Ellenton antique store a family affair with echoes from the past

A vintage advertising sculpture for Kraft Foods, a fiberglass cow nicknamed Phyllis, greets customers at the front door of the Feed Store Antique Mall, 4407 U.S. 301 N., in Ellenton and has become the store mascot. CARL MARIO NUDI PHOTOS

By CARL MARIO NUDI

Heading east past the Gamble Plantation out of downtown Ellenton one would notice a large barn-red building at 4407 U.S. 301 N. on the south side of the road.

The covered walkway along the front facade gives it a very rural-style appearance and is a reminder of the agricultural history of Ellenton and East Manatee County.

It was built in the 1930s as a feed and farming supply store, and with the development of the area in the 1980s and 1990s it changed with the times to serve as various businesses, including at one time a mattress manufacturing and retail outlet.

For more than 20 years, the 9,785-square-foot building has somewhat returned to its roots and has housed the Feed Store Antique Mall.

Owner Mariana Porpora, who purchased the building from the previous owner about 20 years ago, said it was her grandmother who influenced her to get into antiques.

“My grandmother was a collector, and when I was young I would go to her house and she would show me what she bought the week before,” Porpora said “Then she started to give me some of her things.”

Porpora then started collecting and selling antiques, developing her own likes.

“I collect oriental things,” Porpora said. “I like their age and beauty.

“The Chinese and Japanese made beautiful things,” she said.

Before purchasing the antique mall, Porpora sold real estate and that was how she found out the business was for sale.

If asked what she liked about owning an antique mall, she would say, “The work, the dealers, the customers.”

“I like it all,” Porpora said.

Her son, Alan Klingbeil, moved back to Manatee County about two years ago to help his mother manage the business.

Klingbeil was raised in Manatee County and went to Manatee High School.

He graduated from the University of Florida and worked in the engineering field for about 30 years, having last worked at an engineering firm in West Palm Beach.

“The family brought me back,” Klingbeil said.

He said they rent space at the antique mall by the square foot, and there are about 50 booths.

Most are the same size, about 8-feet by 8-feet, but a few are bigger and some smaller, Klingbeil said.

Every dealer offers different items from the next, based on their likes or what they think will sell.

Some antique dealers prefer to own their own store, he said, but the antique mall is another way for dealers to sell their wares.

“And the antique mall provides an eclectic experience for the shopper,” Klingbeil said. “The antique mall is just a different business model.

“There are not the expenses of owning a store, and you don’t have to be here all the time,” he said.

“The dealers layout their booth however they want and keep it stocked with whatever they want,” Klingbeil said.

There are a few rules, such as no guns, or reproductions must be kept at a minimum and clearly marked as such, or no ivory can be sold.

“It’s not legal to sell ivory,” Klingbeil said.

The building area is divided up into a logical way so people can cover all of the booths.

And someone in a wheelchair would be able to maneuver easily around the mall.

Walking through the aisle, customers can check out all the booths.

“What’s nifty about an antique mall is that it gives the shopper a different take on the variety of goods,” he said.

The dealers sell antiques and vintage items in the mall, from kitchenware to centerpieces, or art glass to jewelry.

Alan Klingbeil, manager of Feed Store Antique Mall, 4407 U.S. 301 N., stands with his mother, Mariana Porpora, owner of the Ellenton business, in one of the booths Porpora has to sell her own collection of oriental items.

“And we have some customers who have been coming here for years,” Klingbeil said. “Our customers are some of the nicest people.”

He said there are trends in the business where various styles come and go.

For instance, mid-century modern is popular now.

So is Florida Tropical, and nostalgic business-related items such as Stuckey’s interstate highway convenience store kitsch.

According to an article on the Collecting 20th Century website, “collecting antiques provides a wonderful opportunity to interact with history and . . . to delve into the past causes one to develop a far deeper appreciation of history and the peoples who populated those older eras.”

And in an article on the Pioneer Thinking website, “some antiques are treasured finds that evoke a nostalgic memory or tradition. Others are collected because of their monetary value such as furniture, art and historic pieces.”

And just as the tastes and reasons of collectors can vary, Klingbeil said, so can the dealers,

“Many are retirees who have a part time business to raise a little money,” he said. “Some are people who have full-time jobs and sell antiques on the side as an additional revenue source.

“And for some this is their exclusive way of making a living,” the antique mall manager said.

He said the dealers at Feed Store Antique Mall also range in ages from 19 to 93.

The youngest dealer, Gab Munez, started selling antiques and vintage items because his mother, Linda Dietz, has had a booth at Feed Store Antique Mall for many years, and he would come with her since he was a child to help her.

“After I graduated (from Palmetto High School in 2016) I just stayed with antiques because I knew the business,” Munez said. “And I know what other people like to buy.”

The 19-year-old likes to collect a certain style, also.

It was mid-century modern for a while, but he has been selling off that collection and started gathering things one would find at a French broconte, or second-hand market.

“They have to be very eclectic and vintage, Munez said. “Unusual things sell.”

To stock his booth he scours the thrift store, garage sales and flea markets in the area.

“If it’s something I’ve never seen before, I’ll buy it,” he said.

But Munez said he was not planning on making antiques his full-time job.

He took a certified online course in social media management and hopes to make that his career.

The Feed Store Antique Mall, 4407 U.S. 301 N., in Ellenton, was a feed store when built in the 1930s, and over the years housed several other businesses, including a mattress manufacturing and retail outlet, before it became an antique mall more than 20 years ago.

Munez also works at the front counter of the Feed Store Antique Mall and helps Klingbeil with its Instagram account.

“I can always make selling (antiques) a side job,” he said. “I don’t have to be here every day.”

At 94, Eleanore Pagano, is the oldest dealer to have a booth at the antique mall in Ellenton.

“I’ve always been a collector,” Pagano said. “I started collecting coins when I was younger. All kinds.”

She said keeping a booth at the antique mall “gives me purpose in life.”

Pagano said she has been collecting seriously for more than 50 years, starting after she moved to Florida in 1955 and to Manatee County in 1966.

In 1969 she opened her own shop on what is now 57th Street in Bradenton called the Door Knocker Antique Shop.

Her husband passed away in 1997, and she closed the store in 1998, but she said she had to keep busy, so she eventually rented a booth at the Feed Store Antique Mall.

“I find it rewarding,” Pagano said. “I don’t want to make a lot of money, I just enjoy life.”

For more information about the Feed Store Antique Mall go to its website at www.thefeedstoreantiquemall.com or its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/feedstoreantiquemall.

The phone number for the front desk is 941-729-1379.

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