ROCKLAND, Maine ― Two and a half weeks. That’s all the time that Jeremiah Pasternak has to move 17,000 square feet worth of antiques, collectibles and other “stuff” he and his late father have acquired through their antiques business.
For the last 15 years, the goods behind Pasternak Antiques have been housed in what Pasternak’s father Jerry — who died in January — dubbed, “The Warehouse of Wonders,” located at the end of Main Street in Rockland.
Beginning in August, a new business will lease the space with the intention of opening a medical marijuana growing facility. The new business will also potentially include space for community events, according to Pasternak.
With a departure deadline looming, Pasternak has spent much of the past month and a half trying to sell or move the troves of items that fill his Warehouse of Wonders.
“It’s very daunting,” Pasternak said. “[The space] was packed to the gills.”
Jerry Pasternak started Pasternak Antiques decades before he found his Warehouse of Wonders in Rockland. Jeremiah Pasternak called his father a “born salesman” who had the antiques business ingrained in him.
The younger Pasternak will continue operating Pasternak Antiques via the business’ social media pages and a second storefront in New Hampshire.
Jerry Pasternak purchased the 17,000-square-foot building in downtown Rockland in 2004, the day he found out it was for sale.
“It was always a dream of my father’s — it’s always a dream of anyone in the [antiques] business — to have enough space for whatever you buy,” Pasternak said. “To have this much space is the ultimate luxury. It’s something that I’m going to miss.”
With Pasternak Antiques operating on a “by appointment only” system, the building has generated a mystique among passersby, wondering what is inside.
Vintage signs and tall statues tucked inside the entryway of the glass and brick facade give some idea, but one isn’t likely to guess the full scope of what’s inside, given the building’s outward appearance.
“A lot of people drive up and see the ‘60s facade and think it’s a really ugly building,” Pasternak said. “But then you come in here and it’s a really big surprise.”
After walking inside, visitors are not only overwhelmed with the sheer number of items, but the uniqueness of the space itself. At the center of the Warehouse of Wonders is an 1840s Baptist church, that was expanded around the turn of the 20th century and then again in the 1960s.
During the past month, Pasternak has been opening the building to the public for “yard sales” in an attempt to sell some of the items before the final move. While some customers have been surprised at what they found space-wise, others felt it to be familiar.
“We’ve met so many people within the past few weeks who have come in and said, ‘Oh I was married here,’ or, ‘I went to Sunday school here as a kid,’” Pasternak said. “I never think of it as a church but to most people in town, if you’re of a certain age, this is probably where you came on Sunday.”
Pasternak said the reaction to the inventory has also been positive, making him question whether he should have been opening for public yard sales more frequently. In the past month, Pasternak estimated he’d sold about 80 chairs alone.
But there are plenty of items — some more eccentric than others — left in the Warehouse of Wonders: about nine jukeboxes, a pair of mounted facing elk heads, a robust collection of vintage spurs, an impressive collection of mid-century chairs and a topless mermaid statue, just to name a few.
Pasternak said his father focused on collecting what he described as “man cave” items such as jukeboxes and antiques signs, whereas Pasternak said his own interest lies with mid-century furniture.
Until a more long-term location is secured, Pasternak will be moving all of the remaining items into storage. He hopes within the next year to purchase a building either in Maine or New Hampshire to house the antiques, though the space will likely not be as large.
With the building holding such a prominent downtown location and interesting history, Pasternak is hopeful the new business will bring the building “new life.”
To honor his father, Pasternak said the new tenant has agreed to put a plaque outside the building that says “Warehouse of Wonders” to ensure the legacy lives one.
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