Glenn “Red” Whaley opened the first antique shop in Forney 44 years ago. It became so popular that he continued to build buildings along what we now refer to as Antique Row. He built over 30 buildings, all of which housed antique dealers, and Whaley says that in the 70's and 80's, “On Canton weekend, people would be lined up and down the highway to get in here.” Whaley continued, “People thought I was crazy for opening in Forney, but I started building and everyone came.”
Jeffrey Johnston is a partner in MAG Powersports, a cycle and ATV shop located on Antique Row. He isn't sure the area can even be called Antique Row any longer, because so few shops there are still dealing in actual antiques. Johnston said, “The business face of Forney has changed in the almost seven years I've lived here. While the area around our shop was once 100 percent antique related, we feel businesses like ours are the new Forney.”
Reproductions have become much more popular than antiques in this area and Red Whaley long ago got out of selling antiques and switched to reproductions. Whaley explained, “The young people don't care anymore about antiques.” In fact, when asked if Antique Row will exist in Forney 10 years from now, Whaley said, “No, I don't see it still being here.”
City leaders recognize the importance the antique industry had on Forney, but they also recognize the changing demographics of the town over the last 25 years. Mayor Darren Rozell said, “The businesses and merchants along Antique Row not only helped to provide an identity for our evolving community, but they were also a strong economic driver.” City Manager Brian Brooks opined, “Obviously the antiques market is not what it was back in the 1980's, but there are probably many reasons for this - economic downturns, Ebay, changes in decorating trends. Whatever the reason, Forney doesn't have the antique appeal it used to claim.” Forney EDC Director Kim Buttram appreciates the history of antiques here but says, “Like with older parts of town and our downtown, the Antique Capital is part of who we are, but not all that we are.”
Even though the antique industry is long past its heyday in Forney, it may still have a place here. Buttram says, “I think we need to work harder at embracing and including the remaining antique stores into out future retail plans.” Many of us enjoy bringing out of town visitors to the area and sharing with them the joy of roaming the aisles of shops like Little Reds, and DeRidder's. As of now, we still have the title of Antique Capital of Texas, and Brian Brooks hopes we keep it. “As far as the designation, I hope we never lose it. It's a great part of our history, and it still an identity we are known for. Another town may challenge our historic designation, but I hope our antiques industry grows before that ever takes place.”
A popular idea in the community and with Mayor Rozell is to bring an auction house to Antique Row. Rozell said, “Going forward, I would like to see one of the buildings converted to an auction house. A weekend auction would be a great reason for some to come to Forney, shop a little, eat a little, maybe stay overnight in a hotel, and then go back home and tell their friends and family about the great little town where they spent the weekend.”
Regardless of the changing face of Forney and all of the new and bustling life that has been brought to the town, letting go completely of the antique industry may not be a good idea. The ongoing efforts to revitalize the downtown area are a prime example of Forney embracing our past and improving upon it. There is no reason we cannot do the same for our storied history as the Antique Capital of Texas.