Downtown antique store keeps yesterday’s tastes hipWritten by Autumn Lee | | email@example.com
Bob Cairl, co-owner of the nearly 30,000-square-foot Architectural Artifacts antique store in Downtown Toledo, said he used to joke, “If we can’t pick it up, we’re not interested in buying it.”
Twelve years later, Architectural Artifacts, located at 20 S. Ontario, has expanded from carrying larger architectural structures to also housing a collection of about 20,000 pieces of door hardware, 3,000 doors, thousands of spindles and staircase parts, 1,000 chandeliers, 85 fireplaces and milk crates full of door knobs.
And those numbers are just Cairl’s rough estimates.
The main floor contains an eclectic collection of unique architectural and garden structures including Frank Lloyd Wright 4,000-pound urns, columns discreetly made of papier-mache that were once featured in the Chicago Opera House’s 1917 production of “The Little Mermaid,” and a 17th century marble carving of the DaVinci’s “Last Supper.”
On the second level, old-fashioned sinks and toilets line the floor of an expansive room. Off shooting from that area, customers will find a corner room solely dedicated to storing a vast collection of antique spindles.
Another room houses a selection of doors that could take hours to look through.
Cairl remembered a particular customer searching for wheels belonging to a pocket door he could not find anywhere.
“Just the day before he came in, I bought eight [of the wheels.] The look on his face was priceless. His door wouldn’t work without those wheels,” he said. “It was gratifying being able to help him out.”
Cairl and his wife, Jane, have similar tastes and gravitate toward the same things, he said.
“It makes it easy when we’re buying for the store since we have the same aesthetic values,” he said.
When making purchases, Cairl said they buy what has been selling.
Cairl said Architectural Artifacts contains an 8,000-square-foot restoration facility where skilled employees restore broken items or transform items into something more practical for today’s use.
Cairl said they have turned balcony structures into a dining room table and Tiffany iron parts into small bistro tables.
Architectural Artifacts receives little foot traffic compared to its Internet sales, which come from customers throughout the country.
“About 80 percent of our business comes from the Internet,” Cairl said. “They have a need and come looking for you.”
In the past, Cairl said, Architectural Artifacts has e-mailed customers digital photographs of items that interested them with additional photographs noting any flaws.
Co-owner Jane Cairl said Architectural Artifacts is “more than a job. … It’s a passion that became a business.”
She also fused her love of new art glass jewelry and older costume jewelry into the store.
“We’ve also talked about having an art gallery, but haven’t done that yet,” she said.
If Architectural Artifacts does not have the item a customer is looking for, Jane Cairl will advise them where they may be able to find it, she said.