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Photo by Katie Turpen.
On a Shoestring Antiques owners
Rodney and Lee Thursby have owned On a Shoestring Antiques on Shades Crest Road since 1982.
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Photo by Katie Turpen.
On a Shoestring Antiques
The red caboose has become a landmark in the Bluff Park community, welcoming both locals and visitors to On a Shoestring Antiques.
Bluff Park resident Rodney Thursby warmly recalled driving by an abandoned wooden house covered in wisteria on Shades Crest Road more than 30 years ago. In his mind, the timeworn structure was a diamond in the rough.
“This building was built in 1932 during the Depression and is made entirely out of scrap metal. No two pieces are the same,” Rodney said. “People thought they should just tear it down.”
As it turned out, the building would soon serve a larger purpose. Rodney and his wife, Lee, had moved to Birmingham from Florida in 1966 and had been accumulating a sizeable antique collection. They were running out of room in their house for the myriad collectibles plucked from flea markets and rummage sales. After Rodney left his job with U.S. Steel, an opportunity presented itself.
In 1982, the couple opened On a Shoestring Antiques in the weathered, red house that is now more than 80 years old. Nestled in scenic Shades Crest Road, a long, red caboose now serves as its landmark. The couple also added a barn to the back of the building.
During the winter months, customers will find a crackling fireplace just inside the door. Along with the fire, a pleasant greeting from Rodney or Lee makes one feel like they are sitting in a familiar place with old friends.
What the building lacks in insulation, it makes up for in contents. Walking from room to room, treasure hunters are lost in an exotic maze of costume jewelry, pottery, furniture, figurines, books, china and much more.
“We like all the oddities,” Lee said. “We also have a whole room of Depression glass.”
With more than 30 years in the business of rare and fascinating finds, the two have seen many treasures through the decades. When asked the most interesting item they’ve ever come across, the two deliver separate answers. Lee said she was intrigued when she stumbled across a muff made from real leopard. Rodney said while he has seen a lot of stuffed animal heads over the years, a bobcat head with broken teeth was a particularly neat find.
The couple stays busy at work and with family. They live about three blocks from the store and rotate work shifts during the day. They have four children, and their grandson often comes in to help out around the store.
“Without their help, we’d really be in a hardship,” Rodney said. “We are very grateful.”
The store’s location is a worthy endpoint in itself, with a window looking out to a picturesque view of the city. The shop is also a short stroll from Mr. P’s Deli and the Tip Top Grill. Rodney said he is happy to be in a community that feeds off one another, and he always looks forward to seeing who will walk through the door.
He hopes that visitors can find something new and different here, just like what he envisioned many years ago driving past the flower-covered mystery building.
“This is a destination place,” Rodney said. “The people are what make it for me.”