Finding the unexpected

"I thought I'd go shopping, at all the usual places, up and down 41," Tom said.  He loves to shop.  I don't.  "All the usual places" means his favorite consignment shops and thrift stores.  He's an incorrigible collector.

I was ready to go for a workout at the pool, but I reconsidered.  It had been a long time since I went on one of these outings with Tom.  This time, instead of aimless shopping, he had a couple specific things in mind that we are looking for:  a new bed, and a piece of furniture we could turn into a bar to replace an ugly built-in bar in the new house.

Tom asked me for the camera, knowing he should not buy major things without my input.  He'd photograph potential purchases, show me the photos later, and then go back and hopefully purchase any of the things that met my approval.
Old Banyan Way at sunrise.

That seemed thoughtful but inefficient to me.  So I told him I'd go with him.  He was delighted.  I brought the camera anyway, to photograph interesting things that we weren't sure about buying.

The traffic is reasonably calm at this time of year, so we elected to drive south through Fort Myers Beach and Bonita Beach.  For us, it is interesting to see hundreds of houses that are both right on the beach and right on the highway.

As we approached U.S. 41 on Bonita Beach Road, we turned into the parking lot for the St. Vincent de Paul shopping center.  We checked out the thrift store, and found a "rescue rug."  In the Cooley houseold, a "rescue rug" is a genuine oriental rug that has been mistreated or is not recognized for the hand-made beauty that it is.  "Rescue rugs" are often found by us at ridiculously low prices, like $30, or $25, or even $15.  Even though we don't need more rugs, we buy them if we like them; we take them home, clean them, and sometimes, use them.

Yesterday's "rescue rug" is a Pak-Persian -- meaning a rug handmade in Pakistan using a Persian (Iranian) design.  Its center has a black background, and its generous border has a cream background.  It is now resting comfortably in our storage unit on Gladiolus Drive.  If you must know, it cost $30.

When we left that thrift store, we started to drive away and realized that another space in that same shopping center was being used temporarily for an "estate sale."  We decided to check it out.

The sale consisted of the furnishings of a fairly large house that I'd say was owned by a woman of some age who had very good taste, with a touch of flamboyance.  The house was to be demolished, so the sale included plumbing fixtures and door hardware.  These things were too good to destroy.

I was delighted to see the door hardware.  It was very heavy, high quality, solid brass stuff.  There wasn't a scratch or a bit of tarnish on any of it.

The house we recently bought has solid wood, 8-foot tall interior doors that are wonderful, but they have cheap, lightweight Kwikset hardware on them.  To make the doors look right, I knew I would have to invest in some good hardware, which can be very expensive -- well over $100 per door.

But here were 12 interior door entry sets, each carefully enclosed in a ziploc bag, including every screw and piece for each set.  They were priced at $20 each.  We looked them over thoroughly, then Tom asked the salesperson (Melanie) how much she would take for them if we bought them all.  She knocked $40 off of the asking price for the lot.  Twelve high-quality interior entry sets for $200!

That was a check I was happy to write.  I never expected to find these on this shopping trip!  And this was just the beginning our our trip!  What other wonders are in store, we thought?
A chandelier we considered at The Conservancy.  It would
go in the stairway tower of our new house.  But the price
is a bit too high.

On we went down 41, stopping at a few places, finding nothing, and then we were hungry.  It was 2PM and the only thing I'd eaten all day was one hard-boiled egg, and Tom hadn't eaten much either.

We discovered Joe's Diner at 9331 Tamiami Trail in North Naples.  Don't let the classic greasy-spoon-diner look fool you.  The chef here, Joey DeBernardis, is a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, and his parents were both restaurateurs.  We bought some delicious food to go: a club sandwich for Tom, and a Reuben for me.  Tom ordered onion rings as well, and he pronounced them "great."  He's a tough critic on the subject of onion rings, so that rating is meaningful.

We ate in the parking lot of a place called West Indies Furniture, but we decided that the store's name was more exotic than its rather bland contents, which we could see through the windows.  We didn't go in that store; we just drove on into Naples.

Our ultimate goal was The Conservancy's upscale thrift store (764 9th Street North in Naples), which is known for having lots of good furnishings donated by wealthy Naples residents.  The prices are a bit too high there, but the money is for a good cause, after all.

We discussed several items in The Conservancy shop, but didn't buy anything there, alas.  We went into the consignment shop next door, Up for Grabs, expecting little.  Up for Grabs has expanded recently; Tom was surprised to see it double the size that he remembered.  Browsing and rambling through its contents was fun.

We hemmed and hawed over a big oriental carpet that had been unfortunately acid washed to dull the colors.  You see, some misguided Westerners (not us) find the authentic colors to be too gaudy and so want the colors to be muted.  They even pay more for such desecration.  Still, this was a huge oriental carpet, and priced at only $450.  So we discussed it, but finally I said I didn't want something that big with mumsy colors in the house.  That was that.  It will be a very good buy for somebody, but not us.

We wandered individually for a while, then I found Tom looking over an antique pine corner cabinet. He was clearly trying to see how it might be used for the bar we were thinking about.  But the cabinet wasn't really set up well for such an adaptation.  It is a beautiful hand-made piece of carpentry.  Tom asked, "where else could we use it?"  At first I couldn't think of anyplace, and then suddenly I thought of the perfect place for it.  "In the corner of the gallery in the new house," I exclaimed.  "That cabinet would be perfect there!"
A tea table we considered at The Conservancy.
I didn't photograph the cabinet at Up for Grabs
because we were too distracted by the
need to move it in a thunderstorm.

In fact, I knew we needed something tall in that corner, and I couldn't think of a piece that we already have that would look right there.  This poor old corner cabinet at Up for Grabs had been in the store for quite some time, and so had been marked down several times.  The last drastic price cut had been made on the very morning that we bought it.

Yes, we bought it!  After Tom paid for the piece, we then had to move it out of the shop.  Of course, one of those ubiquitous afternoon thunderstorms hit just then. Using a furniture dolly, Tom and a man from the shop struggled mightily to get that cabinet out the door without crashing into anything.

I had already spoken to two young men with On the Move delivery service who were standing by their truck outside the shop.  They said I'd have to call the office to get a bid on moving the cabinet to our house. I thanked them for the card they gave me.

It was difficult to watch Tom and the man from the shop struggling with the cabinet on the dolly.  Finally, they had moved it near our car, but still under the canopy in front of the store.  The two young men from On the Move offered to help put it in our Honda Odyssey.  Bless them!  They had the tall cabinet in the car in a jiffy, even in the pouring rain.  Tom gave them $20. They were pleased, and gave Tom a nice, heavy-duty bungee cord to further secure the back hatch of the car, where the cabinet poked out for just a foot or so.

We drove on in the pouring rain because we could see the edge of the storm up ahead, to the north. At the storage facility, we had a much easier time moving the cabinet out of the car due to the availability of large, flat metal carts there.  When the cabinet was securely stashed in the storage unit, we relaxed.

The adventures and surprises for the day were over. It was time to head toward the Gulf of Mexico, toward home.  Tom dropped me off at Traders where I joined my girlfriends for Happy Hour.  It was a happy time, indeed.  At home, there was a message from our realtor about an interesting possibility . . . . more later!


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