In 1974, Don Wirfs started a monthly Sunday antique flea market at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Oregon. Christine Palmer was one of his dealers on Sundays, and worked as his office manager during the week. Don launched the Portland Expo Show in October 1981. Called America’s Largest Antique & Collectible Show, that first show was a surprise, drawing more than 7,000 people. The show held about 300 booths and included a gypsy fortune teller and a truckload of car tires among other items. By March 1982 for the second show at the Expo Center, things had changed: gone were the fortune teller and tires and in their place, an all vintage show came to life. Thirty-some years ago the concept of an event where a customer could see a large quantity of antiques & collectibles under one roof was still in its infancy.
Chris Palmer’s husband Chuck came aboard in 1991 and Don retired in 1992, selling the company to Chris and prompting the name change to Palmer/Wirfs & Associates. In early 2013, the decision was made to simplify the company name and now operates under the dba of Christine Palmer & Associates. After the March 2012 show, Chuck went to part time status, but works each of the shows and designs the Program Guides. Don is an exhibitor at the three Portland Expo Shows with his vintage children’s books and is never far if the company needs some sound advice.
In the 32 years of the company’s existence, it has held shows in many different markets and venues: 45 shows at the Cow Palace in San Francisco; three at Seattle’s Kingdome, twelve at the Oregon Convention Center, 37 at the Tacoma Dome, three at Cal Expo in Sacramento, one at the San Jose Convention Center, three at the Reno Convention Center, nine at the Clark County Fairgrounds, 14 at the Puyallup Fairgrounds and 95 shows at the Portland Expo Center. That’s a grand total of 222 shows not counting the 31 Christmas Bazaars. And depending on opportunities that may present themselves, the door is not closed to other shows in other places.
The company has also produced the 900 booth Christmas Bazaar at the Expo Center, now in its 32nd year. The Christmas Bazaar is a six day event kicking off the day after Thanksgiving and running for two three day weekends. The show presents 450 booths of juried handcrafted items plus 450 booths of carefully selected commercial products. It’s a good place to find locally produced items at reasonable prices that aren’t found in the typical shopping malls. On the second Friday, admission is free with two cans of food for the Portland Police’s Sunshine Division Food Bank.
The first show at the Expo Center in 1981 evolved into three per year and remains that way to this day. The Portland Expo Shows are still considered the company’s flagship events and are the largest on the schedule. In March and October we offer 1,000 booths and the gargantuan summer show in July holds 1,400 booths with the addition of 400 outside booths.
In addition to the shows at the Portland Expo Center, two more are produced at the Puyallup Fairgrounds ShowPlex Building in Washington, making them the largest shows in the Puget Sound plus an annual show at the Clark County Fairgrounds near Vancouver, Wa. These shows average 400 booths each and carry the same type of inventory.
All of the Palmer/Wirfs shows are a diverse hunting ground and include fine antiques and collectibles up to 1970. The show does not allow any type of flea market booths or garage sale items. A typical stroll down the aisle will reveal, among other things, slot machines, decorative items, vintage clothing, primitives, furniture, vintage trunks, movie memorabilia, Western Americana, kitchenware, estate jewelry, textiles, original prints, paintings, militaria, advertising, still and mechanical banks, costume jewelry and of course toys from the 1880s to the 1970s. In a nutshell, attractive things that haven’t been made since the 1970s.
Throughout the more than thirty years in business, Christine Palmer & Associates has maintained one goal: To bring buyers and sellers together. The company prides itself on accomplishing that by creatively spending whatever amount it takes to make that possible including making use of new technology and ensuring that the exhibitors are successful. We feel that a busy show isn’t necessarily a mark of success unless the exhibitors find the right homes for their inventory.
The company’s secondary goal is to make participating in a one of our shows to be a pleasant experience, with every contingency taken care of to ensure the show goes smoothly for the exhibitor.
You will always be in our hearts, until the end of our time here. You are loved and missed dearly, Chris!