Enamelware, Bakelite, grandfather’s clocks and vintage jewelry – this is what one expects to find in an antique store. But a 1906 horse-drawn carriage? A slit gong from New Guinea?
Francine Esposito, owner of Highway 41 Antique Emporium, believes that these types of surprises add to the pleasure of antique shopping.
“I always say that we have everything from fossils to diamonds,” she said. “You never know who’s going to walk through the door and what will appeal to them, so our style is what I would call eclectic.”
Esposito opened the Morro Bay antique store in January 2010. Today, it showcases the wares of 35 vendors.
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At about 12,000 square feet, the shop is less cramped than many antique stores, allowing plenty of room for large-scale items such as mini-gazebos, large-scale furniture and architectural elements.
Each vendor’s space offers a different slant on antiques and collectibles. One recently featured gothic steel arches and a large iron grille salvaged from a church, estimated at 300 years old. Another vendor offered ethnic artifacts such as beautifully carved and gilt Chinese wedding gift boxes from the late 1800s.
Behind the building, there is a garden and patio area that Esposito plans to use for wine tasting and concerts. Here, you find garden furniture and outdoor art. Recently on display were a huge, carved wooden gate and pieces of fascia salvaged from a hotel in Washington.
Naturally, the rarer the piece, the larger the price tag. An R.J. Horner hand-carved partners desk was selling for $8,200. But the shop also offers inexpensive items. A pair of antique fabric-covered chairs were priced at $69 for both.
Furniture hearkens from all eras. You can find a 1950s chrome and Formica dinette set, as well as an elaborately carved, impeccably upholstered Victorian sofa. Esposito tries to keep a range of styles on the floor, including traditional, contemporary and shabby chic.
You’ll also find more standard antique store fare such as glassware, clothing, jewelry, knick knacks, toys, clocks and lamps. But turn the corner and you might also run across that vintage fire alarm you’ve been wanting for your fire-station themed game room.
“Half the time, people come in looking for something, and they walk out with something totally different,” Esposito said.
Highway 41 Antique Emporium is located at 520 Atascadero Road in Morro Bay, 771-8000.