ELMORE, Ohio — Even from the outside, Mantiques in Elmore appears to be something unique. One step on the inside, and you remove all doubt.
This is not your average antique store.
"It's an antique store for men," Ernie Scarano the proprietor of this Elmore retail store said. "Men like visual things, and we give them plenty of eye candy".
That eye candy includes vintage military uniforms, hats, posters, old tools, antique radios and TVs.
Ernie said he's been collecting many of these items for much of his life, and quipped that he wanted to begin selling his unique collection of items before he died and his kids sold it at a yard sale.
Some of the items Ernie features are far beyond the average yard sale fare, many with historical significance and others with a gee-whiz factor that is hard to ignore. The latter includes a real working Tesla coil that Ernie built himself. It sits in the middle of the display room and actually shoots fingers of sparks through the air when the voltage gets cracked up; and yes, it is for sale.
"I turn it on every Saturday afternoon whether someone is in the store or not," Ernie said.
Other items that keep heads turning is a real .45 caliber sub-machine gun, like the gangsters of the 1930s used, but this one is a semi-automatic and not a full automatic, which make sit legal to sell. He also has an impressive collection of John Dillinger memorabilia including a framed display of the criminal's wanted poster and fingerprint card. In a glass case, he offers an original photo of bystanders studying the pool of blood left in the street at the spot where Dillinger was gunned down by federal agents in Chicago; that's for sale as well.
Most of the items in the former hardware store are for sale and prices run the gamut, from thousands of dollars for the more exotic and historic, to a couple of bucks for something like a glass telegraph pole insulator.
In the past, Ernie has offered and sold such gems as an original "Enigma" code breaking machine and a pair of underwear, worn by Adolph Hitler's mistress, Eva Braun. Scarano said he finally sold the iconic panties a few years ago to a museum.
When Scarano started Mantiques in downtown Elmore, it was just the second such "man-themed" antique store in the United States. Now, he said there are 17 such stores, with the same name, from coast to coast.
But, Scarano is also expanding his male-marketing reach by starting a whiskey distillery in Sandusky County. He brews and sells a colonial recipe of rye whiskey called "Old Homicide."
No, it is not your average antique store; more like a museum with price tags. It's the perfect place to find something for that special person who wants something — well, special.