Salt Meadow Antiques -September/October 2007

Meet Tony and Tom Mello, the father/son owners of Salt Meadow Antiques

by: Elizabeth Stanek

photography by: Jim Powers

Almost everyone has driven by Salt Meadow Antiques on Union Street, a major artery into town. One Wagoneer even ran into it. “He said his brakes gave out,” recounts Tom Mello of the afternoon the Jeep careened off the road, sending the circa Civil War-era steamer trunks displayed outside flying.

The trusty old barn, which sits behind a privet hedge and beneath a perch of copper weathervanes, still displays its battle scar. “I feel like we’re in a fish bowl,” says Tom, as the snake of traffic slithers by and someone riding shotgun deems the little antique oasis the perfect Kodak moment.

One cyclist shouts obscenities at an SUV from the Empire State that made a hairpin turn by the goose pond nearby, nearly mangling the Trek rider. Oh, only on Nantucket!

Meet Tony and Tom Mello, the father/son owners of Salt Meadow Antiques, who also perform a Clark Kent/Superman shtick that involves bandaging bloodied bikers amidst their traditional nautical New England wares. Yes, Tom will personally deliver a stagecoach trunk to your home and take you to the hospital. Talk about an old-fashioned businessman.

Four generations of Mellos have lived in the house next door to their shop, an operation that was literally built from the ground up by hand. “My father built the barn from Nantucket homes torn down during the Great Depression,” says Tony. The cost of the over 100-year-old lumber? $75. The back extension of the barn originates from a garden shed turned chicken coop from Tony’s uncle’s house at the corner of York and Orange streets. Now the perfect spot to peruse antiques, the shed once housed Joseph Mello’s Model A Ford.

It was 1983 when Tony Mello returned to his boyhood home of Nantucket after years spent working for Time Inc. in Grand Rapids, Mich. While cleaning out the barn, his cottage dream was hastily put to a halt when everyone began poring over the goods. A figurative light bulb went on above his head. “I thought I should start a business,” he says. And so Salt Meadow Antiques was born, the name derived from old maps that deemed the marshy area “Salt Meadow.”

“The marsh almost started on Francis Street and went all the way out to Monomoy,” remembers Tony. “When the tide got high, we’d float boats in the basement.”

Today, a couple, straight off the beach in flip-flops and long-sleeve tees, seriously eye an antique boat model, a newly-acquired piece from an estate in western Massachusetts. Earlier, Tom showed another couple a large steamer trunk. “This is the Cadillac of trunks,” he joked, lifting up its top. Along with specializing in trunks, sea chests and blanket-chests – many of which Tom restores – Salt Meadow is known for its copper weathervanes by John G. Thew. “They’re the most predominant weathervanes on the island, even in New England,” says Tom of the classic whale, pig, and Old Man and the Sea shapes that grace rooftops everywhere from Hulbert Avenue to Baxter Road.

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