, decorative art and folk art and has broad experience in all areas of Western art, antiques and collectibles. He served as the founding President of the Woodbury Antiques Dealers Association and more recently as President of the Woodbury Lions Club, having twice been honored as “Lion of the Year” for his dedication to local and national charitable causes. Mattox has also served as celebrity auctioneer for many large-scale fundraisers including Waterbury’s St. Mary’s Hospital and Flanders Nature Center of Woodbury benefits.
Mattox is more than your average antique dealer/collector though. He uses a decidedly smile-laced side of his outgoing personality to put a distinctive, and also quite educational, approach to antiques and their history. He is in demand as a lecturer and draws large crowds whenever he speaks, mostly at charitable speaking and audience-involved appraisal events conducted throughout the Northeast, including numerous historical societies. According to his website, Mattox has completed numerous courses on antiques and related fields, including furniture studies with New York University, Chautauqua and museum-directed seminars. He has given antique-related lectures at schools and taught a course on “Appraising Antiques” for the University of Connecticut’s Continuing Education program.
As if this wasn’t enough of a resume, Mattox says he has published over 500 articles on antiques, and his weekly syndicated column, “Antique Talk” (www.antiquetalk.com) is a fun mixture of history and how-to facts concerning antique collecting and treasure hunting.
“I didn’t think of being in antiques when I was a young kid, I wanted to be a baseball player,” Mattox says. “But my mother, Daria, had an antique shop in Woodbury for 30 years called Daria’s of Woodbury and my father helped out. I would go to antique auctions with him and we would play a game where the one who bid closest to the selling price of each piece got a point. It was a lot of fun. I can see a game show built around it in the future.”
As he matured and began to immerse himself in the world of antiques he went full bore. “I went at it as a student would. I studied the field, took notes, studied the notes and memorized them. Antiques is one of the few hobbies where you can get rich overnight. There is not one person that collects antiques who doesn’t stand a chance at finding that one object that will make them a lot of money.”
Mattox, in addition to his encyclopedic knowledge of antiques, also believes one of his strengths is his “good eye,” for pieces that will sell at his shop or that a certain customer might want. And his shop has had some interesting customers, including actor Harrison Ford and talk show host Larry King’s interior designer. “We sell all over the country and beyond,” says Mattox.
The couple travels to shows and auctions looking for unique pieces. “Kathleen also has a good eye,” Mattox says of his wife,” and it is a real help to have her along with me. She has great taste,” which is evident in the way she has appointed the couple’s living space located mainly on the second floor of their stately home and surrounded by lovely gardens. Kathleen Mattox is a former head of marketing for pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Boehringer Ingelheim.
Mattox believes antiques should be more than a purchase. It is something to keep as an “investment.”
“We spend half our lives inside our homes, so we should make where we live pleasant and a place where we have nice things that are important and mean something to us. It doesn’t always have to be an expensive piece. It can be something that is very personal,” he adds, as he points to a small painting of Woodbury done by a local artist that hangs on a wall in the kitchen.He continues, “We live in one of the real antique hotbeds of the entire world. Litchfield County is such a fertile place and I am always finding treasurers here. There are many old homes and people have held onto furniture, paintings and other items for years.”
As mentioned, the couple’s shop contains whimsical, humorous items as well as venerable antiques. Mattox told of a recent purchase of a sign, but it wasn’t just any old sign. “It once hung outside a butcher’s store. If it said just “market” it would have been nothing special. But it said ‘meat market,’ and we all know what that term has been used to imply. Someone who owns a bar or pub will scoop that up right away.” He added, “We recently sold a bronze figure of Thomas Edison. I know that it will end up on Bill Gates’ desk at some point because he is such an admirer of Edison, who, of course, was a great inventor like Gates is. When I search out pieces I’m thinking two or three customers removed from the original person who buys the piece.”
The prices in the couple’s shop are quite reasonable, and this is by design.“We like to think we find treasures and sell them at wholesale prices. We can do that because we own the building the shop is in and we live on premises. We don’t have the overhead that some shops do.”
The shop is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about Wayne Mattox Antiques & Auctions and Mattox’s writings on antiques, visit www.antiquetalk.com.