Bryan Burgazzoli has an undeniable charm. He is an entertainer who can deliver clever punchlines to a room filled with people, a romantic who can turn garbage picking into a date night with his wife, and an artist that can turn trash into pieces fit for the Museum of Modern Art.
Burgazzoli is just one reason why bidders come to Finders Keepers, a thrift store in Lake Grove, NY. Every month, customers come to Finders Keepers to bid on a variety of items. All kinds of antique curiosities (or something similar) have been up for grabs, from a box of vintage action figures to a Soviet-era military jacket and even an old traffic light.
“There is a seat for every behind. If you think there is somebody out there that won’t buy it, you’re wrong,” owner Bryan Burgazzoli said.
Finders Keepers is part of the resale industry in America, a network of approximately 35,000 stores, Adele R. Meyer, executive director of the National Association of Retail Professionals, said. The industry accounts for approximately $16 billion annually in revenue, according to market analysis tool First Research’s industry profile.
Finders Keepers opened four years ago and has attracted people from Long Island and afar, co-owner Sabbath Troisi said. The owners rent out different sections of the store to vendors who specialize in selling sports memorabilia, trading cards, Japanese plushies and more. Burgazzoli specializes in oddities and has a section of the store selling items such as human skulls, turtle eggs and his own artwork made out of objects such as baby dolls found on the side of the road.
“Mummified cat head,” Burgazzoli said, pausing to show me his work. “I make it look pretty.”
Burgazzoli can draw and paint. But he found his true calling making sculptures out of any material he could find. The oddities section of his store has pieces such as “Bryan’s Creation,” a 1940’s toy fire truck with the head of a 1900’s baby doll. And “Darwin’s Very Wrong Theory,” a piece where Burgazzoli replaced the head of a babydoll with that of a monkey wearing a watch on his head and a set of grills.
“I can honestly take him home,” Burgazolli said while looking at his baby-monkey hybrid. “I love him that much,” he said.
The staff at Finders Keepers also buys off goods to resell from estate sales or other auctions. One of the owners, Justina Beck, said she regularly takes trips to Maine since it is one of the oldest places in America and scavengers/collectors can find antiques from the 17th and 18th century. Burgazzoli said the staff also picks up trash and turns it into something they can sell. But making a profit isn’t the only motive for picking garbage.
“I would actually go home twice to unload my car to go back out to beat the garbage truck because I knew he was coming,” Beck said. “It just hurts to see things thrown away that have so much life and quality to them.”
Thrift stores are part of upcycling, Heidi Hunter, the director of the Sustainability Studies program at Stony Brook, said. “By not throwing out, and by reusing what has already been produced, we reduce our carbon footprint,” Hunter explained. According to the Recycling Coalition of Utah, Americans represent five percent of the world’s population, but generate 30 percent of the world’s garbage. Owners Beck and Burgazzoli said that we live in a wasteful society that would rather replace objects than keep and refurbish them. Burgazzoli has found perfectly fine drawers with just a broken knob or entire drawers filled with valuable jewelry thrown onto the street.
But what gets nearly 50 people into Finders Keepers once a month for its auction is not just the chance to strike a deal but the sense of community the store creates among their customers, auctioneers Debbie Fabrizio and John Ocasio said. The couple have been coming to the auctions since the store opened for the adrenaline rush, the tacticle experience, but also because the owners treated them like a friend or family member. In the middle of the auction, the staff brought out a birthday cake for one of their frequent auctioneers and took a break from the bidding to sing Happy Birthday.
Two years ago, Fabrizio got very sick and started to collect bibles. At one auction, she went to bid on a Bible but the price went too high and she backed out.
“The next time I came in here, [Burgazzoli] had a vintage bible for me and just gave it to me,” Fabrizio recounted. She paused in a moment of thought. “That goes to show you what great people they are.”