Cookie jars and cocktail shakers in Lake Worth. Beer steins in Pompano Beach. Meat grinders in Lantana. When it comes to collections, many of us are inspired by the kitchen.
I'm an emotional collector, drawn to culinary things that remind me of people and places I love. I'm attracted to anything kitchen or food related. It's an industry hazard, fueled by an excuse to one day use it as a prop for a photo shoot. But, I think it also stems from my grandmother Della, who was an avid collector. I do believe it's hereditary.
Collectibles provide a way to reconnect with the past. Since the kitchen tends to be the heart and soul of the home, fond memories of the gathering places where our mothers and grandmothers prepared nourishing meals can be relived with the touch of a well-worn wooden rolling pin or a smooth cast iron skillet.
Meet four South Florida kitchen-related collectors.
Christopher Collins, owner George's Meat Market
The collection: Meat grinders
On display at: George's Meat Market, 125 South 3rd St., Lantana, 561-585-2990
Size of collection: 110, plus more in a box in the back room.
Origin of collection: George Collins opened his namesake meat market in its current location in 1960. Throughout his career as a butcher, salesmen would bring grinders to Collins as gifts. He started to display them and customers soon followed suit, donating grinders found at flea markets or yard sales. In 2005, George’s grandson, Christopher took over the business before George passed away.
Favorite piece in collection: "There are a few cherry pitters and cheese grinders mixed in the collection too but somewhere up there is one grinder that is over 100 years-old," says Collins.
Charlie Crawford, owner White Apron Catering
The collection: Cookie jars
On display at: White Apron Catering, 1710 N. Dixie Highway, Lake Worth 561-585-2985, WhiteApron.org
Size of collection: about 30
Origin of collection: "I picked up a funny yellow mouse 20 years ago," says Crawford. "He was demonic looking because he was so silly looking, almost too happy. That was my first one and it just grew from there."
Favorite piece in collection: "My most sentimental piece is a gingerbread house. My grandmother had one just like it. I always think of her when I see it. I remember going to her house and getting cookies out of it. But my favorite piece, I picked up at a museum in Chicago during a Jeff Koons show. It reminded me of something he might do. It’s a rabbit by a Japanese artist named Momoyo Torimitsu."
Russell Hibbard, owner Bamboo Room
The collection: Cocktail shakers
On display at: Bamboo Room, 25 South J St., Lake Worth, 561-585-2583, BambooRoomBlues.com
Size of collection: 800 at Bamboo Room, 180 at Hibbard’s home and another 200 in storage.
Origin of collection: "When I was 18 or 19, there were still great cocktail lounges around with guys in starched white shirts and ties serving classic cocktails," says Hibbard. "I thought it was cool and sophisticated to make a perfect Manhattan, negroni or a gin martini served in a cocktail cup. That’s how I became interested. Years ago, as a designer, I was on the road traveling a lot. I'd limit myself to a $100 budget a week and come home with my trunk full. I'm a thrift store junkie and picked them up for $1 and $2 and just kept accumulating them. My wife picks them up too. We have a tradition whenever we get a new shaker. We bring it home, clean it and inaugurate it with a cocktail before displaying it."
Favorite piece in collection: "That’s like asking me who my favorite musician is! I have a beautiful one by Lalique. I found it in a church thrift store, not knowing they even made shakers. Then twenty years later I found the same one in another church thrift store. The showiest shakers are probably a set I have from West Virginia glass company that are clear, frosted and ruby and in the shape of a lady’s leg wearing a chrome high heel shoe. I have a tall glass skyscraper by Lurelle Guild that I call my kamikaze machine. It makes the perfect drink."
Mathew Moore, owner Checkers Old Munchen restaurant
The collection: Beer steins
On display at: Checkers Old Munchen, 2209 E. Atlantic Blvd., Pompano Beach, 954-785-7565, CheckersOldMunchen.com
Size of collection: About 80
Origin of collection: When Moore took over Checkers from his brother Bill Sand in 2006, a collection of 50 beer steins came with the restaurant. Their uncle, Detlef Neumann, who started the restaurant in 1982, brought the steins from Germany. Moore’s since added another 30 or so steins.
Favorite piece in collection: "Years ago, I had an artist paint a mural on the back wall at the restaurant," says Moore. "He brought in a stein that belonged to his father that he used for inspiration. It was a famous German castle called Neuschwanstein. It was beautiful, I had to buy it, it's probably at least 80 years old. I found out later that Walt Disney based the design of Magic Kingdom on Neuschwanstein.
"We offer a tasting tour of 30 different German beers that we serve in 1-liter boots. Once you complete the entire tour your name is placed on a plaque under the stein of your choice, which becomes your own personal stein. I love that we collect the steins and we use them."