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Two stores, one love

By Christina K. Cosdon, Times Staff Writer
Published March 1, 2008


Len Spencer owns Jewel Antique Mall in Belleair Bluffs.
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[Jim Damaske | Times]
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[Jim Damaske | Times]
Jan Spencer's shop is called Lejan's Antiques.

Jan and Len Spencer of Belleair Beach turned their love of antiques into second careers.

Each owns a local business a little more than a mile apart - one an antique consignment mall, the other a posh shop.

A former college professor, Jan has been in the business since 1982. She owns Lejan's Antiques in Largo, an elegant, high-end shop that includes European, Oriental and American antique furniture, sterling, crystal, china, tapestries, estate jewelry and original art.

Len, a dentist and retired Air Force colonel, has been refinishing antiques for many years, but didn't get into the business until after he retired in 1990. He owns and operates Jewel Antique Mall in Belleair Bluffs. With more than 5,000 square feet and 30 dealers, the mall is a maze of rooms containing everything from golf- and marine-related items to old stained glass windows, toys and books.

How did you get into the antique business?

Len: Jan is the one who started it. She was a professor of methodology and education at Eastern Washington University when I was stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Wash. When I was transferred to Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, N.Y., she was overeducated for the area. She did some substitute teaching but didn't enjoy it. Then she had an opportunity to open an antique store.

Jan: Len knew I loved antiques and bought a sewing stand when we were first married. He restored it and a monster was created! We bought a lot of antiques so he could do a lot of refinishing. Then, when Len was transferred to Rome, I learned the area needed an antique store. I took a course in small business, rented a space and filled it with antiques, art and crafts. Within a month, we had a champagne opening and Lejan's was born. A local cellist would practice in the shop. It was such a fun place.

Who are your customers?

Jan: You have the antiquer who just loves being around antiques and finding a treasure; the browser; the person on a quest for just the right piece for his or her home; newcomers to Florida who sold all their antiques and want a "warm fuzzy" to add charm to their new look; interior decorators; and people who want to learn.

How do you acquire your inventory?

Jan: We buy most of it. Some is from customers who come to us to buy from them or handle their estate sales.

Len: We probably do 10 to 15 shows each year along the east coast - from Maine to Florida.

What is the lure of antiques?

Jan: It's the history and the wonderful stories that people tell about the pieces. To me, that's the magic. Antiques are from a time when people treasured things not just for their value but for their meaning. Unlike other types of retail businesses, you can't order another hand carved table or hand painted piece of porcelain that is the same.

Len: I like to find out the stories about them, the history behind this chest or that piece of jewelry, who actually sat in that chair, who owned it, who touched it. And there is the satisfaction of restoring a piece of furniture to its original condition.

Lejan's Antiques, 1260 West Bay Drive, Largo. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Call (727) 586-7515.

Jewel Antique Mall, 2601 Jewel Road, Belleair Bluffs. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Call (727) 585-5568.

If you go

Lejan's Antiques, 1260 West Bay Drive, Largo. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Call (727) 586-7515.

Jewel Antique Mall, 2601 Jewel Road, Belleair Bluffs. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Call (727) 585-5568.

[Last modified February 29, 2008, 21:55:40]


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