European pickers

For 45 years, Bob and Michelle Beauchamp have sold the finest antiques pieces

Where can you find a clock made for a nobleman during King Louis XVI’s reign or an early 19th Century “Diana the Huntress” hand carved wood chandelier from a hunting lodge in Alps? France would be a common answer, but a better – and less timely – place to start is right in Westfield.

R. Beauchamp Antiques, established by Bob Beauchamp in 1969, has the area’s largest selection of 18th to 20th Century European antique furniture, accessories and outdoor garden items. The store has more than 20,000 square feet of space full of quality antiques.

 “It’s the premium antique store in the Midwest besides maybe Chicago. Stores may specialize in one thing but here we are across the board,” said Beauchamp, 70. “We have literally a million dollars in inventory … We’re very proud of the work we’ve achieved.”

While Beauchamp was serving in the military during the Vietnam War, he was stationed in Heidelberg, Germany – American headquarters in Europe for the Fourth Army.

“It was a big eye-opener for an Iowa farm boy,” he said.

Working as an intelligence agent, Beauchamp had the opportunity to interact with the locals and embrace the economy.

“They were very poor but had wonderful things like clocks and music boxes,” he said. “When I came back (stateside) I enjoyed buying and selling items so I opened a shop.”

Beauchamp moved to Westfield in 1973 and opened Den of Antiquity in 1969 (it remained until 1983).

“I really went to work finding exquisite things for sale,” he said.

Throughout his 45 years of experience, Beauchamp has worked hard to keep up with the current styles and demands of his customers. Today, Bob and his wife, Michelle, 60, have approximately 100,000 pieces they’ve acquired by traveling to Europe on buying trips several times a year.

The Beauchamps have traveled to Europe between 80 and 90 times – at the height of their travels, the couple was crossing the Atlantic Ocean eight times a year.

“Now we go once or twice a year,” Bob said. “We have sources we trust and don’t have to make the trip.”

Bob said he enjoys visiting Belgium, while Michelle likes Italy and France.

“The food in Italy is the very best and the south of France,” Michelle said. “So much depends on the people and hotels we know. It’s incredible, there is so much to see there.”

Beauchamp said his most unique find was purchasing the contents of a monastery in Bruges, Belgium two to three years ago.

“It was full of a lot of items. We don’t deal a lot in religious stuff but knew it was a good market,” Bob said. “We had our investment back in two to three months.”

As the Beauchamps walked around their store, Bob stopped at a Viking drinking horn and simply explained how they select inventory: “It’s whether or not I can make money on it,” he said as he continues walking toward giant wooden antique bookcases. “There’s a pretty good market for carved things, which were all done before power tools.”

The Beauchamp’s showroom includes a wide variety of European art, more than 300 European chandeliers and sconces as well as the area’s largest display of antique European tall case clocks. Beauchamp Antiques offers an extensive collection of outdoor garden items such as urns, planters, statuary, fountains, Haddonstone and two lines of teak outdoor furniture.

“Ninety-five percent of it is from Europe. We don’t deal too much in American. Everything is chosen by us,” Bob said.

Not everything in the Beauchamps store is from Europe. The couple has found a few late 19th Century roll top desk made by Cutler that were made in Indianapolis but purchased in England and Scotland.

They also sell custom tables from reclaimed wood that comes from old houses, stables and factory floors.

“Its 18th-century wood and 18th-century construction methods,” Bob said, adding that the drawback to original tables is the height. “They’re three inches lower and usually much smaller.”

The Beauchamps did not disclose their clients – which include many high profile state figures and sports stars – but have done work for the Eli Lilly home.

“We had a client spend $10,000 on leather-bound books and didn’t care what the titles were,” Bob said. “We’ve been selling books ever since.”

Leather-bound books in French and Latin sell for $30 apiece.

“We’re selling more than I can replace,” Bob said.

R. Beauchamp Antiques, 16405 Westfield Blvd., Westfield, is open noon to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday or by appointment. The store has a Russian woodworker, fulltime clockmaker and offers museum quality restorations. For more information, visit www.beauchampantiques.com or call 896-3717.