“My restoration will continue on a smaller scale. I won’t be doing pianos, dining sets, I won’t have employees — it’ll just be a one-man operation,” he tells The Coast in between helping customers find pieces in the narrow, cluttered storefront (2738 Agricola Street). Walking into McLellan's, dozens of dim light fixtures adorn the walls, antique kitchenware sits atop 100-year-old tables, and an antique gramophone with a petal blue bell sits nestled beside a velvety red chair.
When it does, it will leave few antique shops in a city where there used to be many. “There used to be six antique dealers in the area, and they all closed down around 15 years ago,” says McLellan.
Finer Things Antiques & Curios (6438 Quinpool Road) and Hayes Antiques (5737 McCully Street) may well be the only antique shops remaining on the peninsula. Dartmouth store Retrospekt (166 Ochterloney Street) sells mid-century modern furniture, and a group of local vintage vendors and thrifters have popped up on Instagram, but with a different vibe than the piled-high storefront of McLellan’s.
Originally from California, Jim McLellan moved to Halifax in 1995 to open his own store. But over the past two and a half decades, era-specific shoppers have become few and far between.
“Fifteen years ago people stopped largely buying antiques, especially furniture, especially Victorian furniture,” he says.
For several years, McLellan says the storefront hasn’t been profitable. “My restoration side of the business is booming and it’s always done well. But it’s kind of had to support the sales side, so that’s why I’m going to close the store permanently.”
“The same day, the developer that bought the properties next door, he offered me extra money and so I said OK,” he says. “I didn’t want it to be torn down, but there you go.”
Although the storefront will close, McLellan will continue to repair and restore furniture at a new workshop. He says “it’s time” to move on, and despite his best attempts to preserve the building, it was only a matter of time before gentrification continued to creep into the north end.
“It’s been gentrified a lot. Whole blocks, you don’t have to go far. just off Almon, on both sides of Robie,” says McLellan. “I don’t know where all the people are going to come from to fill the condos, but they keep building them.”