Milestones, a still-young store filled with eccentric finds, sets up shop.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
The billiard balls on the retro-deco carpet and spooky anatomic model in the storefront are the first clues Milestones ain’t your grandma’s antique shop.
“We don’t do tea cups,” says co-owner Cam Wilde. “We do stuff that has a fun quirky sense.”
Wilde opened the New Monterey shop in summer with his partner Birgit Peyla, a German metalsmith who came to the Monterey in the ’90s. She acknowledges the label they give the place doesn’t quite frame it perfectly.
“But we use the word ‘antique’ because people respond to it and understand it,” Peyla says.
Their take on the term translates to a whole galaxy of strange lamps, old-school ice buckets, stitched leather furniture and more odds and ends than a garage sale co-hosted by Andy Warhol and J. Edgar Hoover. In one corner, a Dutch writing desk anchors a room that Wilde says is constantly evolving. A customer points to a human skull behind a glass case and inquires of the price. Wilde tells him ($425), then mentions he has a tombstone as well.
“Some people ask if it’s heavy,” he says. “I tell them it’s just dead weight.”
On a wall hangs a large art deco print, flanked by stately armoires. In a corner, a vertical collage of multicolored rulers makes for an esoteric accent. Clear-plastic-and-steel folding chairs help compose the front display.
“Anything that kind of makes you smile,” he says.
Wilde came to the resale market early. As a kid raised by two parents he refers to as “Carmel hippies,” he would buy packages of Bubble Yum for 75 cents, then resell them for 25 cents per piece. In high school it was Playboy and car magazines. Now his stockpile is less mainstream: Note the stock of Mission style oak furniture and the impressive selection of tableware. Elsewhere display cases present bizarre metal goods, from paperweights to teaspoons.
“I enjoy it and then sell it,” he says. “I don’t collect. A lot of antique owners are hoarders but I just can’t do that.”
Truncated hours (1-6pm) add to his enjoyment: Wilde has time to go hunting at spots ranging from thrift stores to auctions. He asks everywhere from $20 to $5,000 for what he finds.
“We’ve all got to do something we enjoy,” he says. “Otherwise it’s just work.”
Then his customers choose their own adventure.
“People really like the hunt,” he says. “That’s why I’m in this business. It’s about the people – placing items in somebody’s home who’s going to love it.”
Wilde’s biggest find, though, came before the store opened.
The same day Peyla told her husband that she wanted a divorce, Wilde knocked on her door. The two had met working at a jewelry store and, after losing track of each other, Wilde had decided to visit.
“It was a pure coincidence,” Peyla says. “In the hour I needed someone, he was there.”
They later embarked on a six-week road trip, Wilde rented a room at her house and they hatched the store plan.
Peyla brings an assortment of abilities that dovetail with Wilde’s retrieve-and-resell skills. She learned the craft of metalworking while she was growing up and going to school in Germany, and uses the store as a studio and showroom, though she is often out of town to exhibit her work. Her jewelry designs are architectural, making use of bold, simple shapes – “not the traditional leaf and branch stuff,” she says – earning awards at more than 25 different fairs across the country, a spot in the 2010 Smithsonian Craft Show and appearances in a variety of books, including Larks Books’ 500 Silver Jewlery Designs.
She is gratified to see the U.S. catch up with the environmental awareness she grew up with in Germany. She makes a habit of mail-ordering gold from refining companies that recycle materials instead of mining them, works with a website provider that’s wind-powered and uses 100-percent post-consumer waste paper goods.
This antique store’s approach, in other words, is anything but antiquated.
Nick Robertson, of Robertson’s Antiques in Carmel, recognizes as much, albeit for non-green reasons.
“It’s brave what they’re doing, running away from traditional decorative and design styles,” he says. “It hits you like a wet towel how different it is in a modern contemporary sense.”
For Wilde, it’s simply a matter of surrounding himself with things he digs.
“Everything in the store is hand picked by me,” he says. “If I’m going to be there six days a week, I have to like what’s in the store.”
Milestones is open 1-6pm Monday through Saturday at 490 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey. Appointments also available. 320-3192, www.milestones-modern.com