Mr. Ryder’s big birthday
By LUIS MEYRELES / Towns Correspondent
Betty Ann Sutton raised two sons by herself in South San Francisco, supporting the family as an antique dealer. She also made art with pastels, held gallery shows and taught art students.
After 20 years of that, she wanted a change, “something less exhausting,” and went to work at a hat store.
“I sold my teacher car and bought a Mercedes,” said Sutton, 69. “Then the hat store failed.”
When business faltered, Betty Anne decided to try selling the hats at the Marin Flea Market. “I looked around and said, ‘Just look at all this stuff!’ I sold my Mercedes and bought a 1972 Toyota station wagon.”
Sutton parked that station wagon at the Colma dump near her home and started collecting antiques others had thrown out. Then she went to antique shows and rummage sales to sell her finds.
“I drove everywhere. Go to one, pack up, and go to the next,” she said. “Every day was a different show or sale.”
Sutton moved to Camp Meeker with the desire to do something for animals and her art. Forgotten Felines was holding a benefit. Sutton ran a rummage sale for the organization and raised $90. She was immediately hired as fundraiser “with no prior experience.”
She put the word out: “If you like animals and you have stuff you want to get rid of, call me. I sold my station wagon and bought a 1986 Ford Aerostar van. I still have it.”
Through her efforts in dealing antiques she became associated with the Antique Society, renting a space in the Gravenstein Highway emporium.
“Before long I knew all these people,” explained Sutton. “When I first came to town I didn’t know anyone. Volunteering, I met a lot of people. It made for a very full life.
“Around the same time I was thinking I could make more money if I leased a space, the Old Graton Post Office came on the market at $1 million. Six months later I saw it in the paper for much less. I called my Realtor and bought it that day.”
That was August 2002, and Mr. Ryder & Co. Antiques was up and running by October, with her items and spaces for other antique collectors. “I just did everything they did at the Antique Society. No need to reinvent the wheel. All the people I came to know in the community pitched in.”
Open a decade in October, the store got its name from her late dog, who in turn was named after her father. “Only his friends called him by his first name,” said Sutton, remembering her father. “He was Mr. Ryder to everyone else, so we named (the dog) Mr. Ryder.”
Each September she runs the Pet Parade as part of Graton Day.
“For $10 you can dress up your dog and walk in the parade. For the past two years proceeds have gone to All Aboard, a local animal shelter.
“We are very into rescue dogs. Each of the dealers has a rescue animal — Chester, Boomer, Gray, Norbert, Susie Q, Felix who just died, and Sarah Biscuit.”
There are 12 dealers at Mr. Ryder. “Each dealer has their specialty, something they’re good with.”
She has gotten good reviews from antique dealers and collectors who have come through her store. One such customer said it was well edited, another that it was like a museum.
“There is no junk” said Sutton. Her customers, she adds, are “locals, of course. Lots of people from San Francisco, interior designers and photographers.”
“I don’t know how people find us. The restaurants bring people. Martha Stewart found us, Lonely Planet, Sunset and Via.”
On Sunday, Oct. 7, the 10-year anniversary, Mr. Ryder and Co. will have a birthday party “in appreciation for the patronage and support I have received from the community,” said Sutton.
Mr. Ryder and Co. is at located at 9040 Graton Road in Graton, 824-8221, mrryderantiques.com.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct the date of Mr. Ryder’s birthday party.