The Shrinking Garden

With aching back and heavy heart, Adam & Eve sell off some of Palm Beach County's finest junk

On the north side of the yard, split in half by 16th Street, sit piles of fountains made from faux coral rock. Iron gates lie tangled like thorn bushes. On the south side of the yard, rusting claw-foot tubs sit in rows near a collection of sinks that seems to stretch across an acre by itself. Nearby, ceramic toilet-paper holders fill plastic cauldrons in every color of pastel.

The mess may be deceiving: Things here are not Sanford and Son cheap. The piles of cypress doors, brass chandeliers hanging in the main warehouse, and gigantic planters outside run into the thousands of dollars. The British phone booth, standing proud with its fire-engine-red doors, is $8000 or best offer.

Many of the pieces also have signs of wear from sitting outside or being pulled out of an old house. Amid a chest-high pile of old tiles, Bailey Wharton wades through the chaos to find a set without cracks. She has driven an hour and a half from Vero Beach to find antique tile to match her bathroom; she ends up with a trunk full of tiles with teal and orange flowers for $2 each. "It's a good deal if you can find ones without boo-boos," she says, wiping off the dust from a few.

Sweat runs down the lines in McCarthy's face as he pauses to lean on a fountain cascading water down three levels. A thermometer behind him reads a few degrees above 100. Though he's only in his 40s, he says he's ready to give up working in the sun, especially since his car was rear-ended on I-95 in April. He's had a dull ache in his back ever since; even though he knows he shouldn't, he still finds himself lifting doors into customers' trucks. "It's that Protestant work ethic," he cracks.

He says he's planning to spend his retirement visiting the "seven wonders of the world" and taking trips to the Dominican Republic. "You wouldn't believe the things you can find down there," he says, betraying a lingering weakness for secondhand treasures. "They've got doors and bells that are centuries old."

Last week was the first time Adam & Eve's opened only on Saturday. Posvar worried how regular customers would take the news of the scale-back effort: Antiques dealers and contractors make up much of their business. Bill Martin, a West Palm contractor who has a master's degree in art history, says he's spent $30,000 at the salvage yard. He buys cabinets, sinks, and tiles to renovate old houses. "I've heard about them opening only on Saturdays. I guess it just means we'll all be down there on the same day rooting around for stuff."

Posvar promises that she won't be buying as many antiques until she's thinned out her herds of birdbaths. After that, well, she admits her workers might have time to do more salvage work. "It's not easy getting rid of this stuff," Posvar sighs, standing next to the Mar-a-Lago planter.

She proves the point a minute later after leaving the planter and stumbling upon a simple-looking pine cabinet tucked in the corner of the warehouse. She stops midsentence when spotting it. "Being in here, it's like a history lesson. We try to-- Oh my God! There it is!" she exclaims. "It's my filing cabinet. I wondered where it was. Thank God it's not sold." Like the planter, the cabinet doesn't have a price tag. Some of these things are simply not for sale.

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