Stepping off the street of downtown Bradenton and into Braden River Antiques is like stepping into a secret cache of forgotten treasures and gadgets.
Antique trinkets fill the shop and line the walls from floor to ceiling, showcasing a dizzying array of furniture, art, hardware, decorative items, toys, books and more.
“There’s definitely an obsessive compulsive hoarding aspect to the business of collecting antiques,” the store’s good humored owner, Jess Sturtevant, confessed.
Sturtevant, a Bradenton native, said that he grew up in the antiques business, often spending time in an antique shop owned by his parents, The Whistle Stop, which was formerly located next to the 14th Street Salvation Army.
“After I graduated from high school, my dad basically said, ‘Okay, enough messing around. Do you know what you want to do with your life?’ and this just seemed right,” Sturtevant said.
Sturtevant opened Braden River Antiques at its first location on 10th Street and Manatee Ave. in 2004, shortly after he graduated from Lakewood Ranch High School. The shop later relocated to its current location in the historic Pelot’s Pharmacy building at 426 9th Street E.
“I’m probably the youngest person in the area to be running an antique shop by quite a few years,” Sturtevant said.
Despite his age, Sturtevant’s trained eye is evidenced in his shop’s carefully curated and insightful collection. Braden River Antiques specializes in items from the mid-twentieth century (mid-century modern), ranging from agricultural tools to fine art, and virtually everything in between.
“One thing that helps me stand out is that I just happen to know a lot of goofy things that most people don’t know,” Sturtevant said. “My dad taught me about all these old, obsolete tools, for instance, and people come in asking about those kinds of things all the time. Forgotten tools and objects are kind of my specialty.”
Sturtevant scopes out most of the items sold at Braden River Antiques at estate sales, but also purchases a great deal from clients who come to the store to sell their antiques or have them appraised. As an appraiser, he also specializes in fine art, design and the decorative arts.
“It’s hard, but it’s a lot of fun,” Sturtevant said when Patch asked if he had any advice for aspiring collectors. “Trust your instincts, buy what you like and don’t be afraid to make mistakes — you’re going to pay for your education either way. Go to museums and places where you say ‘I can’t afford anything here,’ but remember the things you like. That way when you see it in the wild, you’ll know — and that is really cool.”
Braden River Antiques, which is currently filled to maximum capacity with knick-knacks, entered the beginning stages of a massive growth spurt on Saturday when contractors began breaking down walls in preparation for an expansion project that will double the shop’s floor space by mid-January.
The shop will remain open during the expansion, so shoppers looking for gifts guaranteed not to be in any “What’s Hot in 2012” holiday gift guides have a bazaar full of unique antiques through which to browse — but be careful, you may just get sucked into the treasure trove.