It’s a long way from basement cleaning and trash hauling, but that’s how an Alameda, Calif., antique business got its start and became successful.
Eunice “Pauline” Kelley, the owner of Pauline’s Antiques, said that during the early years of their marriage, her late husband Bob worked in construction and when it rained, meaning no work on the job, he did basement cleaning and trash hauling.
Eventually, he accumulated more than 15 round oak tables, multiple roll top desks, and lots of lamps, tables and other assorted furniture. In terms of scrap metal, he saved bronze vases and bowls, cast iron pots and pans, cauldrons and brass Russian gold pans.
“One day I said to him, ‘Let’s sell this stuff,’” Kelley said. “Of course, he kept the very best stuff, but that’s how we got started in the business.”
That was 54 years ago. These days, Pauline’s Antiques has 7,000 square feet of merchandise on two floors, bursting at the seams, as Kelley put it.
The main room has 36 showcases lining two walls and taking up a part of the center area, plus several china cabinets filled to the brim. Some of the showcases display prints, lithographs, watercolors and original oils.
The shop has five clothing racks in the front room that display men’s, women’s and children’s clothing from the Victorian era to the 1980s, and a selection of chandeliers hangs from the ceiling.
A second room has a wall covered in books, ranging from signed first editions to school manuals. Eight showcases carry glassware, tools, fine china, silverware and vintage hardware, from furniture wheels to doorknobs. Four shelving units display magazines and newspapers from Victorian times to the war years to the 1980s, and other shelves show off vintage kitchen items, turn of the century toasters, cast iron pans and Pyrex dishes.
The basement, reached by dual staircases, displays glassware, china, chairs and small furniture.
Kelley noted that about a third of her business comes from selling antique and vintage furniture, including dressers, vanities, dining room sets, coffee and drop leaf tables, couches, china cabinets, hutches, armoires, chairs, chests, mirrors and beds.
“All these pieces of furniture come in a variety of woods, like mahogany, pine, oak, fruit woods, maple and walnut,” Kelley said. “And some of our beds are available in iron as well as brass.”
Kelley also does estate sales, both on- and off-premises, and also offers a clean-out service if it’s requested by an estate. In addition, Pauline’s Antiques offers a prop rental service for film, television, theater and professional photographers.
“Our success has been such that our store has received numerous awards, such as the ‘Best of the Bay Area’ many times over, and the ‘Best of Alameda,’” Kelley noted.
Kelley also has been awarded the prestigious Member of the Year Award by the local Park Street Business Association, as well as an Honorary Lifetime Membership in the Alameda Chamber of Commerce.
“Some people come into our shop and get overwhelmed by the volume,” Kelley observed, “but most enter our shop and see the potential for a great hunt and jump in with both feet and love it.”
Kelley doesn’t plan to make any changes to Pauline’s Antiques any time soon, although she did just supervise a major facelift on the front area of the shop, which included a new facade canopy, security gates and a paint job.
1427 Park Street
Alameda, CA 94501
Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, Noon-4 p.m.