Cecil's Emporium puts fresh twist on antiques in Parrish

PARRISH -- It seems every antique at Cecil's Emporium has a story.

Learning those stories, and sharing them with customers may be as much fun for the owners as finding the antique in the first place, whether at an auction, a pick or a consignment.

Asked about a huge, gleaming contraption with legs along one wall, owner Rob Kolanowski teases that it is the Wimbledon trophy, before it was downsized to modern proportions.

But he quickly corrects the record.

It's a gravity-fed coal-fired stove, made by the Globe Co. in Kokomo, Ind., between 1878 and 1890, he said.

Kolanowski knows there is little demand for coal stoves in Florida, but he likes the look of it. "I hope it never sells," he said.

Rob and Becky Kolanowski and their partner, Jim Smith, opened Cecil's Emporium in January, at 12348 U.S. 301 N., opposite the Florida Railroad Museum, where Thomas the Tank Engine was providing rides for children this past weekend.

Appropriately, Cecil's Emporium has a room devoted to model train memorabilia. Elsewhere, the eclectic shop seems to have a little of everything from framed vintage advertising, to sports collectibles, circus posters, post cards, tea cups, oriental lacquer ware, Victorian-era furniture, stamps and even Beatles stuff.

"We were pickers before picking was cool," said Rob Kolanowski of a lifelong passion for finding treasures in old barns and other out-of-the-way places.

Cecil's Emporium also displays "fire-breathing" dragons and a plane propeller artfully displayed.

"The goal was to have something different, to turn everything we had seen on its head," Kolanowski said. "I like to put things in places they don't belong, and to make them look good there."

"I tell the people when they come in, pickup stuff and look at it. It's not a sterile environment," he said.

Smith and Rob Kolanowski are longtime buyers of antiques and collectibles, and know that having a nice piece for sale with

out a little background is unacceptable.

"I know the history of every piece. I take the time to learn where every item came from. When people buy something, they want to know the story," he said.

From day to day, Cecil's Emporium never looks the same. The owners are constantly selling items, rearranging displays, and adding new pieces.

"We can basically find anything that you're looking for," Becky Kolanowski said.

So, why is the business called Cecil's Emporium?

"That's another story," Rob Kolanowski said. "Cecil was Jim Smith's mother's nickname, and she's the one who got him into this business."

Cecil's Emporium is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and other days by appointment. For information, call 941-479-7817 or visit

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted by calling 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.