Ask John McCarthy what’s the craziest piece of “stuff” he can think of at Adam and Eve Architectural and Antique Salvage, his 3-acre menagerie just north of downtown.
He thinks for a minute, then points down, just inches away, to a stainless steel, fire engine red, 1970s slipper-shaped bathtub with gold fixtures.
McCarthy’s in the business of, well not junk; call it “junque.”
It’s scattered across two lots on either side of 16th Street, and in large buildings exuding that nasty, wonderful, stale, nostalgic smell that triggers a million memories.
But not for long. After eight decades and various owners, the place is having a going-out-of-business sale.
Right now, McCarthy said, “it’s ‘no reasonable offer refused.’” Eventually, perhaps by the end of the year, he said, he’ll hold a big auction or “blowout sale.”
That could take a while. There’s a lot to sell.
A standing telephone booth, complete with phone and male mannequin. Old toilets. Gates, circa 18th century, from a French prison. A steel “holy water” container — “Out of holy water! Bottled water 3-for-$1” — guarded by a life-size statue of an unidentified saint and child.
Chandeliers hang from nearly every beam, genteel ghosts among drifting motes of dust.
McCarthy said customers have spent as much as $40,000 in one visit and as little as 40 cents.
“You never know what’s going to bring somebody here,” he said. “And then they go, ‘Oh, my God.’”
But now, at 60, “I no longer have the passion for it. Or the back for it,” he said. He already has a contract with Scott Lewis Gardening, which will use the lot to store garden supplies and trees.
“It’ll go from ‘Adam and Eve’ to the Garden of Eden,” he quipped.
“We shopped at Adam and Eve,” Lewis said. “I don’t even remember how it even came up in conversation with my wife and me. She said, ‘Gee, Scott. Maybe we can make a deal here.’”
McCarthy’s sister, Kristi Posvar Loverde, had come down from Connecticut in 1993 and visited an estate sale, where she bought a vanity set. She returned to pick it up, only to find someone had taken the sink. She went hunting for a replacement and came across Adam’s Junkyard. The owner at the time was selling the property that coming weekend. She just added “Eve” to the name.
The next call was to her brother, in upstate New York, who’d been a Budweiser sales representative and in the restaurant business. He came down and fell in love with the place.
So he’d head out to homes that were to be demolished and had been stripped of what the owners thought had value. “I loved pulling the stuff out,” he said.
McCarthy’s prized possession is an early 1900s steam engine, about the size of a table lamp. He found it in a 1920s home near Boynton Beach. He doesn’t know if it works. He recently was offered $1,000 but said no.
He hasn’t found that hidden Picasso, or hidden bearer bonds or cash. But once or twice, he said, someone later would let him know they wouldn’t have parted with the item had they know what McCarthy eventually would get for it. On the other hand, “I never heard from the people I overpaid.”
McCarthy and his sister sold the place in 2006, but bought it back around four months ago, for the sole purpose of liquidating it. In the interim, the previous owner had begun accepting consignments, which now comprise 40 percent of the inventory.
Ray Oktavec ran the Eastside Antique Market in Fort Lauderdale before he closed it three years ago and brought3,500 items on consignment to Adam and Eve. He points to some of the bizarre items here that are his. Tree planters converted from stadium lights at Charlotte International Speedway. A copper still dating to the early 1900s.
Oktavec snatched up store signs: Red Lobster, Western Union, Cinnabon and the individual letters piled like a children’s puzzle that spell O-F-F-I-C-E D-E-P-O-T.
McCarthy walks through and points out: record albums, paintings, headboards, side boards, end tables, side tables, foot rests. An antique dentist’s chair. A stainless steel hot tub — “it works!,” a sign says — that more likely came from a physical rehab center than South Beach. Even one of those chairs a shoe salesman sits on as you plant your foot on its incline. (“Foot fetish? $15.”)
Then there was Mar-a-Lago. Just before Donald Trump converted the former Marjorie Merriweather Post mansion in Palm Beach into a private club, managers called McCarthy to empty out two buildings. He filled two 24-foot rental trucks and threw a sale that drew more than 1,000 people. He still has some torchiere lamps from the place.
Poking around at Adam and Eve recently, Pat Edelman of West Palm Beach and the Space Coast said, “I buy houses and fix them up.” She made a deal with McCarthy for a rusty anchor he’d pulled out of the water near the Riviera Beach marina.
“If you’re not looking for something normal, it’s the place to go,” she said. “At least it was the place to go. Not anymore.”
McCarthy has mixed feelings, as well. “We really appreciate the support we’ve had from people,” he said. “We’ll miss them. And I’m sure they’ll miss us.”