MASARYKTOWN — After 20 years dishing up homemade schnitzel, spaetzle and other European fare, Pete and Mariana Mandreanu have packed up the pots and pans at Harmony House Family Restaurant and are embarking on another passion: spending time with their grandchildren.
"Easter and holidays, I was always here. No time for family," Pete said last week from the deconstructed dining room of the mainstay eatery. "Kids say you have to spend time with grandchildren," the native Romanian explained in slightly truncated English with a forward-looking smile.
The "kids" are sons Adrian, 37, of Miami and Daniel, 33, of Spring Lake.
This fall, the brothers will open Best 4 Less Depot, an overstock merchandise outlet, in the former restaurant at 440 S Broad St.
In the meantime, Pete, 62, and Mariana, 58, who came to the United States in the 1970s, are selling 40 years' worth of vintage collectibles in an estate sale — "the best for less," Pete declares, "not what you'd put in a sale outdoors."
Indeed, display tables — former banquet tables — are laden with Romanian pottery, English bone china, German Hummel figurines, American glassware by Fenton and crystal by Lenox.
Mariana teasingly chides her husband for amassing 300 pieces of glassware now for sale.
"More than (300)," Pete whispers.
In turn, he mocks Mariana's collection of 30-plus porcelain-faced dolls and teddy bears. She admits to three big teddies at home she's saving for her grandson.
Also in abundance: named figurines; hand-painted teacups; matching coffee, tea and demitasse sets; decorated plate collections; matched pieces of ornately pressed glass, and individually unique vases, covered dishes and pitchers.
Even the walls are seemingly for sale, laden with framed print reproductions by an eclectic assortment of artists worldwide. Pete noted that artwork from the restaurant's decor was gobbled up quickly when the couple opened the doors on their "treasures" several weeks ago.
"People wanted them to remember," he said.
Overall, the "estate sale" title is apt, representing a seeming castle-sized abode.
"I have display cupboards floor to ceiling, every room," Mariana said. "It didn't look like so much behind glass."
She explained: "When we had a little free time, we went to estate sales, to auctions. That's what got us into this mess."
"It was treasure hunting," Pete countered.
Now others are searching for old treasures to call their own. The offering will continue until "whenever," Pete said.
In the brothers' new business endeavor, Adrian Mandreanu will handle purchasing, marketing and financing, buying name-brand overstock at sub-wholesale prices, he said, passing on savings to retail customers by selling at wholesale rates. Daniel Mandreanu will manage the store. Goods are expected to range from children's apparel to home appliances and furnishings.
Contact Beth Gray at [email protected]