Furniture-shop entrepreneurs turn the old into new

Two furniture aficionados give new life to old furnishings at an antique furniture store in Old City.

Stepping inside Mode Moderne is like strolling into “Mad Men” character Don Draper’s living room. The antique furniture store on 159 N. Third Street, sells antiques dating from the 1920s to 1980s – specializing in furniture from the ’50s and ’60s. The store is filled to capacity with furnishings that perfectly befit a cocktail party – mod red and yellow chairs and avant-garde lamps and dining tables create an overall aesthetic that harkens back to the time of jazz and dry martinis.

Furniture entrepreneurs Michael Glatfelter and Michael Wilson run the antique treasure trove. They find the antiques sold in their store from various places, like flea markets, furniture dealers and people who come in to sell their old furniture. After purchase, the furniture is then cleaned, restored and put on the floor for sale.

Although Mode Moderne is now successfully established, the owners began the business from the ground up. Michael Glatfelter started to buy antique, mid-century furniture because of his love for the modern aesthetic, and sold antiques to help pay for his college tuition. After meeting a woman who specialized in selling antique furniture, he gave up his prospective teaching career and used her advice to begin selling antiques. In 1987, he started his first business of buying and selling antique furniture at a store on Pine Street.

Glatfelter had the serendipitous coincidence of having Eugene Roberts, a writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, as his landlord. Roberts wrote articles about the store in the paper, which boosted the business’ success.

“A lot of where you are in the business world depends on where you are at what time. A lot of it’s luck,” Glatfelter said.

After garnering citywide attention, Glatfelter moved his business to its current location in the heart of Old City. In 1995, Glatfelter hired Michael Wilson as his business partner.

Wilson’s interest in the furniture business began with selling antiques that he purchased for his own home.

“I would have a houseful of too much stuff, so I thought maybe we could try selling this,” Wilson said.

After he moved from Ohio to Philadelphia, Wilson sold furniture at an antique mall and then partnered up with Glatfelter. Both owners credit the store’s success to the unique eclecticism of their furniture shop.

“This furniture is made by designers,” Wilson said. “They put more thought into it than making just a simple table or chair. We go for architecturally designed pieces. We have furniture with an edge to it.”

Although both men acknowledge that business is slow due to the economic downturn, the store’s popularity among middle- to upper-class clientele is undeniable. Glatfelter said he believes this success is due to the integral role of furniture in securing a happy home life.

“If you walk down the stairs in the morning and think, ‘Wow, I live in a dump,’ you won’t be happy,” Glatfelter said. “By having furniture they love, I help people have a better quality of life and enjoy their environs.”

Jessica Herring can be reached at

1 Comment

  1. I love to read biography of successful people who started their business from zero. They inspired me so much as one of my dream is becoming the one who can motivate others. In the case of Mode Moderne, I’ll be very glad if I can read the story behind the success. It will enhance my knowledge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.