Larry and Charlie Schiller

Larry and Charlie Schiller scour attics, basements, barns and warehouses across America to offer the most eclectic array of salvaged items for sale in Tampa Bay.  You never know what you’ll find when you visit their recently expanded warehouse.  Photographed at Schiller’s Architectural and Design Salvage in West Tampa.

How would describe Schillers?  Larry: We have lots of cool junk! You have to come here not expecting to find something that is ready to leave the door and put in your house. Ninety percent of what we sell is for someone else’s project.  People come here and get inspired to make things.  Everyone that likes this kind of stuff is thrilled to death we’re here.  Charlie: A lot of people bring in pictures of things they’ve made. Someone came in the other day and bought a big hunk of wood to make a cool kitchen island.

How did you get into the architectural salvage business?  Larry: It really started as just a hobby. I have collecting since I was 9 years old, but I’m not a hoarder. I’d get too much stuff, so I’d sell it. Then I’d start collecting again. If I ever knew I was going to open a store I’d have a lot more!

What made you open Schillers? Larry: It was our back-up plan. If times ever got tight and we were worried about finances, I’d tell my wife–don’t worry, I’ve got a plan. She could stay home and make crafts with the kids and I’d have a booth at the flea market and sell our stuff. Schiller’s turned out to be our booth!

Where did you get the collecting bug?  Larry: My grandmother used to go to rummage sales and farm sales all the time. She’d drag me around and I liked it. My grandfather owned a whole bunch of warehouse buildings in Chicago. When I was 9 my dad took me to one. I saw things like solid wood bowling pins lying around and I asked if I could take them. The first weekend we opened for business I sold a brass elevator push button plate I had gotten there.

What’s your favorite flea market?  Every Monday in the town of Webster, Florida there’s a giant market. Holiday Mondays are the best.

Where are you from?  Charlie: I’m a native. When I grew up in Brandon it was a really small town. There were cow pastures and the closest mall was University!  Larry: Chicago. I came to Florida with my mother and sisters to visit my cousins when I graduated high school. One day I went out with a cousin and the next thing I knew I had registered for classes at University of Tampa.

You live in Odessa now.  What’s the best part of living there?  It’s quiet and very pretty. We live on a lake in an old fishing house that was built in the 60s. It’s kind of a quirky street.  There’s lots of water and Cypress tress. It’s very Florida earthy and still close to things. We have peacocks that roam the neighborhood. It’s a good place for kids.

What does your three-year-old say about the business? In the beginning he would say “this is so messy! this is so junky!” But he’s starting to notice things that catch his eye. When he’s here he doesn’t want to leave. He turns everything into an art project.

What can a visitor find at Schillers?  You never know what you’ll find. We’ve got at least a 1000 doors and windows. Tons of moldings, columns and stair parts.  Lighting – I bought out a 20-year-old lighting company. We’ve got crates and crates of lighting parts. We bought out a whole foundry – the molds the make machinery parts – for a coal-mining shovel. I have the blue prints and photographs for all the parts.  Not mention furniture, hardware, and all sorts of oddities.

What’s the cheapest thing you’ve sold?  I sold something for a quarter yesterday-a really old ceramic tile.  We even have a box of free stuff!

What’s the most expensive in the store?  We have a pair of marble griffins for $12,000.00.

What is the most unusual thing in the store right now?  We’ve got Mardi Gras jester heads from a New Orleans casino boat that was being redecorated in Port Tampa.  It was abandoned and I got them.

Where do you like to hang out?  Charlie: Cute and quirky restaurants like Ella’s Folk Art Cafe, The Refinery and Cappy’s Pizza in Seminole Heights. We like local, mom-and-pop kind of stuff.