Bea and Joe Bryant have been collecting together since the 1960s. It started with the stoves. The couple began taking in a few cast iron cooking and parlor stoves in need of repair, refurbishing them, then selling them. It wasn’t until a Vermont man had hundreds of stoves that he wanted to get rid of that the hobby became a full-fledged business.
The stoves, along with antique cars, dolls, and musical instruments, make up the Bryant Stove & Music in Thorndike, Maine. The shop ships stoves to homes and business across the country, but some of the couple’s more ornate stoves have been set aside for the shop’s stove museum.
“Every one of them is excessively fancy,” Joe said in a 2016 interview with the Bangor Daily News. Some of the stoves date back to the 1800s.
The couple’s love of collecting has caused the business to branch out from its humble stove beginnings. Joe’s love of restored cars and musical instruments also shows throughout the space, with a 1926 Ford Model T on display as well as drums, organs, and an antique Wurlitzer that visitors are encouraged to fire up.
But perhaps the most surprising addition to the stove shop is the doll circus. Bea’s love of doll collecting meant the couple had more than a few dolls around. That’s when they had the idea of making a doll circus featuring a carousel that stands as a centerpiece of their doll collection. A Ferris wheel soon followed.
Over time the stove emporium has become an eclectic and fascinating repository of the couple’s unique collectibles. It’s all part of a larger philosophy that Bea shared in the interview: “Just because things are new doesn’t make them better.”
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