Driving along Main Road in Aquebogue, one can’t help but notice the green 1951 Willys Jeep sitting along the side of the road.
Rusting along the top with a faded Mobil logo painted on the side doors, the antique car gives passersby a glimpse as to what’s happening at the establishment behind it.
The Jeep, along with a 1962 Rambler that is currently on it’s way to the Aquebogue antique shop from California, is owner Robert Walsh’s favorite piece inside The Ranch, the antique shop and art gallery he opened last month.
“People come in every day asking about it,” Walsh said of the Jeep.
The Ranch boasts dozens of artifacts that he collected during trips to nearly 20 states throughout the years, including a 1950s gas pump, an early 20th century Edison camera and original Coca-Cola and Pepsi products, among others.
A former nursery owner with multiple locations in Dix Hills, Walsh began collecting antiques in his spare time.
“I was buying old Coca-Cola machines, buying some old gas pumps, old wheelbarrows. I was just kind of touching on the antiques business,” he said. “After I sold those businesses five years ago, I took a few years off in California. I could only ski, surf and scuba dive for so many years, so I took three years and then I came back and really got into this — locating it and going around to about almost 20 different states, pretty much traveling around to fill up the store.”
Those states included Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and California, among others, he said. Walsh often visits antique shows and talks to locals in those areas who give him recommendations on shops and neighborhoods to visit for the best finds, he said.
He also receives items from interested customers who bring in goods from their home for Walsh to sell on consignment.
“I enjoy it,” he said of antiquing. “It gives you a certain feeling knowing something was used 100 years ago.”
Antiques aren’t the only things sold inside the building, located on two acres of land that formerly part of the Verderber Landscape Nursery and Garden Center. He is leasing the land from the Verderbers.
Walsh sells art works which adorn two sections of wall space. Currently he has four artists on display, but plans to rotate through athe works every month or so. Paintings aren’t the only art available for purchase.
Granite pieces, sculpted stones, wooden benches and tables, window boxes and more are featured on the property. Some of the items, such as the granite slabs and “Flintstone chairs” (a circular piece of stone with an indent for sitting) are purchased, while others, like the window boxes, are made using reclaimed wood Walsh finds on his travels.
“There’s a history to every piece we make,” he said. “One table we have is made from 250-year-old wood from a 90-person town in Texas. So that’s a piece of art, it’s more than just a table.”
Although The Ranch only opened a few weeks ago, Walsh already has big plans for the future. He hopes to add a café with outdoor seating to the location, which is already landscaped and comes with a 10-foot waterfall.
Additionally, he wants to host outdoor art shows for Memorial Day, July Fourth, Labor Day and Columbus Day weekends, with plans to host the first in September, he said. He hopes to have food trucks, wine, music, poetry readings and more at the events.
But for now, Walsh said, he’s focused on the antiques and making sure his customers enjoy the space and the pieces as much as he does.
“It’s just knowing that there’s history,” he said. “You might not know what it is, but you know there’s a story there.”