A purchase of fine antiques from Hearst Castle warehouses launched a lifetime of collecting
Highway 1 cuts a winding path amidst lush coastal hills that roll up from the sea to picturesque peaks, with Hearst Castle spearing towards the sky, reminding one of a much different time. Cambria lies nine miles down the road, and at 4111 Bridge Street right off Main, you’ll knock to find 87-year-old Jim Evans welcoming you into his home at Evans & Gerst Antiques.
The antique shop, which was established in 1974, originally was located in Los Angeles and Long Beach for 26 years, its only fitting that the shop and it’s owner now reside just down the road from where it all began.
“I was just out of college when my father died and I came home from school to run the ranch,” said Evans who studied art in college. “I got a job at the warehouses at Hearst’s castle as a supplementary thing.”
“I was just a load-bearer,” Evans said of his work at Hearst Castle – a load bearer with an eye for art. There he would purchase a collection of fine antiques from Hearst castle with his good friend Tom Gerst, which would be the cornerstone of their business for the next 44 years.
“Oh, I think the past is fascinating, we can learn from it. Some marvelous things were hand-made, and you sort of get to see the personalities in the people who designed or made them,” said Evans who is partial to Renaissance pieces.
While the shop embraces the small-town atmosphere of Cambria, it offers antiques from all over the world, a collection built largely from European estates. “There are some local purchasers but primary people are coming in from out of town to buy. People coming from L.A. and San Francisco,” said Evans. “Those have been our best customers, some of them have been coming for years.”
“Meeting fascinating people,” is Evans favorite part of the business. “You learn about things they like and the stories they have to tell. Collectors are fascinating.”
Over the year Evans has enjoyed the surprise of what will attract people, saying he’s learned never to try to guess, and that the people you least suspect often have the greatest interest.
“Everything has a story. The antique business has changed, in that it’s less popular with the young people than it used to be. People used to start collecting things and they are less apt to now, they don’t want to have a lot of stuff around. So it’s changing, their tastes have changed,” said Evans who has watched generations come in and out of the shop he and his late friend Gerst created, never leaving without something of value, whether that be antiques or stories.
For one who has spent a lifetime tracking down the finest pieces around the world, Evans is remarkably un-materialistic. “Oh, the antiques become yours and you enjoy them for the time you have them and then they’ve got to move on. I live right among them in the meantime, I really enjoy that.”
While people travel up and down the coast to peek at the furniture, and fixtures, the art, and accents artfully arranged – the real treasure trove may be Evans himself.
“Oh golly, it’s fun, because you buy the things that you like. And you realize you’re not going to be around to enjoy them forever, so you hope they move on to other people. You never really own things, you’re a custodian.”
Evans and Gerst Antiques is located at 4111 Bridge Street, off Main Street, in Cambria, CA. Call ahead at (805) 927-7301.
– By Katie Marchetti