By: Fred Taylor

Sometimes it helps to come from the right stock. Dorothea Mitchell Beers, owner of Fleur-de-Lis Antiques in Palm Beach, happened to be in the right place at the right time when she was born and her choice of parents was excellent. Her physician father and arts oriented mother provided just the right environment to nourish a future dealer in high quality ceramics and objects d' art.

Born in southern Indiana and named after the ship on which her father served in World War I, young Dorothea often made the rounds with her country doctor father as he visited his rural patients on the farms. It was on one such expedition that she acquired her first antique - at age four. A small turquoise blue glass slipper, once filled with perfume, caught her eye. She had 50 cents in her pocket so she asked her father if the owner would accept that. He made her ask for herself and she bought the piece of American pattern glass, circa 1880, for her trouble. She still has it. (Current value? About $125). That was the start of her passion for collecting and she hasn't slowed down yet.

After graduation from Indiana University with a business degree Dorothea and some of her gal pals headed east to seek their fortunes and/or husbands. She landed a job in Washington, DC with the State Department and then landed her life partner, John Beers. After setting into domestic life in Silver Springs, Dorothea put the knowledge of fine arts and antiques acquired from her mother, into service building a formidable collection of antique porcelains, glass and French furniture. So much so that one day John told her, "Please stop buying or start selling!" That was a no-brainer and Fleur-de-Lis was born in 1954. The name was the result of the lasting influence on Dorothea of a trip to Paris just before opening the business.

At first the new dealership primarily participated in established shows. Dorothea's son, John Stephen Beers, fondly remembers moving merchandise in and out of warehouses, churches and armories as a young boy, earning enough loose change to begin his own collection of antiques. As the business grew and Dorothea's knowledge and reputation expanded, the business became more sedentary with an established shop on Norfolk Avenue in Bethesda throughout the 1960s and 1970s. In addition to her antiques adventures she became a corresponding journalist for Architectural Digest and was (and still is) a member of the Capital Speakers Club for Women in Washington.

Seeking a little respite from the mid Atlantic winters, Dorothea and John decided to head south in 1979. Her mother was a Florida native so that was the logical destination and John wanted to be near the water. She retained the original Fleur-de-Lis name for the new Florida shop in Palm Beach and by 1983 had moved to a location near Worth Avenue. After twenty years at that location on Peruvian Ave., the shop recently relocated to 524D Northlake Blvd in Palm Beach Gardens where Dorothea continues to maintain a meticulously selected inventory of Continental, Oriental and American porcelain, ceramics and furniture. Her motto is "You always find the best things in the best shops."

Inventory acquisition is a major concern for almost all antiques dealers and Dorothea has spent a lifetime cultivating contacts around the world. She makes regular trips to England to attend and participate in the major fairs including the prestigious Grosvenor House and the Olympia Fine Arts and Antiques Fairs in London and has developed a rapport with many English and Continental dealers. But just because something is available doesn't mean Dorothea will add it to her inventory. In her words it must first "Make me gasp." Then it must truly be an antique, over 100 years old and in pristine condition, with no repairs or restoration. But she also notes that even if a piece is the correct age and in the correct condition, if it was not high quality when it was made, it is not high quality today. And she guarantees everything in her inventory to be correct and authentic. How can she be so sure? She says she has spent a lifetime learning and she never stops learning. She has toured endless museums on multiple continents, devoured rows of books, attended hundreds of shows and studied and appraised thousands of artifacts. She is a licensed member of the International Society of Appraisers as well as a member of the Art and Antique Dealers League of America, Inc.

Dorothea's son John moved to Florida in 1993 to assist in the growing business. He now does most of the major shows, seven in the last year, and Dorothea minds the shop. She said she "might" retire in not too many more years but she will never truly quit being a collector and connoisseur of the things she loves.

Her primary advice to new dealers is to be excruciatingly honest in their business. It will pay off in the long run. Her advice to both dealers and collectors is to learn, learn, learn. Never stop learning.

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