Jim Amero's been selling antiques along with his favorite small town for 20 years
He holds no public relations or marketing degrees, but from his roost inside what a half century ago was Joe Scott's Drugstore and Pharmacy, Jim Amero touts the miraculous benefits of living in the greatest little small town in America.
Oh, yeah, he makes his living selling antiques in this corner building on the square. The establishment boasts a fab 15-foot-high ceiling and a groovy black-and-white ceramic tile floor and is crammed with everything old but for Aunt Aggie's kitchen sink.
Jim Amero's antique store at 312 Public Square in Watertown is open "eight days a week." Hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. He specializes in primitives, cabin and lodge décor, kitchen collectibles and antique toys. Phone: 237-1777.
For the past 20 years, ever since he drove into town near Thanksgiving of November 1996, Amero has been telling folks that this place is something special.
"There was a quaintness to it. A glistening frost lay on the ground, and it looked beautiful with all the lights. It gave off a vibe that got a hold of me. I just fell in love with the city and am grateful to have found it," said Amero, who made that initial trip to visit a friend in the antiques and design business.
The village's unofficial ambassador of good will also serves as trail boss over the twice-a-year Watertown Mile Long Yard Sale, a role he has filled for 15 years.
Currently, some of the neato items for sale in Jim's Antiques include cast andirons, a late 1800s waffle maker, a corner cupboard that served as décor in an episode of the TV show "Nashville,"
an orange 1940s Huffy girl's bicycle, a 1978 wizard in a van vinyl lunchbox, a box of vintage ice skates, a lobster trap, a Native-American Maine papoose basket and a small collection of Pez containers.
Right now, the most expensive object for sale in the shop is a cream-green Detroit Jewel gas stove, priced at $300, while the least inexpensive items are cans of Moxie soft drinks at $1 a pop. (Hint: Unless you grew up in Maine, forget a taste test.)
Born in Lewiston, Maine, in 1947, Amero inherited his passion for things from the past from his father.
"We used to go with our dad to dumps on Sundays and target practice on the rats, and we would find old radios and lamps which he would take down to the basement and repair for use at home," he recollected.
After three years in the Army, the Vietnam War veteran worked as an assistant librarian, a bookmobile driver, drove a route for a fruit and produce company and made telephone sales for a meat company.
It was after he was nearly killed when a forklift tipped over on him that Amero moseyed into the antique business, opening Smiling Dog Antiques in Wilton, Maine.
But that was then.
Today, he lives in a small white house on Main Street with Mary Craig, his soul mate of the past 16 years.
"We met when she was lost in Watertown looking to meet a friend at Depot Café," said Amero. "She struck me as a person I wanted to know more about, and I invited her to the Watertown Jazz Festival, and she came."
And she stayed.
Every summer, the couple makes the annual 2,800-mile round trip to his daughter's house in Jay, Maine, and Amero is buying and selling the whole way.
The Wilson Post posed a few questions to the gentleman who operates what amounts to Watertown's not-so-old curiosity shop, and he responded.
Your favorite Christmas toy as a child?
"A toy steam engine that worked. I got it when I was 10."
Coolest car you ever owned?
"A 1941 Chevy club coupe that I found in a barnyard. I bought it for $200, kept it a month and sold it for $1,000. I cringe every time I see it when I go back to Maine because it's a bright, cherry-red street rod."
The craziest thing you ever bought?
"A 4-foot wooden dragon found buried in mud under a house in Statesville. As hard as I tried, I could not sell it, so I swapped it."
Five most famous people you met in Watertown?
"Lindsey Wagner, Garth Brooks, Justin Bieber, Darius Rucker, Tim McGraw."
Most famous people met out of town?
"Stephen King, Martha Stewart, Penny Marshall."
Oldest item in your shop?
"A circa 1885 Victorian couch and two chairs."
Tell us about several of the best deals you've made.
"I bought a 10-foot wooden-plank bobsled that had a steering wheel and could hold 10 people for $50 in a shop in Maine and sold it for $300.
"Once I bought a hundred wooden lobster crates in Maine for $5 each and sold them along the Atlantic coast driving back to Tennessee for upwards of $40 apiece.
"I bought a Texaco gas pump for $50 and a week later sold it for $300. It took five men to get it into the back of a woman's hatchback car and the rear of the car was almost touching ground."
Were you ever into collecting anything?
"I have it in the shop. I like advertising signs, lunchboxes and toys, and when they're gone, I'll start collecting something else."
Writer Ken Beck may be contacted at email@example.com.