Expanded antique shop showcases eclectic collection to downtown Niantic

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East Lyme — Niantic Main Street storeowner Josh Haderski has been both working in retail and obsessed with collecting things for almost as long as he can remember.

As a child growing up in Niantic, he loved collecting anything and everything, ranging from baseball cards to rocks. And at age 10, he started selling baseball cards out of his grandmother’s Main Street gift store, Tis’ the Season.

“I grew up running the store with her, running the cash register since I was 5 years old,” he said. “That’s when the passion for all this began."

So when his grandmother passed away in 2012, Haderski, then 18 years old and just graduated from Ella T. Grasso Technical High School, naturally took over the Main Street shop to make it his own.

“It was all that I knew, really,” said Haderski, now 24. “It wasn’t the circumstances of which I wanted to take over the space, but I knew I didn’t want to give up that space or the location. I knew I wanted to do something with retail, whether something with antiques or what have you.”

Now, seven years after turning his grandmother’s shop into Past to Present, Haderski recently celebrated the grand opening of its extension, called Past to Present On the Corner — a “natural progression” of his passions, he said, while also keeping with the spirit of his grandmother and adding to downtown Niantic.

Acting as a sort of flagship store welcoming visitors coming from Old Lyme or East Pattagansett Road into downtown, the new shop sits on the corner of Black Point Road and Main Street, across from Smith’s Acres, where the Silver Skate once was.

Featuring an “eclectic collection” of Victorian to mid-century furniture, as well as decorative items and artwork, Haderski's new shop will provide customers a “more curated” collection of antique and vintage items compared to his original Main Street location, he said.

“The idea is to showcase the more impressive pieces that I find,” Haderski said, explaining that he frequently travels throughout New England and as far as upstate New York to find those items.

With a backyard and a porch, as well as an open and airy feel inside, Haderski said his new space, which he rents, is more suited to showing off those special finds, while also being able to hold occasional tent sale events and selling “fixer-uppers” out back.

He will continue to run his original Main Street location, as well, he said.

'Keeping an eye out for what’s great'

Though he’s always enjoyed collecting smaller items, Haderski said it wasn’t until he was 15 that he fell in love with antiques. He attended an auction one day to buy baseball cards but ended up buying a basement of “old stuff.” After bringing back several truckloads of those finds to his grandmother’s shop to sell, Haderski said he realized he did “better selling the old stuff than I did with the baseball cards,” thereby igniting a new interest.

Haderski then started attending estate sales, auctions and antique fairs, learning everything he could about various furniture design styles and eras, as well as prominent and lesser-known designers.

“I love to learn about things. Every time you buy a truckload, there is something new to research, something new to learn about. So it’s about building on the knowledge you have,” Haderski said.

“Even sitting through an auction is an education. You just watch the items sell while the auctioneer describes it. Or the guy sitting next to you is telling you all about it,” he continued. “Every experience in this business is a learning moment.”

In his shop, Haderski can talk at length about the pieces on display. He points out a mid-century crushed-velvet chesterfield sofa in light green — “It already sold over the weekend” — as well as a Warren Platner dining room set featuring the designer’s frequent use of nickel-plated steel rods. Victorian church chairs upholstered in dark green velvet also sit next to colorful tiki lights, while in the back, a handmade farm table stands alongside solid-wood hutches and stained-glass windows.

“The idea is to offer a mix of things that will appeal to several different generations,” Haderski said.

“I find that younger generations tend to like the mid-century pieces,” Haderski said. “While older generations will come in and see the mid-century table and go, ‘Oh, this is what my parents used to own.’ But then us younger ones come in and we’re saying, 'The teak is awesome, it’s so pretty and it’s so clean.'”

“It’s keeping an eye out for what’s great,” he said.

Haderski described keeping up with the constant turnaround of searching, buying and selling as a passion and a lifestyle.

"When I'm not working in the shop, I'm out looking for new stuff. It's never-ending," he said. "But when you love what you do, it makes the long hours much easier."

Past to Present Antiques is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday, with its hours set to expand throughout the summer. For more information visit the shop’s website, pasttopresentct.com, or Facebook page, Past to Present Collectibles, at bit.ly/PtoPFB.

m.biekert@theday.com

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