BY SAMUEL PICCOLO Special to the VOICE
Bob O’Hara, 74 (“and a half!”), tanned, wiry, hat pushed back, has his mouth pursed a bit like he's chewing on an orange rind as he paces his gently used junk shop in Ridgeville, trying to hang a painting of bowling pins on the wall.
A visitor says O’Hara looks like a shrunken apple core (not far off), but then he comes out with a big, self-deprecating smile and appears to shave off those six months past 74, youthful vitality restored.
“Oh c’mon,” O'Hara says. “I want people to come to the open house, not get scared away thinking I’m some sort of ogre!”
Then he starts pacing again, hammer in hand, looking up at the walls, contemplating that open house.
O’Hara has his event, which he has scheduled for this Friday, on the brain.
For a few years now his store, Bob’s Boys Antiques, has occupied the lone commercial street-corner in downtown Ridgeville, spilling out on the sidewalk, a home for junk and junk-lovers. But now he is expanding, having taken over the garage next to his shop, doubling his floor-space, his rent, and his headaches. The open house will celebrate the occasion.
“I had no room left,” says O’Hara of his expansion. “There was too much stuff. I rented the garage, and a week later it was all full.”
He shook his head.
“I don’t know how this happens.”
And he’s right. The garage side is packed with O’Hara’s usual fare, meaning that it’s stocked with just about everything you could think of.
“I call it junk. I’m a junker. But it’s not really junk. There are lots of nice pieces in here. That’s why I wanted the space—so that people can actually move around and see what I have.”
He puts down the bowling pin painting and walks to the side of the shop that fronts Effingham Street. Here sits a cocktail bar, shaped in a semi-circle, featuring padded foam sides.
“This I got just for the open house. I knew that it would be perfect as soon as I saw it. I’ll have wine and cheese here,” says O’Hara. He’ll have a barbecue going too.
Near the bar is an immense sign announcing “Chocolates of the World,” a steel-framed behemoth that used to hang in Niagara Falls. O’Hara likes big things that attract attention.
“I thought it was bigger when I first saw it,” he says, eyeing it up and down. “I really wish it was bigger. I want people to see it and stop. I got it from Terry and Tina—they have a shark that I’d like to get, too, big teeth and everything. But nothing comes close to”–he pauses for a moment, savoring the mental picture– “the whale.”
Last summer, O’Hara had a true Moby Dick in front of the shop, a plastic whale 15 feet long and five feet high. It was only there for a few days before someone from sWainfleet bought it.
“I had thirty Chinese tourists stop and take a picture of it one day,” recalls O’Hara. “I don’t know if I’ll ever have a thing like that again.”
Remembering that he was in the middle of something, O’Hara returns to his bowling picture, holding it up and imagining it hanging above a dresser and a table in the garage.
“I need to get this put up,” he says. “I want to have all the walls covered in pictures here.” He pulls the dresser back from the wall.
“Ahh!” he shouts.
Some crown moulding on the top of the dresser has come loose and tips over the side, nearly falling on him. He grabs a different hammer and taps the nails from the moulding back into place. Then he steps on top of the table and whacks a few finishing nails into the bowling picture. It’s not straight.
“Damn,” he says, after stepping back to observe his work. “It’s not straight.”
So O’Hara climbs back up on the table, slowly—he is 74 and six months—and pulls the nails slightly from the wall, pushes the picture up a few inches, and hammers the nails back in to their new spots.
“There,” he says. “That’s better.”
Bob’s Boys Antiques open house runs this coming Friday, Aug. 10, from noon to 5 PM, give or take.