“Step right up to the greatest show/shop on earth!” With the demise of the Ringling Brother’s Barnum and Bailey Circus, a sad departure of an era for we locals proud of our roots, there are options to purchase its memorabilia at Circus City Architectural Salvage.
Amazing posters, programs, and authentic circus props line the walls and aisles of this eclectic salvage shop. My favorite was the Ringling Brothers headdress for $2,500…but more in my budget were some bangles in a box for a mere dollar. An iron mermaid and a god of the sea door knocker for under $10.
Aside from the circus offerings, I urge everyone to ‘step right up’ and visit this truly amazing collection of upcycled, recycled, repurposed items that will add interesting elements to any space. Popular with interior designers, restaurant owners, tourists and new home owners, there is no doubt something for everyone. Furniture, lighting, stained glass, wall décor, tons of garden art, a whole section of nautical, coastal creations…down to glass door knobs and door knockers, vinyl records and glassware, you’ll be hard pressed not to find something that tickles your fancy.
I was particularly drawn to the furniture. Like the table made of a Lucite base and a driftwood top. Or the bar with the old Chevy truck front as a base.
Owner Greg Pemberton moved to Sarasota from Virginia in 2010 and he restored an old bank. He had his eye on his current historical warehouse on the corner of Central and 10th St. in downtown Sarasota. He researched names and discovered there wasn’t one business named “Circus City something” in this town…”the name just popped into my head,” he said. He then opened its doors in 2013 and business has doubled. As he travels here and there for his architectural treasures, and he sends out “pickers,” the inventory changes daily. And several local craftsmen build furniture from the finds.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but at the end of the day, we just wanna have fun,” Greg said.
In addition to the colorful collections and ambience in this warehouse, my experience with Greg was just as delightful and muse-inspiring. He used to be a stand up comedian in New York, invited to audition for Saturday Night Live and hanging out with the crew. He’s a jokester alright, and will dress the part with his red and white-striped blazer, black top hat and a beer in his hand. Ask him to share his personal stories – whether of comedy – or his adventures in architectural salvage. Or the story behind the pieces you pick out. It might surprise you, and if not, bring a smile to your face.
“My grandfather had seven acres of junk, so I grew up around this,” Greg said of his early fascination for finding and saving stuff. “I used to walk the railroad tracks looking for treasures.”
He later worked in Ecuador in archaeology but his main business as he grew older was salvaging and restoring old architectural structures. He says,” Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve saved something.”
How does he choose what will sell? He gets out in the community, studies style trends and packs his warehouse with ‘stuff that looks cool.” He says while industrial chic is on its way out, mid-century modern is very desirable, and coastal and nautical, in this area, are always popular. You’ll find plenty of items with turquoise and sea foam green accents for that coastal condo or new home that could use items of unique interest.
“I love coming to work every day,” Greg says. “People leave here smiling and laughing.” And for this architectural salvage expert/stand-up comedian, that’s what matters.
Circus City Architectural Salvage is located at 1001 Central Avenue, Sarasota. Call 941-866-2500 or visit the website at www.circuscitysalvage.com.
Photos by Patti Pearson