Imagine a microcosm of western civilization's material culture jumbled together and beautifully stockpiled into a 20,000 square-foot warehouse. Imagine all the stuff you grew up with: all the randomness, all the things you never thought you'd see again, all the memories, all the emotions, all the traditions, all the bizarre trends of your youth, all of the fleeting fixations of your past and all the collectable fascinations of your present. Trinkets, tea sets, toasters, paintings, porcelains, books, nets, vintage textiles and so much more.
This is the experience of visiting the Wertz Brothers Antique Mart in Santa Monica, which will sadly close its doors tomorrow, Feb. 1, to make room for other business developments at the location.
The Mart has been a collector's paradise. Featuring 106 booths, 84 showcases and tangible treasures from 190 antique dealers, the store on Lincoln Blvd. has established itself as one of Southern California's most unique shopping experiences.
The company was founded in 1931 as a simple furniture store on Santa Monica Blvd. Then, in 1994, joint-owners Mike and Larry Wertz purchased the business from their father and in 2001 they took over a second location on Lincoln Blvd., the Wertz Brothers Antique Mart. The prosperous furniture store is still open and will remain open on Santa Monica Blvd. in West L.A.
One of Wertz's managers, Robin Messick, reflected on the multifaceted purpose of the mall. "It's a collective assortment of antique dealers that brings together a variety of merchandise and price points into one destination," she said. "It's a source for people decorating their own homes, set decorators, prop buyers from Levi's and Ralph Lauren, and for prop stylists for catalogue shoots for companies like Target, as well as for local restaurants and bars."
Countless Hollywood set designers have found solace in Wertz Brothers, bringing their distinct T.V. and film sets to life with authentic dressings and colorful ornaments from the past. Interior decorators, fashion designers and some of Hollywood's most influential characters have regularly frequented Wertz Brothers, intrigued by its mystery and authenticity. Some regular customers of the mall have included Diane Keaton, David Arquette, Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart, and Catherine Keener. Days after receiving her Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for Les Misérables, Anne Hathaway was seen surfing the shelves and securing a special item or two.
From mid-century modern fine collectibles, to European and Asian furniture, you really never know what you're going to find in the Wertz warehouse. The stock is always shifting. Anthony Hudson, Wertz's other manager, recalled stories of visitors from as far away as Japan and Australia.
Antiques are full of stories. Hold a two-hundred-year-old Italian terra cotta vase in your hand and be certain there is a robust tale behind its origin and how it got to the mall on the corner of Colorado and Lincoln.
"It's a store that sells memories," said Bobby Box, a Wertz sales associate. "People walk in and have emotional bonds to things. Sometimes it's an aesthetic appreciation or simply a trigger from their childhood. I've seen people look at things and break down and cry because a certain piece reminds them of their mother or grandfather. It's also a place of really cool discovery. The mall means a lot to me and I've really enjoyed sharing those experiences with people over the years."
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Most folks don't just wander into Wertz Brothers to shop. They come in for an experience. Sadly, they'll have to find it elsewhere come February 1. But there is talk that Messick and Hudson are on the search for another location. Perhaps it will live on.
Wertz Brothers Antique Mart is at 1607 Lincoln Blvd. , Santa Monica. (310) 452-1800 , wertzbrothers.com.