After 27 years in business, the Knightsbridge Antique Mall in Northville Township is shutting down this month, news that was as disheartening as it was surprising to the owners.
What was meant to be a routine inspection — the business' first since its opening in 1994, according to owners — has put the antique shop out of business because of the building's poor conditions. Issues with the parking lot, heating and air conditioning units, and the building's roof contributed to the liability insurance company's decision to refuse to renew.
"It's painful, honestly," said Bruce McKenzie, who owns Knightsbridge with his wife, Linda. "I've been thinking about closing it for years, but it's such a huge job that I never did, and when the insurance company did this, it's now forced our hand. We didn't expect anything to happen (from this inspection)."
The mid-September inspection found that the building's roof, parking lot, and AC units had to be replaced, McKenzie said. Consultations with two other insurance companies proved to be fruitless as they also refused to provide insurance, leaving the couple with no choice but to shutter. The business is housed in a 26,000-square-foot space with thousands of pieces for sale, ranging from fine jewelry and glassware to furniture and statues.
"It definitely felt like a sucker punch in the gut," Linda McKenzie said.
The landlord of the building, on West 7 Mile Road east of Northville Road, declined to comment Tuesday afternoon. The Lansing-based insurance company involved did not respond to a Free Press request for comment regarding what prompted the inspection, why it was the building's first in decades, or a copy of notes from the inspection.
"It was kind of a shock for us because we just figured they were gonna say well, there's a trip hazard here or that they had problems with some of the wiring and showcases — instead it was just a nightmare," McKenzie said.
Relaying the news to their loyal employees, customers, and dealers has been an emotional undertaking, the couple said. Over their years in business, they estimate they've employed more than 150 people and cultivated a tight-knit ecosystem of antique lovers. When the pandemic struck and the McKenzies were struggling to pay rent, it was their vendors who donated to help keep the lights on at Knightsbridge.
Want to know about business changes in your neighborhood? Sign up for our Openings & Closings newsletter here.
"We're like a big family, like the 'Cheers' of the antique business, everybody comes and hangs out," Linda McKenzie said. "Telling my employees (was) ... the hardest phone call I've ever made. Most of the people are very supportive and sympathetic, then there are some people that just decided this is gonna be the end of their career in the antique business because they just don't know where else to go."
Bruce said the couple's relationship with the landlord has always been cordial, and he acted as an unofficial property manager, someone who the other tenants turned to for minor fixes — shoveling when it snowed and handling uncooperative locks. In a recent conversation, the landlord told Bruce the McKenzies were model tenants, he said.
"I treated this building like my home," he said.
The couple originally started the business on a three-year contract with an option to extend another five years, after which they intended to pack it up and call it quits, Bruce said recalling the business plan he made in 1994.
"I expected in eight years we were gonna close — and we could have — but when it came eight years, we both looked at each other and said, 'I don't want to quit,' and so another 19 years have passed since I was going to quit but it wouldn't be happening if it wasn't for the insurance," he said.
While the decision to close was hard and forced, it's a bittersweet moment in the couple's lives as they near retirement age, Linda said. "It was extremely upsetting for a couple of weeks," she said, "and then I realized that maybe it was a sign to slow down."
The parking lot has been full nonstop since news of the closing has circulated, swamping them with customers old and new — including many tearful encounters.
"We've had customers coming far and wide just to come in to say goodbye to us," Linda said, "they have me in tears and chills. It's so nice to know that you've affected so many lives in such a positive way."
Knightsbridge Antique Mall, located at 42305 W Seven Mile, is hosting a going-out-of-business sale through the end of October. Donations of packing supplies are appreciated, the couple said.
Contact Miriam Marini: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Northville Township's Knightsbridge Antique Mall unexpectedly closing