Made in Atlanta: The Bourgeois Bohemian

Antiques dealer Mark Sage started a Love Train that keeps on going

Have you noticed those cool rustic light fixtures at Abattoir, the latest sister restaurant to Bacchanalia? Mark Sage spotted them when they were Belgian seedling crates. And that wooden chandelier you’ve been coveting from Restoration Hardware? Sage fashioned it from a French wine barrel. A walk through his westside warehouse reveals the antiques dealer’s latest finds: colorful vintage metal postal bins, iron racks from a defunct tire factory, a stash of sepia-toned photos from 1920s Argentina, 150-odd conquistador helmets from the Paris Opera’s production of Man of La Mancha, and a 1948 Norton motorcycle like the one Steve McQueen rode in The Great Escape. The latter, of course, is Sage’s personal indulgence—the least an industry novice would deserve for turning a $10,000 gamble into seven-figure annual sales.

Ironically, if it hadn’t been for a traumatic corporate takeover in 1999, Sage might still be hawking hair salon franchises in Moscow. But when an abrupt merger left the then-accountant unemployed overseas, he bought some antiques on a whim and brought them to sell in Atlanta, where he had lived earlier. “There were times when I had to sell a table to eat a sandwich,” laughs Sage. To cut turnover time, he and some artist friends (such as painter Todd Murphy) staged wildly popular underground art parties/beer bashes at the Mattress Factory Lofts. “We would have 800 people and one bathroom,” he recalls. “People would say, ‘Whose party is this?’ The answer was always ‘the guy with the plunger,’ which was me. ”

Sage broke even by his fourth shipment. From there, he soon had booths at Scott Antique Market and showrooms at AmericasMart, New York, and High Point. An early hit was Parisian leather club chairs, which he supplied to Ralph Lauren. He also provided vintage fixtures for Anthropologie. And four years ago, Sage launched BoBo Intriguing Objects (the name stands for “bourgeois bohemian”), a line of original furnishings handcrafted in Europe from old wood and industrial fittings—available locally at stores such as Mrs. Howard, B.D. Jeffries, and Bungalow.

Though tempted by retail—it’s his constant “siren song”—Sage currently sells to the public only once a month: on second Fridays at his warehouse, Love Train Antiques, in the parking lot of Scott Antique’s North Building. “Vintage is really where my heart beats,” he says of the treasures stashed there. “I still love digging through attics. When I go to a new barn and someone opens those doors, my heart jumps.”

Photograph by Audra Melton