Sunday, February 5, 2012

Lawrenceville Antique Shop More Like History Museum

Large collection of old beer bottles
Al Stidle opened Scavenger's Antique Shop in Lawrenceville in 2003 when his collectibles threatened to overrun his Mt. Oliver house. His wife happily approved.  Though most antique shops resemble boutiques with their high prices and occasionally highbrow staff, Scavenger's is more rustic, more unpredictable -- kind of like a scene from the popular television show "American Pickers" on the History Channel.  Stidle's father, who raised his family in a brick Troy Hill home the family still owns, got him started as a picker.

Antique pickers -- like "American Pickers" stars Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz -- travel dusty back roads in search of valuable items stashed in barns or forgotten in dark attics. They pick the most collectible pieces, negotiate a price, and then sell them to antique store owners at a profit.  Stidle takes a different tack: He finds pieces he likes -- at flea markets, yard sales, following tips from friends -- then adds them to his personal collection.  Less than 15 percent of his picked items are in the store, he said. The rest sits in storage units and garages.  He focuses on Pittsburgh-region memorabilia.

A personal favorite of Stidle's, an old Duquesne Pilsener sign, hangs on the wall behind the counter at Scavenger's, but it is not for sale at any price. However the shop is full of other things that are.  Stacks of lumber and stairway banisters ripped out of homes built in the 1800s occupy dusty corners; old, obscure sports memorabilia cover walls; creaky furniture is piled to the rafters. Store hours are fluid, and most prices are unlisted and negotiable. However some items, particularly Pittsburgh beer memorabilia, might never leave the store.

Al has many other "favorites" that he will sell.  Like a montage of Homestead relics with an asking price of $300. The 4-foot-long, 2-foot-wide picture meshes old matchbooks and union stickers with a panoramic photo of steel mills.  There is also a beer bottle Al views as a piece of history.  It was brewed at St. Vincent Brewery, which closed in 1898, and bottled in the South Side at the old Lascheid Bottling, owned by the family of former Pens and Pirates organist Vincent Lascheid, who died in 2009. The bottle is still full.

Stidle was lured into a life as a picker by his father who repaired washers.  His dad always found himself in people's basements and always ended up coming home with something.  One day, he brought home a small slot machine, buy instead of cherries and lemons, its images were of cigarette brands, including Camel and Lucky Strike. If the same brand matched up three in a row, a token dropped out, good for a free pack of smokes at the bar.  "It fascinated me," Stidle said. "When I moved out, I took it with me."

And the rest is history.  Pittsburgh history that is.  Which can be found in abundance at Scavenger's Antique Shop,  3533 Butler St, in Lawrenceville.

Metro Pittsburgh Real Estate

1 comment:

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