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Islander Trading Post offers the unique in high quantity

By Staff | Jul 29, 2015

Bob Averill and his partner, Georgene Emery, run the Islander Trading Post on Sanibel, located at 1446 Periwinkle Way. BRIAN WIERIMA

If you can’t find what you’re looking for inside the Islander Trading Post on Sanibel, you’re not looking hard enough.

Antique store owner Bob Averill has over 40 years of collecting experience and it shows in the Islander Trading Post, which has shelves upon shelves of old classics from just about every generation spanning the last century and a half.

“We might have a million different pieces in here, especially if you count all the old postcards we have,” Averill said. “We get a wide range of people from all over the world, so that’s why we have such a variety of stuff.”

Averill and his partner, Georgene Emery, have items from limitless categories on shelves, which are old collectibles themselves.

Averill started in antiquities in Pennsylvania, where he began in the field in the 1970’s, when he bought a farm in the rural part of the state. From there, he started going to farm auctions and eventually collected enough stuff to open his first store in Pottsville, Penn., in 1978 called Candles and Collectibles.

?Bob Averill has a collection of old typewriters, which are on display on one of the many shelves inside the Islander Trading Post on Sanibel. BRIAN WIERIMA

His business expanded with two more stores, which he kept filled by becoming an experienced antique buyer, after going to countless auctions, flea markets and picking sites.

But his focus eventually shifted south, specifically Southwest Florida and the island of Sanibel.

“I just loved Southwest Florida and in 1988 I found this property for sale and started my business here,” said Averill of the current Islander Trading Post, which resides at 1446 Periwinkle Way. “The store was originally ‘Three Crafty Ladies’ and the other side was the ‘Silver Witch’ jewelry store.”

For the last 27 years, people from all over the world have crossed the threshold of the Islander Trading Post and have been rewarded with a bevy of unique treasures.

Basically, there is something for everyone.

?Old signs are a popular item for visitors of the Islander Trading Post. BRIAN WIERIMA

“Nautical and military items are probably our most popular,” Averill said. “We sell a lot of items to people from the Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas, because they say they don’t have a place like this over there.”

But Averill needs to be more than just a sensible buyer, he needs to adapt with the times, as well.

“It’s a changing business,” Averill said. “There are things which used to be hot, but are not so hot anymore. The younger generation likes things they had when they were kids or things their parents had, not things their (grandparents) had.

“There are those things which are eternal, like Coca-Cola memorabilia, Brewery items, or items which stick with you, like something your father loved.”

The most important aspect of owning an antique store is paying the right price.

“Buying is the most important part of owning a store,” Averill said. “I know my watering holes and know how much I can pay. Negotiating goes into it, too.

“You need to buy right, if you don’t buy right, you can’t sell right.”

The antique business went through its cycles, including the low times of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, when antique malls were popular.

When that phase faded away, Ebay became popular, which also took its toll on individual antique stores.

Although Averill does deal with internet sales, he prefers the old-fashion way of face-to-face buying and selling.

“We’re old time, this is an old-time antique shop,” Averill chuckled.

Even the Islander Trading Post physical features enhance the antique environment. When Averill moved his home base to Sanibel in 1988, he brought with him old fixtures from Pennsylvania from general stores, pharmacies and old-fashion hardware stores.

“I wanted to create something unique on Sanibel, so that’s why I brought a lot of the old-time fixtures along with me,” Averill said. “But I am old school (when collecting), I’d rather hunt for it in the field with a flashlight at 5 a.m.”

When visitors do make their way through the maze of shelves, they will discover a very organized system. There are aisles for old toys, military items, Christmas items, old soda and beer bottles, barber shop and salon items and just about anything one’s heart desires.

A wall of small drawers features trinkets and old postcards organized by state for those who are nostalgic for home.

Automobile license plates are also a popular item, with people searching for their home state, with potential tags dated on their birth year.

With toys, if a new movie comes out, those are the flavor of the month at that time.

“Batman and Superman toys are hot now,” Averill added. “Star Wars has always been popular, too.”

One of Averill’s most unique items for sale is an anchor from the 1840’s, which was found on the bottom of the ocean just off the coast of Key West.

“You can tell it’s pretty old, because of all the grooves and swirls in the anchor from it sitting in the water for so long,” Averill said. “But it’s still pretty heavy. I’ve seen only one other like it and I sold that to a business owner from (Sanibel).”

Soda bottles are a big sell, with graphics being a big attraction. Mountain Dew bottles are popular because of its graphics, while paper labels from the 1930-40’s are highly sought after because of the rarity of them.

Harley Davidson and Indian Motorcycles memorabilia are rare, as well.

Looking for a box of mannequin hands and arms, go to the last aisle and hang left. How about an eight-foot statue of Jack Daniels? Head back to the beer mirror and sign room.

Want those old tin oil cans or how about an emblazoned soda bottle of the 1994 Arkansas Razorback NCAA Championship Men’s Basketball Team?

Hang a right at the front desk.

No matter what you are searching for, though, there bound to be about a dozen other interesting artifacts from history which will sure to catch your eye.

So in other words, take your time and enjoy all the history which can be purchased and brought home with you from the Islander Trading Post on Sanibel, because its there.

You just have to find it.