It all began with two friends who loved to shop antiques and flea markets up and down the East Coast, from hidden corners in Boston to tiny antique lairs in Boca Raton.
Krystle Venticinque, a Puerto Rican beauty from New York, and her pal Amber Lair, a Savannah girl from way back, have an eye for a bargain and wide-ranging good taste. They've filled up the 10,000 square foot space of the old J.C. Clements Furniture building with enough eye-grabbing paraphernalia, crystal, china, jewelry, carvings and interesting furnishings to keep you poking through the corners for hours on end.
Don't try to take it in all at once. Every time I go there are crowds of folks searching, smiling and finding just what they were looking for and maybe something unexpected—the golden Isis statue or the fierce-looking stuffed bobcat on a tree branch come to mind.
This new store, opened just last April, is a natural corollary to the Sandfly Foodie Loop: what more excellent way to finish up your meal at La Fiore or Sandfly BBQ than to take a trip to their fascinating jewel-case of a shop? That's just what happens one afternoon when my teacher buddy and I decide to follow the crowds around the corner to see what the fuss was all about—we can barely find a parking space for all the cars gathered like thirsty horses at the riverside.
Besides the antiques and furnishings that the girls have chosen, the whole store is one vast consignment paradise, with booths and spaces of various sizes rented by the month to those who have something remarkable to sell. The eclectic result is straight out of Victoria magazine, with each space taking on the personality of the seller—artfully arranged in a visual panoply that arouses the antique-hound in us all.
"We wanted to make a place full of interesting things that people can afford; a place for the hobbyist, the collector or the casual shopper," Krystle says. "We're always going on buying trips up and down the coast and have a lot of contacts for finding that unique item you want."
The whole place is neat as a pin, dusted daily, arranged with care and artistic sparkle. The furnishings vary from heavy, carved Oriental antiques to tables created from old ship's wooden doors or dining sets straight out of the Brady-bunch era. Gentlemen will find plenty to browse over from Civil War memorabilia and vintage tavern signs, bear skins and wolf skulls, hand-painted beer steins, ivory knives and sexy dames in frames: Roaring Twenties flappers or photos of Marilyn look-alike, model Nikki Ludowese, it's all here. Jewelry lovers can feast themselves on well-priced sets of glittering, baroque bracelets, chandelier earrings or unique glazed clay tile necklaces as well as genuine silver and antique pieces up front; the selections are placed all around the store, according to the seller.
There are over 50 vendors in this one market and you never know who will be added and what they will bring to the table. I've found Mexican Mayan statues, delicate Chinese paintings, French cooking tomes, English scrimshaw knives, blue and white Dutch plates, heavy German beer steins and colorful Italian glassware—it's not your average American antique market.
Krystle has her special areas of interest such as Victoriana, china and crystal, jewelry and antique glass. "I like to find items that have an interesting story behind them!" she says.
Amber is fascinated by hand-carved wood and ivory, marble, stone and leather goods, WWII and Civil War items—"When I see the time and effort that goes into these intricate works, it's fascinating; I want to share them with people."
Krystle is also obsessed with chairs—row upon row of them divide the store into sections and you have your pick of delicate Victorian velvet-covered beauties or sturdy kitchen chairs in bright colors, wicker, mahogany, pine or teak.
An old doctor's office skeleton hangs on an antique scale to greet you as you pass through the foyer, groups of shoppers take in the intricate detail of oriental rugs or the various galleries of paintings by local artists, and Holly Morgan, the smiling and patient manager, will lead you to that statue of St. Michael the Archangel that you wanted last week but maybe didn't have room in your budget for just then.
Take your lunch on the Foodie Loop and head on over to Sandfly Market Place' afterwards to check out the new goods and antiques. Just make sure you have plenty of time to search and savor because Krystle and Amber are sure to have something that will catch your eye.