BROOKSVILLE — Julia Werner and Tina Brown are savvy treasure hunters. The Spring Hill neighbors often get together on their days off from work to uncover antiques, trinkets and unusual decorative items. They heard Brooksville has a few hidden gems along the historic downtown corridor and ventured out to find them.
They made it as far as the corner of Broad Street and Brooksville Avenue, where they spotted a whimsical display of colorful yard ornaments, metal animals, windmills and other unique finds. They entered the Country Depot for the first time and were immediately intrigued.
The women share a passion for old style wares. “Anything that’s wrought iron or you can tell someone worked with their hands to build it,” said Werner.
Brown has a passion for wolves. And they found several interesting pieces among a strong sampling of just about everything imaginable, displayed throughout three comfortably arranged rooms.
“What I like about it is that there’s a lot going on but it doesn’t feel cluttered,” said Werner.
The Country Depot moved to the new location at 36 N. Broad St. a year ago. The building has a nostalgic past, having started as a Sinclair gas station in the late 1940s, said John Loetscher, who owns the business with Paula Frenette.
Loetscher said the shop gets customers from all over Florida who are looking for unusual, hard-to-find items. But he has also attracted people from elsewhere in the U.S. and beyond, from as far away as London. “They come in and leave with lots of my Confederate stuff,” he said.
Other items in the inventory include American flags, patriotic pieces, Trump hats and apparel, Harley Davidson merchandise, scented oils, CBD infused candy, wall hangings, seasonal items, jewelry, handbags, knickknacks and keepsakes.
And they are always replenishing the displays.
Loetscher was in the cleaning business before suffering four car accidents in three years that left him disabled. “I said, ‘You know what? I’m just going to have fun. I do this just to have fun.’ ”
It took him about three years to accumulate enough to fill the shop he originally opened on Jefferson Street. The new building seemed a better fit, with its nonstandard shape and ideal outside area, perfect for his creative displays.
Loetscher often attracts visitors who have business inside the nearby Hernando County Courthouse. They stroll across the street to check out his inviting outside arrangement, curious what else he has going on inside.
Like Jesse Stringer of Hudson, who stopped in to check out the Trump merchandise after leaving the courthouse.
“I like coming to downtown a lot,” he said. “It’s a pretty cool area. Typical small town USA.”
Loetscher has a talent for displaying his countless items in an inviting, comfortable way.
“I have a crowd that (the display) pulls in and then they discover everything else,” said Loetscher. “I’ve got your redneck cowboys and people who like fish. They all come in and discover the magic. We want it to be an experience,” he said.
The Country Depot is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. It also offers online shopping via its website.