Story and photos by Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Admiralty House Antiques, the North Admiral shop that’s been open a day here, a day there, for many of its 40-plus years, opens for three final – and consecutive! – days starting tomorrow.
It’s the liquidation sale we first told you about three weeks ago.
Owner Fred Dau (above) says that at 97 years old, “I’ve worked long enough, I thought I didn’t need to go do more work.”
But what really forced the decision was the death of his wife Marjorie, the day after Christmas last year. “That stopped it all, anyhow.”
Admiralty House’s classic brick storefront is still full of what truly qualifies for some of those classic terms – knickknacks, bric-a-brac, trinkets, memorabilia.
Some of it, says Chris Foss, whose Foss Estate Sales is handling the liquidation sale, has likely never been out as inventory before.
Fred told us during a recent interview in the shop that a few special things are not for sale, though.
On the ledge for the little windows over the storefront are bottles. “My wife and I collected them, and a lot of them just came in and went up there. Some people brought us bottles as gifts.”
Fred drew a lot of community affection, we noticed while talking with him. Just in the short span of our conversation, two people poked their heads in the door – noticing he was there – and wished him well. One was a neighbor insisting on a hug.
“You’re looking wonderful,” Fred and the neighbor tell each other. After a few minutes, she takes her leave, saying she just wanted to let him know that “you’ve been a very good neighbor.”
Neighborliness is something Fred says he has long appreciated – and, with his wife, practiced: “We kind of worked with the idea that we would try to help anybody if we could … and it was all fun.”
He hasn’t been an antique-store owner/co-owner for his entire long life, though. He taught for more than 20 years at Denny (now International) Middle School, starting in industrial arts such as wood shop, Then, Fred says, a new principal arrived after a decade or so, and asked him to come work in the office as an administrator.
But even that wasn’t his first career. He was born in Lewiston, Idaho, and in young adulthood, he says, his jobs included farm work, raising cattle.
“I made money on some things, lost my butt on others, just kept going, got over here and I liked it,” he recalls. “Met a great amount of wonderful people. Never ran out of people that were wonderful.”
He says that often. If you fear your older years might lend themselves to crabbiness and bitterness – take Fred Dau as an example that it doesn’t have to be that way. We lost count of how many times he spoke during our interview of “wonderful, wonderful people.” And his memories of “the store and the friendships” are all positive too.
When you visit Admiralty House during the sale Friday-Sunday, look up as well as around. Fred’s memories stretched to rows of nails that protrude from the rafters – something we hadn’t noticed until he called attention to them. They all used to have things hanging from them, he says. And for as many items as could be found crammed into the store, he had customers, he remembers: “We always had a coffee pot going back there … we had just a lot of fun … they were all really good friends. Super people.”
OK, there was one not-so-super memory that he volunteers without us asking. “I only recall one person getting kicked out of the building. A guy came in drunk and put his old sewing machine on the counter. Broke the glass.”
Any secrets in the Admiralty House, something nobody has seen until now? we ask.
“No secrets,” insists Fred. “We never kept secrets. I’m a straight shooter … because that’s the only way a farmer walked … and I did that for years.”
Compared to the countryside where he worked as a farmer, though, Fred insists West Seattle is where he’ll live out his remaining years: “A lovely place. I love it.”
So once “every available item,” as sale manager/presenter Chris Foss put it, is sold over the next three days, what happens to the building?
It’s going up for sale, says Fred, who hopes to sell it “as quick as we can.”
Then he is “probably just going to sit down in my spot looking out over the beautiful water.”
Before we said goodbye to Fred, we asked Chris for a few more points about the sale. He notes that even those who have been to the shop will “definitely see things they haven’t seen before – things they never had out before, never got around to pricing.”
The web page for the sale describes it as “a little bit of everything.” Go there to see photos, and a list of some of the types of merchandise available. The sale runs 8 am-4 pm Friday, 9 am-4 pm Saturday and Sunday, at 2141 California SW.
Fred is such a positive guy, he makes a point of also speaking fondly of Chris, who at the time is standing a few feet away in the store where he already had been working for days to get ready: “I have a good man who’s going to do a good job getting this out of here.”