Ephemera, yard art, antiques. Call it what you will but definitely call the collection fascinating and the quantities copious at Buddha & Beads, a shop on Route 6 in Eastham with another location nearby in North Chatham. Owners Betsy Pelletier and Bob Finan have a fondness for weird stuff, which means you’ll be amused and delighted at what you can find there. Not long ago a collector from Connecticut came in and snapped up a pair of child’s wood and leather prosthetic legs, circa 1890, which had come out of an old house on the Cape. The find was so rare, Betsy said, it most likely will be many years before the legs are on the market again.
As with many hobbyist collectors-turned-dealers, the stuff Bob began collecting 30 years ago quickly began to overwhelm the space he and Betsy had designated for it. Originally he focused on buying old advertising, from paper pamphlets to store displays. Eventually a friend suggested Bob try to download some of his finds at Brimfield, the behemoth three-times-each-year antiques fair in south central Massachusetts. From that point on, Betsy says, Bob was hooked. She joined him in the business when they opened the Eastham shop in 2009. The Chatham location was launched in 2013.
Initially Betsy and Bob stocked their store with Buddha statuary and almost 900 pounds of beads, and so the name Buddha & Beads became a natural description. They still carry plenty of both, but over time they developed a fondness for yard art, which now is evident in the overflow of charmingly-rusted metal garden benches, planters, trellises, fanciful bird cages, carved wooden mermaids and decorative animals and flowers that spill beyond Buddha & Beads’ doors onto the lawn in front and into a space alongside the shop. The inventory is accumulated by buying outright from people who bring interesting things into the shop (they don’t take consignments). New items are sourced during their winter travels to Tucson and Los Angeles, and a friend does some buying for them in Asia and Mexico.
Betsy and Bob’s daughter Abby grew up traveling with them as they visited antique shows around the country. Now a young adult and corporate refugee, in the summer of 2013 she joined the family business at the Eastham shop. Her smiling presence and youthful enthusiasm were evident every time I visited. “She has great ideas that are going to make Buddha & Beads more interesting,” said her proud mom.
This is a “please touch” rather than a “hands off” antiques emporium. “The store is set up so families can come in and parents don’t have to worry about what the kids are touching,” said Betsy. “We traveled a lot when our daughter was young, and the worst feeling was entering a shop and hearing the owner gasp because we had a child with us. We vowed never to have a shop that a child could not enjoy.”
Anyone who has attended as many auctions, antiques markets and house sales as Betsy and Bob has seen a lot of interesting stuff. So what have they bought that they find impossible to part with? Not surprisingly, whale’s teeth and old Cape Cod souvenirs, because the supply of good-quality specimens is dwindling.
I’ll be at the head of the line if and when Betsy and Bob decide to sell off their eclectic collection of Cape Cod antiques.
(Photographs: Betsy Pelletier and Bob Finan)