The word “Oddities” appears vertically on the side of a weathered red brick structure on south Broadway in Denver, the area well-known to antique seekers. Inside, the displayed “oddities” fill 15,000 square feet of showroom space in EurAsian Interiors, a retail store owned by Rusty Staff. To say the collection is eclectic would be an understatement. Fine European furniture, free-form wood coffee tables and porcelain vases share company with Buddhist thrones, tribal ancestor figures, Chinese cabinets, Gabbeh and Kazak rugs and Japanese kimonos.
Staff relates that his business “…is kinda a product of Sept. 11 in a roundabout way. I had a soft-adventure travel company severely impacted by 9/11. So I looked into importing.” Calling himself “an accidental retailer,” he opened his Boulder store in 2003. A brief partnership with Stuart Buchanan Antiques led to the Denver location where Staff assumed ownership (after Buchanan moved to Europe) of the company. An added personnel bonus was the two young craftsmen working at the facility, plying their magic on pieces that had been used, misused, or even abused.
Yury Kaldabtcov, from Belarus, was a martial arts instructor there. He relates, “I started to work in Israel learning wood-working and using power tools. My friend was working in an antique store doing restoration, so I joined the crew.” That was in 2004, when he arrived in Colorado.
Tomasz Dombrowski plied his trade in Krakow, Poland. “I used to work in old castles and cathedrals doing restoration. I fixed frescos, and did gilding on carved plaster frames,” he says. “I reconstructed portals around windows. The work was mostly architectural. A man in Chicago had a great restoration business and he applied for a working visa for me to come to the U.S. I was in Chicago three years.”
A vacation brought Dombrowski to Colorado, and as often happens, “I fell in love with it. I love to be outdoors.” Fate then brought the two together. Dombrowski relates, “Yury and I met at the antiques store. He does more wood-working, structural work. I do finishes, gilding, piecing together porcelain artifacts.” When I remarked that this sounded a lot like archeology, his eyes brightened and he said, “Yes! I do like archeology, and I had to decide which way I wanted to go!” Collectors of fine antiques are pleased that he chose this field of work.
While the showrooms are filled with a vast array of beautifully finished furnishings, a brief tour of the work and storage space downstairs reveals the raw underbelly of the antiques world. Here are the pieces waiting for the craftsmen to do their magic. Broken wooden beams lean against a wall, and dusty cabinets with unhinged doors stand not-so-proudly, reflections of a hard existence. There are tables and chairs with legs askew, finishes scratched and chipped. Yury sees the potential in those rough-looking pieces of wood. With his expertise in the structural side, he does the re-gluing, reconstructing of legs and supports, and cleans off old varnishes and paints. He relates, “I like to explore what’s underneath the painted-over finishes.”
Kaldabtcov was ready to leave this business after a couple of years, but Dombrowski changed that. “He was an inspiration for me,” he says. Dombrowski convinced Kaldabtcov that there was much more to learn, so the two have melded into a fine tuned example of team work. Kaldabtcov points out a chest that he has worked on, revealing its original finish and now ready for Dombrowski to bring back to life. “We try to save the original finish, and avoid re-finishing, sticking to the original work as much as possible,” says Dombrowski. The goal is not to make a piece look like new, but to take it back to its former glory. This becomes a great challenge when what looks like wood grains are originally painted on. A sad-looking wood and leather sofa will soon be restored to beauty. Kaldabtcov will repair the broken ornamental wood, and Dombrowski will recondition the leather to a supple sheen. A great team indeed.
When customers select cabinets or tables for their homes, they can make requests for certain colors and finishes or ask that doors be removed and shelves added, for example. Kaldabtcov and Dombrowski make this happen. They can even duplicate pieces in the event that a client would want a matching set. Dombrowski smiles and proudly states, “Nothing is impossible!” They have a great respect for the antiques they restore, for the artistry that went into creating them, and they hope that customers feel the same. Kaldabtcov says, “If you have a beautiful house and you are willing to have beautiful things, you should learn—get to know what’s good.”
Staff reports that, “We are going to be bringing in our first container of inventory from China in July—the first in the last 1 ½ years.” Kaldabtcov and Dombrowski light up at the mention of this, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to work on precious artifacts.
1787 S. Broadway, Denver
Open daily, 10:30a.m.-6p.m.
Joy Lawrance writes frequently for the family of New West Publishing magazines. She has written travel articles for major newspapers around the country as well as Cruise Travel magazine.