By JIMMY PETERS
Arcadian Hometown Editor
I’m not surprised anymore at the talented and accomplished people I have the privilege of interviewing for this Hometown column. For instance, there’s an Arcadia woman who owns a downtown antique shop. In another life she was a world-champion bowler, was once in charge of the prosthetic department at the VA hospital in Miami, the place where limbs are restored to military veterans.
Her name is Algie Didlaukies. She and her husband Wolf own Glass, Antique or Not at 127 West Oak right here in Arcadia.
Long long ago in a town far far away at the ripe old age of 14, little Algie was sitting on the barn roof, saying to herself, “I’m gonna leave this town and never come back.”
Thirty-nine moves and 69 years later, Algie, now 83, sits in her Arcadia shop: “I’m living in a town much like the one I first left ... and I love it.” She would marry an army officer, live all over the world, and raise six children.
Algie was once an accomplished bowler, winning a gold medal in The World Games, sports not in the Olympics. A short time later she took a fall and injured her spine. This ended bowling and began her career in antiques. She started selling Depression glass out of her home some 38 years ago. She read everything she could get her hands on relating to it; her library now holding 600 books on porcelain and glass. She met an expert on antique glass, Gene Florence, and learned a great deal from him.
At the same time Algie was working in Miami for the U.S. Veterans Affairs Administration. She recalled Wolf coming to her one day and saying, “I’m tired of driving the I-95 corridor and running over bathtubs and box springs, we need to look for somewhere else to live.”
That’s how the pair came to Arcadia.
Algie opened her downtown shop in 2004. Walking in you are surrounded by neat shelves of rare salt shakers to one-of-a-kind punchbowls. When she comes in contact with a piece of antique glass, Algie wants to know its origin and the value. If asked to purchase an item, she does her research, discloses the value, and the amount she will pay. Honesty is her policy.
The couple also has a large collection of Mid-century Heywood-Wakefield furniture. Wolf inspects each piece, makes repairs so that it is functional. There is a section of the shop that features plants that Wolf has raised in greenhouses on their property. In addition, customers are surrounded by collections of Depression glass, sterling silver, high-end Meissen porcelain, Herend porcelain from Hungaria, 1920 Czechoslovakian pottery, Royal Copenhagen from Denmark, Waterford crystal, and Wedgewood Queensware china.
Algie for years has been involved in our community. She adopted the DeSoto fire department, for example, regularly feeding first-responders. She donates to various veteran causes. I learned there has been an anonymous donor paying for veteran meals on Veteran’s Day at Wheeler’s Cafe for the past 10 years — however, I really can’t disclose who this person is. She also started the Flag Day ceremony in Arcadia. Algie at one point was awarded the Citizen of the Month award for DeSoto County.
During our conversation, Algie told the story, “One of the local organizations that I supported over the years was the DeSoto Arts and Humanities Council.”
She continued, “I became friends with Susan Hoffman (former editor of the Arcadian newspaper). One day last year Susan came into the shop and asked if she could take my picture. I said, ‘fine’ not knowing what this was all about. Later I found out the reason she took my photo was to paint my portrait and enter it in the artshow ‘Portrait of a Community,’ which was held at the South Florida State College. This is one of those things in my life I will never forget.”
During our interview, I find Algie to be extremely precise, open with her thoughts. She has a sense of humor that is just bursting to come out, but in a very subtle way. She has educated herself in a career that does not provide a formal path to a degree. And she has the kind of smile that lights up her whole face when she sees you.
So if you’re looking for glass, antique or not, stop in and say hello to Algie, you won’t forget her. You can also give her a call at 863-491-0100 or look on eBay stores for Glass, Antique or Not. www.glassantiqueornot.com