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Arts & Entertainment

One of the Best Antiques Stores in Dallas Is Inside a Hospital

Medical City Dallas has a bank, a dry cleaner, a barber, restaurants—and, now, thanks to Dr. Joel Holiner, a trove of international treasures.
| |Photography by Elizabeth Lavin
Dr Joel Holiner
The bronze of an Arab on horseback is by famed 19th-century French sculptor Alfred Barye; it came from a private Craigslist sale for an estate in Rowlett. Elizabeth Lavin

In March, Dr. Joel Holiner decided to do something that had never previously been attempted in a hospital setting. 

He opened an antiques store.

Jam-packed with centuries-old European and Asian treasures, the 911-square-foot space is sandwiched between a pretzel stand and a gift shop in the Medical City Dallas complex where Holiner has had an outpatient private psychiatric practice for the last 38 years, 22 of which he also served as the medical director of Medical City Green Oaks Hospital.

“Medical City was set up to be a community that’s supportive of the doctors, the nurses, and the support staff, so your life can be here in Medical City and be as easy as possible,” he says. “So there’s a bank here. There’s a dry cleaner here. There are restaurants. There’s a barber.”

Naturally, there was a florist, too, until the shop closed during COVID. Holiner walked by the empty storefront for three years before he finally approached the hospital management about taking it over. His wife, Wendy, had given him an ultimatum. After 40 years of collecting—filling his Preston Hollow home, his garage, and both of his grown children’s apartments with his finds—she told him he had to either stop buying or start selling. For Holiner, the latter was the only option.

He was convinced Medical City was the perfect location. Medical staff could come in and pick up Baccarat coupes for an anniversary gift, or a bust of Queen Elizabeth I for their office. Family and friends, killing time during patient procedures, could browse the Delft and Imari porcelain. Patients could stop in for a change of scenery and gaze at 19th-century European landscapes. Medical City was persuaded, and Holiner’s wife was appeased. 

“Unfortunately, her love of antiques has waned as mine has increased,” Holiner says, laughing. “So our house is a combination of very modern and antique—it’s a really eclectic mix.” Holiner met Wendy years ago at a singles luau party. “I saw her across the pool,” he says. “I thought, Oh, she is so beautiful. So I got up the courage to go up to her. It was very clever: I said, ‘Oh, this is a great party, isn’t it?’ She looked at me and said, ‘Are you kidding? It sucks.’ I said, ‘This is the girl for me.’ ”

For their first house after Holiner finished medical school, they worked with Milton Kent, an associate with Staffelbach Design. Kent gave Holiner a stack of magazines and asked him to point out what he liked. “Everything was traditional but new,” Kent says. He made a suggestion: “Why don’t we buy antiques instead, because they tend to hold their value better, and they’re the real thing as opposed to a reproduction?” Holiner agreed, and their four-decade-plus friendship began. 

“This is not cluttered. This is layered,” Kent says. “That’s the maximalist style, which is coming back.”

Holiner and Kent, both strikingly tall and well coiffed, make for an extremely charming and stately Adrien Brody-Christopher Walken sort of odd couple. Ever since Kent retired six years ago, Holiner had been floating the idea of a shop. But it wasn’t until he pulled the trigger on the Medical City space that Kent agreed to help style and curate it. Because furniture could be moved in only on weekends, it took four weeks to pull it all together.

“Each Sunday night, when we’d walk out and lock the door, Joel would go home; I’d go home,” Kent says. “Joel would say to me, ‘Don’t you think we’ve got it?’ And I’m like, ‘No, it’s not quite right. Not yet.’ And on that fourth Sunday night, I said, ‘It’s done.’ ” M.D. Antiques opened in Atrium A in March.

“We’re not the largest shop in town,” Kent says. “We’re not the smallest. There are people like my good friend Nick Brock—we’re not on that level. But I have clients and friends in the business who say they feel like they’re in London walking in here, and that’s a high compliment. We love antiques and love an eclectic look more akin to the English country house. I think that we would rate very highly with any shop anywhere in terms of the things we have to offer: period furniture, beautiful porcelain, silver, architectural pieces—we don’t need to apologize.”

After spending an hour touring the shop, Holiner leads me a few floors up to his office, which is practically another showroom. When I had asked him earlier how his obsession with antiques started, he seemed stumped by the question. Now, as he points out an 1840s English cabinet from the estate of his mentor, Dr. Perry Gross, he suddenly makes the connection.

“This is where I got my interest in antiques, now that I think about it,” he says. “Because I went to their house when I was a medical student at UT Southwestern, and it was all beautiful antiques. Oh, my gosh, I never put that together. This piece was in his office. When he passed away, I bought most of their estate.” In the breakfront, vintage apothecary jars are positioned next to his monogrammed doctor’s bag from medical school. It’s like a Jungian tableau.

These days, from the time Holiner’s office closes at noon on Fridays, he’s often out on the hunt. “Not a single thing here was purchased outside of Dallas,” he says. “It’s all European and Asian, but it came from all over the world to Dallas. I go to estate sales. I go to thrift shops. I go to little resale shops in Oak Cliff. I go to Craigslist, Salvation Army, Goodwill. Those little thrift shops along Northwest Highway—there are gems in there.”

Shopping local helps him pass deals on to customers. One example: Holiner currently has a bronze by Pierre-Jules Mêne of a huntsman with his dogs for sale for $6,800; he recently found a similar one online for $35,000. A pair of 20th-century Italian tole lanterns he found at an antiques mall is on sale for $4,800; he found an identical pair on 1stDibs for more than $10,000.

The bronzes are Holiner’s personal favorites. “There were French sculptors called animaliers in the 1800s at the same time when you had Renoir, Monet—all of the famous impressionists,” he says. “They had these sculptors at the same time, and they would show in these French salons. These sculptors were more famous than Monet. Over time, people lost interest in the bronzes, and the painters have gone crazy in their popularity. I, of course, love impressionist painters, too, but I can’t afford $30 million for a painting. But I can afford one of these beautiful bronzes.”

There have been many moments when Holiner has worried that Kent won’t be able to squeeze one more treasure into the shop. But Kent makes sure that Holiner doesn’t take the good stuff home. “What I would tell Joel is, we can’t sell from an empty wagon,” Kent says. “You have to offer your best things. That’s an old principle of a good antiques dealer. You don’t keep the best—you sell the best. And if you sell the best, your clients keep coming back.”      


This story originally appeared in the October issue of D Magazine with the headline, “Design For Life.” Write to [email protected].

Author

Kathy Wise

Kathy Wise

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Kathy Wise is the editorial director of D Magazine. A licensed attorney, she won a CRMA Award for reporting for “The…

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