I’m so lucky to have patient friends who love to explore! Sherri, Kathy and I spent Saturday afternoon trolling the stretch of U.S. 41 that runs north of Tampa through Lutz and Land O’ Lakes, our countrified northern neighbors. U.S. 41 was a main artery through Florida back when Lucy, Desi, Ethel and Fred drove down for vacation in black and white (remember that one?). And it still has reminders of its mid-century heyday — old roadside motels, art deco signs, and … cool little vintage shops.
Our first stop, Deb’s Whistle Stop Depot, 100 NW 4th Ave., Lutz (despite the address, it’s on U.S. 41), is only 2 1/2 years old, but it’s housed a home much, much older. It has six or seven rooms, plus a big covered back porch, full of knickknacks, furniture, dishes, art — tons of old goodies. It also had the gnome pictured above (note the past tense.)
LOVE my creepy gnome!
I spotted this guy in the window as soon as we walked in. The $30 price tag thrilled me, and Laura — the helpful employee on duty — happily allowed me to talk her down. I got Creepy for $25. When I asked what she knew about him, she happily called the owner. (Laura was very nice.) I learned he came from the estate of a woman who died at 98 and had hauled him around for years.
Other good stuff I didn’t buy: Old phone for $20 — how cool would that be by your Adirondack chair?
Sherri said, “These old iron bedsteads would make nice trellises.” (Nice trellises, I’ve learned, are hard to appreciate after they’re swallowed by vines. So unless they’re SUPER cheap, I save my money.)
In Deb’s back yard is Annie’s Potting Shed , a place I’ve heard local gardeners rave about forever. And now I know why!
We found lots of plants, herbs, containers and garden art in an area designed for a relaxing visit. Patti Schaefer is the owner — Annie was her grandmother. A big draw here, Patti says, is Helen, the Scottish gardener who creates stunning containers. (I’ve been to Scotland. They’re big on great containers!)
They had lots of plants I’m familiar with and — better yet –surprises. Among them, Australian violet ($5.50 for an 8-inch-or so pot).
Never saw this before! Patti says it’s a sturdy ground-cover for part sun to full shade. It needs rich, well-draining soil
She also had some cool garden art made from what looks like welded railroad spikes by karynsart.com. How cool would this be for Halloween? And the spider plant in the spider? Cute!! (Sorry — I couldn’t find a price tag.)
Patti says she has something special happening once a month — free workshops on container gardening, herbs, whatever you’re into. If you want to create a spectacular container, bring your stuff and play around on shade-covered picnic tables. Want a fairy garden? She’s got the cutest stuff — from $2 for tiny terra cotta pots to $25 for a big fairy house.
A couple miles up the road at 2020 Land O’Lakes Blvd. , we found EspiWear Thrift Store in a strip shopping center. This is interesting! Entrepreneur Joe Espi says he had a men’s clothing business that tanked with the economy. While he couldn’t get men into his shop once things went sour, he did have a great international on-line clientele for his low-price men’s designer clothes.
So he turned the brick-and-mortar shop into a thrift store. He buys stuff from estate sales, auctions and unclaimed storage units, and sells them for cheap.
“I’m not a non-profit , so that hurts in some ways,” he says. BUT, he can be choosy about what he puts in his shop. ”I don’t have to take all the stuff people want to donate.”
I can vouch for cheap prices — I don’t like to spend a lot for stuff I know will eventually disintegrate in the sun and rain. And he says the stuff moves so fast, there’s always something new.
I was really tempted by this great old drop-leaf table for $25 — much more picturesque than my current cuttings table. Can’t you see this covered with terra cotta pots sitting in colorful metal trays?
I was ready to head home by this time, but Sherri was tapping the spurs. “Just a little bit farther,” she said. “Don’t worry — you won’t get lost. Let’s find something out in the country!”
As usual, I’m glad I listened.
Waaaaay up U.S. 41, we found Shabby Abbie’s, a sweet little shop — another former house — that opened April 2. Owner Helen Kinyon has several designers who repurpose old furniture and other goodies they find. Like Joe, she shops estate sales and other bargain opportunities, but unlike Joe, she aims to repurpose many of her finds.
We pulled in just as they were turning off the lights and getting ready to leave. But Helen and Melissa, one of the designers (she laughs when Helen reminds her that’s what she is!) graciously re-booted so we could explore. It’s a beautiful place with artsy displays. Who knew Mason jars could be so pretty?
I was thrilled to death (!!) to find a metal tray just like one I’d seen a few years ago at a plant fair — and lost because I dithered too long. I was excited not only to see this again, but to see it for cheap. $8!
I’m going to love this hanging on my patio wall.
Shabby Abbie’s also had beautiful furniture — including a mid-century china cabinet that Sherri, Kathy and I fell in love with. It was $595, but Helen told me next Saturday it’ll be $300-something. They’re having a big sale 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 29. Oy vey! If only I had a place to put it!
‘Sall right. I’ve already spent my “disposable” income. And I have a rule: If I can’t pick it up, I don’t buy it.