by Mary Jo David
How many people are fortunate enough to turn their passion into a business? Jerry Bee—owner of Antiques Drive-In, located at 214 South Center in Stockbridge—is one of those fortunate few. He and store manager James Aslanian have put their stamp on a little corner of Stockbridge that features time-honored antiques infused with old-time car culture.
On July 19, 2019, the Stockbridge Chamber of Commerce officially recognized Antiques Drive-In, one of downtown Stockbridge’s newest businesses, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house.
Jerry and James are at their best when they’re showing off their eclectic collection of rat-rod castoffs that Jerry has meticulously transformed into office furniture, or the timeworn home furnishings that James has lovingly brought back to life using vibrant paint colors and coordinating fabrics, or the clocks—LOTS of hubcaps-turned-clocks!
If it could talk, the Chevy Apache frontend Jerry used to build the computer desk in the main showroom would probably weave a tale that included many twists and turns along the way. Jerry and James can both do the same about their own winding lives. Jerry would tell about his 20+ year career with Costco and the stint he did at a car dealership, all the while finding time to collect and transform old car parts that have surpassed their “use by” date. And it’s evident that the many years James spent as an incredible pastry chef have informed his creativity and his flair for customer service.
Antiques Drive-In culminated from years in the consignment business. Jerry credits a business partnership with Kim Hytinen at Roost & Company, a consignment shop in Howell, for building his confidence and helping him to firmly establish a foothold in the business of creating rat-rod furniture and knick-knacks. A booth in Ferndale’s Rust Belt Market boosted their exposure, which eventually led to an invitation for Jerry to show his work in the “Diamonds in the Rust” exhibit at the San Diego Art Museum for six months during 2018.
Both men talk about how their families have influenced them when it comes to antiques. James’s Dad is actively involved in the business as one of their “pickers,” regularly showing up with a delivery of old hubcaps, antique doors, or other surprises. Jerry’s parents are both gone now, but he likes to reminisce about them when he’s working.
“These are the kinds of cars I can picture my Dad working on,” Jerry said. “When I’m turning an old Chevy or Ford into a desk or a bar, I feel like my parents are right here with me.”
Jerry and James are excited about the space they have in their new mid-century-modern location. Jerry recently bought the building that—for those with long histories in Stockbridge—was Dr. Beckwith’s old offices. Their challenge now is to draw people into their shop on Center Street—a block or so off the beaten path, but definitely worth the extra steps. Once inside Antiques Drive-In, you’re bound to be smitten with something in the collection, as evidenced by the first customer who walked in the store on the day it opened and walked out the proud owner of one of Jerry’s rat-rod desk creations.
Columnist Mary Jo David is a long-time writer and editor who moved to Gregory in 2018. She and her husband are enjoying life in the country, including the Stockbridge Community News.