Darby’s Emporium claims to offer million collectibles

NORTH LIMA – A small chunk of a meteorite, piece of glass from the first atomic bomb test site in Alamagordo, NM, petrified dinosaur droppings or just your everyday desert rose (sand hit by lightning).

All these items can be found at Mr. Darby’s Antique and Collectible Emporium at 11734 South Ave. Ext. in North Lima, and the question becomes not “What do you have?” but “What don’t you have?”

Robert Neapolitan, who owns the store with his mother, Alma, said there’s over a million items on display in the former Giant Eagle store’s 21,000 square feet of showroom space.

“We probably have over a million items in the store and support 88 vendors who bring in items to sell by renting booths.”

A small yellow flyer says, “Prepare yourself for the best shopping experience.”

Neapolitan said a million items is very much an under estimate.”

Mr. Darby’s – the name comes from “prim and proper” gentleman Neapolitan met at a Canfield estate sale – is a place you can get lost in.

Eighty-eight vendors share the facility and auctions, every second Saturday at 12:30 p.m., draw big crowds.

On March 22-23 Mr. Darby’s is holding a “spring has sprung” event with free refreshments and soft drinks.

“They actually start parking on the grass at 12:30 p.m. on auction days,” he said.

“It’s kind of neat … all the people come in and … (then) what they buy.”

Auctions go about three hours long.

“We could go six,” Neapolitan said, “we always run out of time … never product.”

Not with over a million items on the site.

Neapolitan has eight to 10 auction experts “who really, really know their stuff” and one glassware expert who has auctioned pieces valued at over $400,000.

“He’s one of the top auctioneers in the state,” Neapolitan said.

No buyer’s premium is charged so the 10 to 20 percent other auctions take can go to more sales.

“What you bid is what you pay,” he said, “we don’t charge for credit cards either. Buyers have an extra 10 to 14 percent to spend.”

It really is almost a “you name it, it’s here” store and vendors vary widely in what they offer. A U.S. Army Special Forces dress green coat? Check. Rare, unusual pop bottles? Novelty beer bottles? Antique jewelry? Check, check, check. And old, coal burning furnace? Check. Paintings?

“We’re one of the best antique jewelry dealers in the tri-state area,” he said while pointing to a number of artist Clyde Singer original works in the store.

They opened on a whim and it has become a success in less than a year. Neapolitan said he wanted an egg McMuffin one morning and had to drive past the empty Giant Eagle building to get there.

Returning, he pulled into the lot and began looking around. It was 3 a.m. and the police showed up, put him in the back of the cruiser.

He was driving a red Mazda Miata and wondered how much he could load into it if he was stealing.

His wife, Karen, called and things were straightened out and a deal was made for the building but two days before opening in November of 2012, thieves got the copper from the ceiling furnaces.

Don’t say the words “flea market” around Neapolitan.

“That’s a four-letter word,” he said. “We have quality items not the stuff people want to dump.”

He was asked, “Is there anything you don’t have?”

His reply, “Probably not. That’s the neat thing about it … we always liked collecting … the business is about the hunt and the neat stuff you find.

“People aren’t sure of what they have … you investigate and find you have a gold mine and we try to pay a fair price.”

He picks up a small stack of curled-up black and white photos. Women boxers in abbreviated boxing wear going back to … who knows? No identity information and few clues. Neapolitan, a photographer for 27 years, is up for the challenge and said he’ll dig into it, adding they run into a lot of “underground stuff.”

“We clean houses, but we’re different than auction houses. We’re able to get the better stuff and put it in the store on consignment, or in our auction gallery.”

He added, “It seems like every day you get your next unusual item.”

Next door is the area’s only organic greenhouse, a story on its own, he said and Mr. Darby’s is a Miss Mustard Seed Milk Plant vendor carrying the complete line and holding classes.

The store also sells old pop (nostalgia brands) and candies like Mallow Cups, Skybars and Bonomo’s taffy, along with Frostie Root Beer. The list is big.

Alma said, “The people come in here and spend two to three hours. It’s a good socializing place.”

“Who else could say that their business started in the back seat of a police car like Mr. Darby’s did,” Neapolitan said.

Mr. Darby’s is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and closed on all five major holidays.

For more information, call 234-759-3553 or visit Facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/Mrdarbys.