Old post office a keeper of collectibles

Published July 13, 2007

The old Limona post office probably looks a lot like it did in the days when the mail train still stopped a few feet from its front step.

The periwinkle-blue, gingerbread-trimmed cottage beckons visitors to sit a spell on the porch swing and get a feel for what the area must have been like a century ago.

The train still whistles by, a reminder of the time before Limona was surrounded by the larger, newer Brandon community.

Brandon native Kari Carothers grew up on the family egg farm on Windhorst Road in the days "when kids could still walk across State Road 60 and if there was a car, they would stop for you."

Her childhood memories include the old Limona post office, which later became a neighborhood grocery known for its fresh cinnamon buns.

Carothers recently transformed the cottage-style building into Periwinkles, an antique store and vintage garden center at 514 Limona Road.

You can't miss it because of the front porch elegantly arranged with flowers and treasures including old wooden rockers and an antique parlor table. Inside, she sells a bounty of antiques, including many that are Old Florida in origin and still wearing their lovely patinas or paint.

"Everyone who comes in here is absolutely thrilled because there aren't a lot of things like this," says Carothers, 47.

That might be because she has the eye of a photo stylist and has arranged the shop to look like a spread out of Cottage Living. Antique windows serve as display shelves for everything from old hats to small Florida landscape paintings and 19th century furniture.

"I like the store because it's whimsical and you never really know what you'll find there," says Nancy Heston, a writer and 22-year Brandon resident who once owned her own antique store. "Kari has a good eye. She's eclectic, sees possibilities in things, and doesn't lock herself into any particular style."

The shop specializes in vintage iron beds that Carothers' son, Richard Carothers, makes from antique gates and salvaged iron. He also creates garden benches, fountains and other garden accessories from vintage metal, much of it displayed in an open-air barn on the property.

The shop is filled with lovingly displayed finds, including a section devoted to exquisite antique linens - treasures from her mother, who irons them and displays them in a corner of the shop along with Victorian clothes and a 1920s bridal veil.

Carothers, who has been an antique dealer for 25 years, is a regular at large antique shows and also maintains a store on eBay.

"I've always been interested in antiques," she says, recalling childhood days spent trying on old clothes at her grandparents' and great-grandparents' farm near Peoria, Ill.

She actually owned the old post office 15 years ago and opened an antique store, Nostalgia Station.

Personal issues forced her to sell the property, but was thrilled to see a "For Rent" sign in the yard a year ago.

A Web site for the store, periwinklesantiques.com, is now up and running.

Many of her customers linger just to see how she layers and arranges everything from artwork to jewelry, furniture and architectural salvage.

Shells, pearls and vintage photo scrapbooks are displayed in the 700-square-foot space along with an iron stone washbowl from the 1880s, a Victorian oak dresser and mirror, 1940s kitchen canister sets and an 1820s lift top desk.

Look up to see children's chairs, milking stools, birdcages and vintage enamelware hang from the ceiling.

"There are lots of layers around this little place," she says. "I'm very eclectic."

Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at ebettendorf@hotmail.com.