Tyler family owns popular antique event in Round Top
Although it is nearly a four-hour drive away, the Marburger Farm Antique Show was founded and still is operated by Tyler residents.
The five-day show in Round Top is held in October and April. Round Top has 21 venues that open for the show, with the Marburger Farm Antique Show being the largest and the one that stays open the longest.
Margaret Mebus, 70, who grew up in Tyler, bought Marburger Farm Antique Show about six years ago from John Sauls.
She said Round Top has a population of 91 people, except for "antique week," when there are 10,000 to 20,000 people.
Sauls, of Tyler, started the show in 1997 from nothing and built it up to "an incredible show," said Ashley Ferguson, who helps her mother-in-law run it. He started with one tent, 30 to 50 vendors and one portable toilet.
"I don't think anyone could have done what he did," Mrs. Ferguson said.
In 2007, Ms. Mebus was looking to buy property in the Brenham/Round Top area and found the antique show for sale. She had known Sauls since 1991, when her aunt died and she hired him to run her estate sale.
Souls bought the land that was the Marburger Farm and named the show in honor of the family, Mrs. Ferguson said. Souls remains an antique dealer at the show.
When she bought it, Ms. Mebus said she didn't know much about running an antique show. That's where her daughter-in-law came in.
Mrs. Ferguson, 44, of Tyler, is married to Ms. Mebus' son. She has been a bookkeeper for small businesses and started keeping the books and dealing with the dealers at the Marburger Farm Antique Show, Ms. Mebus said.
"We pretty much run the show from Tyler, but we're down there a couple of weeks twice a year," Mrs. Ferguson said.
The show also sees vendors and customers make the trek from Tyler.
Sauls, Stephanie Talley and Polly Hitt are Tyler vendors.
"I run into Tyler people there all the time," Mrs. Ferguson said. "It's just fun to get away with your girlfriends."
She has seen people from Israel, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Germany and Japan.
Tents already are going up for the next show, set for April 2 to 6.
There are 10 football-field-sized tents, as well as several historic buildings, including farm houses, a dance hall, blacksmith shop, general store and golf warehouse that have been refurbished and transplanted on the property.
More than 350 dealers represent 34 states in the show, Mrs. Ferguson said. Vendors offer traditional antiques, as well as artisans' crafts, vintage items and repurposed antiques. "We try to keep a really eclectic mixture," Mrs. Ferguson said.
They tape off everything with yellow police tape, and when they pull it down and the bell rings at 10 a.m. Tuesday, visitors run to be the first ones to see the vendors, Mrs. Ferguson said. A lot of people come with their interior designers, as well as buyers for Ralph Lauren and other companies looking for display items. Buyers from Japan park their containers and fill them up at the show, she added.
Ms. Mebus said they offer different price ranges so everyone can find something.
The Marburger Farm Antique Show is on 43 acres of transformed cow pasture. Dealers have four days to set up and come in large trucks loaded with merchandise.
Customers show up in helicopters and limousines and they have seen some celebrities, such as Matthew McConaughey and Anita Perry, she said.
MAKING IT HAPPEN
Ms. Mebus said she and her son, Jay Ferguson, of Tyler, and daughter, Susan McConn, of Houston, are partners and owners.
They have close to 100 seasonal employees. But between the dealers, their workers and their staff, there are probably 1,000 people working the show, she said. Brian Brandt is director of marketing and Brad Blacketer is operations manager. Both men are from Tyler.
Mrs. Ferguson gets to Round Top about two weeks before the show, and Ms. Mebus is there for nine or 10 days.
"It's a full-time job," Mrs. Ferguson said. About six to eight weeks leading up to the show and about a month afterward, she works around the clock. Other times of year offer her a break, working only a couple of hours a day from her home office.
Mrs. Ferguson grew up in Jasper, earned a bachelor's degree in business from Baylor University and worked in accounting in Dallas until she married Jay nearly 19 years ago and moved to Tyler. After being a bookkeeper for small businesses, she became a stay-at-home mom to her three daughters.
"It's been a real growing experience for me," she said. "I've learned so much."
Mrs. Mebus grew up in Tyler and was raised in the house her son now lives in on Seventh Street. She had three old maid aunts that lived in the Marsh house on 805 S. Broadway Ave. "They gave me a love for history and antiques," she said. When the last of her aunts died, the house was full of generations of antiques, including family letters and swords from the Civil War, she said.
"My aunts were the greatest influence in my life," she said.
Ms. Mebus attended Southern Methodist University, lived in Dallas for 37 years and raised her children there. She taught fourth grade for several years and was a tour guide for a convention services company in Dallas for 20 years. She has a house in Dallas and an apartment in Houston and splits her time between the two cities.
"The part I'm most involved with is the food," Ms. Mebus said of the show. "Think of the East Texas Fair but instead of rides, you have antiques."
Besides being in charge of the food, Ms. Mebus does a little of everything.
"I'm the gopher," she said. "I buy whatever needs buying."