About 35 years ago, Mary Von Bretzel and her husband, George, were happy to be allowed to squeeze a small store into what had been a storage room in the Lightner Museum’s antique mall.
Now the couple’s antique shop, A Second Time Around, is one of just three stores left in the mall.
By the end of the day Friday, those, too, will be gone.
Because of the dwindling popularity of the retail space and the desire to use the area for other purposes, the museum has decided to close the antique mall at the end of the week.
Robert Harper, director of the Lightner, said the museum has been looking at using the space for other purposes for years and this was the right time to do it, with so few shops currently operating.
“Financially … they don’t contribute much to the museum,” he said. “We just finally have decided to close them out to do some much-needed remodeling.”
Harper said some of the space will be used by Cafe Alcazar, which is located in the middle of the antique mall in what was originally the bottom of a swimming pool when the museum was the Alcazar Hotel — built in 1888 by Henry Flagler.
The museum will now have more space for events and can do some work to make the area compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“We just feel like it’s a better use for the space,” Harper said. “Our visitation (at the museum) is way up. There’s a lot more people coming to St. Augustine.”
Von Bretzel and the other tenants said they’re sorry to see the end of the antique mall.
They all have different plans. Von Bretzel said she’ll probably retire. It was getting harder for her to run the store by herself as her husband is 95.
“We’ve been here 35 years and loved every minute of it,” Von Bretzel said. “In a…