ELLSWORTH — For the first time in six months, Shelly Bradsell took a day off from work. She and her husband, Tom, have spent the last half-year renovating a Route 1A building that now houses antiques ranging from a church stained glass window to heirloom fishing lures.
Now open, 1A Relics also is home to more than 40 vendors selling collectibles and original artwork and crafts.
The Bradsells purchased the former automobile showroom last December. Shelly loved the character of the whimsical barnlike structure with multiple turrets as well as its Route 1A location, where an average of 12,000 cars pass by daily, according to the Maine Department of Transportation.
Unoccupied since 2014, the building had to be insulated, rewired and plumbed. The shingled roof was repaired and a fire pole removed before the Otis couple could make it their own. Shelly was up to the task, though, having recently retired after working 21 years for the kidney care provider DaVita Inc.
The couple tried to preserve the building’s funky character, but had to make significant changes to bring it up to code. An unsafe upstairs catwalk is now on the first floor and a blue staircase serves as a display prop for Bangor basket maker Corey Slater.
“Every spot in this building, we had to touch, we had to fix,” Shelly said.
When they began renovating in January, the Bradsells’ newly acquired structure lacked heat or bathrooms. So Shelly drove three miles to Dunkin’ Donuts to warm up. Now, Route 1A Relics is equipped with heat pumps so the business can stay open year-round.
Since moving from Florida to Otis six years ago, the Bradsells have pursued their shared passion of antiquing. They’ve regularly attended auctions across Maine and occasionally beyond on the lookout for valuable objects that untrained eyes might not recognize.
“Once this gets into your blood, you’re hooked,” Shelly said. A few months ago, Tom drove to Ohio to pick up a working railroad crossing signal. Right now, it’s still at the couple’s home, but they plan to sell it eventually.
While they sell some of their own found treasures, Tom and Shelly rent much of the shop’s space to other antique dealers and artisans. Shelly enjoys the community aspect of antiquing.
“You meet such nice people,” she said.
At Route 1A Relics, the displayed antiques range from old dolls and fine dishware to rugs and road signs. Wendy Jo Davis and Jude Nickerson are among the featured local artists. Upstairs, shoppers can find Mitchy’s Mittens. The ultra-warm mittens are made from recycled sweaters by Ellsworth craftsman Kenneth Mitchell.
“The vendors are fantastic, they really are,” Shelly said. “And they are just as dedicated.”
With their business launched, the Bradsells already have other ideas in mind. Shelly plans to convert one room into a small café, so visitors can enjoy tea or coffee, or maybe ice cream in the summer.
The shop will hold a grand opening celebration — complete with food trucks and a ribbon cutting — from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 30. Many of the Bradsells’ friends and fellow antique dealers will be in attendance. The couple also volunteers for the Mariaville Volunteer Fire/Rescue Department.
“It’s a small little world,” Shelly said surveying the expansive shop, where relics already occupy every nook and cranny. “But it’s huge.”
The shop is located at 444 Route 1A in Ellsworth. For more info, call 412-0822 and visit the shop’s Facebook page.