A Brief History of Flo's Attic
Co-Owner William Cayll - April 11th, 2012
In 1984 Douglas Hobbs and William Cayll with only $5,000.00 set out to open an antique furniture shop on historic Orange Avenue in Orlando. They rented an abandoned gas station and made it into their first store.
At first it was just the two of them restoring and reselling furniture. They would find it, haul it, clean it, paint it, refinish it, store it, pay insurance on it, and wouldn't take any less for it. They would place the furniture outside when the weather was good to draw in customers. When it rained (and it does often year-round in central Florida) they would scramble to bring it back into the store. At some point they had to invest in employees to help move around the furniture.
Then they hired more skilled employees to help restore furniture (and move it around too). Eventually, the old gas station was getting too small for the inventory and work space.
So Doug and Bill set out to rent a larger space with enough room to fit all of their merchandise, and to have a work space to repair and restore furniture. They found the perfect location, still on Orange Avenue, that was nestled in a corner with lots of fly-by automobile and pedestrian traffic. It was 1800 North Orange Avenue. The building was spruced up, painted a Deco-Pink, and equipped with the tools and equipment to become a full-fledged restoration center. After being located there for almost 20 years, after many Christmas parties, city events, re-branding and re-shaping of other surrounding structures and businesses, Flo's Attic became an icon in Orlando. It was the place for antique furniture. The slogan "best mahogany in town" became their mantra.
"After being located there for almost 20 years, after many Christmas parties, city events, re-branding and re-shaping of other surrounding structures and businesses, Flo's Attic became an icon in Orlando."
The iconic Flo's Attic location at 1800 N. Orange Avenue in Orlando.
Some of Flo's Attic's most seasoned craftspeople started out working at this location in the 1990's. Celebrities would shop here when in the area such as Whoopi Goldberg, Carrot Top, local TV NEWS anchors, and even the mayor of Orlando. Other more specialized antique dealers would consign their merchandise or setup a mini shop inside. 3rd party restoration services for things like jewelry repair, ceramic repair, phonograph repair, and caning would utilize Flo's Attic for the exposure. Local newspapers and magazines gave awards to Flo's. The ownership were making Who's Who lists. Flo's Attic was becoming not only the most successful antique shop in Orlando, but the most successful in the State of Florida. From the early 1990's up until the mid 2000's business was non-stop.
"...Flo's Attic had to make some tough decisions. The focus of the company would no longer be selling merchandise, it would be the restoration part of the business."
Co-Owner Mr. Cayll in the 90's inside the showroom on 1800 N. Orange Ave.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. From 2006 onward sales had dropped dramatically. The housing market was collapsing in central Florida. Former customers were selling back their antiques to Flo's because they had to move, downsize, sell their home, retiring, and a number of other issues. This was all occurring at the same time Flo's Attic was able to purchase the iconic building and re-sell it to Washburn Imports. Flo's Attic relocated onto the current location in Winter Park. With sales still plummeting, and less younger generations interested in antiques as they came of age to purchase their own homes, Flo's Attic had to make some tough decisions. The focus of the company would no longer be selling merchandise, it would be the restoration part of the business. Flo's Attic has always offered restoration services to the general public, but it would be laser-focused on it now. Flo's would also expand into other sectors: the homeowners insurance industry.
Household furniture, whether antique, vintage, or newer, can usually be restored for less than replacement cost... so long as they are actually made of real wood. This was an opportunity for Flo's Attic to offer restoration services for the major homeowners insurance carriers. Fire, smoke, water, mold, moving damages... repairs were almost always possible. So Flo's Attic is now a vendor with many insurance companies, serving not only central Florida, but most of the entire state of Florida. Not many restoration shops are equipped with the skill set labor, experience, and facilities to handle furniture restoration jobs. This not only saves money on unnecessary replacement costs, but also saves family heirlooms and/or irreplaceable collectible furniture. It also gave Flo's a purpose again.
Hall table covered in soot and insulation.
Meet the Restoration Crew
Harrychand Shamkarran, or as he likes to be called, Harry, has been employed with Flo's Attic since 1992.
Before working at Flo's, he used to be a finisher in Brooklyn, NY, and before that he was a finisher in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
He immigrated into Canada from British Guiana, then into the USA some time after. By the early 1990's he met Douglas Hobbs, co-owner of Flo's Attic, through a friend of Doug's who was a carpenter. Harry has been working at Flo's Attic ever since.
Harry's expertise is finishing, but he can do repairs and other stuff too. His skills are invaluable, with over 30 years experience.
Harry applying stain onto a dining room table.
Karl Schoenbauer comes from a family lineage of furniture repairman. His father, brothers, and cousins have owned furniture restorations shops around Florida and Maryland.
He started working with Flo's Attic in 1990. He then went on to operate his own workshop, Peninsular Express, for a few years before working with his brother, Dave Schoenbauer, then eventually back with Flo's Attic again.
He returned to Flo's Attic in 2006 to help expand the restoration part of the business into the homeowners insurance sector. He is now Flo's Attic's project manager for insurance claims. This is the guy to contact for estimates and pickups. He is an expert repairman with over 40 years experience.
Karl clamping a table top that was snapped in half.
Nicholas has been working with Flo's Attic since 2007. He helps out in the workshop, the showroom, and the office. He is our local computer expert and is the one to contact about billing & clerical information.
Multi-talented and extremely polite, Nicholas will help out with sales, scheduling, and lifting/moving furniture. He is well versed in many styles of antique and vintage furniture. He will usually be the first person you see in the showroom.
Nick showing off the fine furniture and glassware.
Douglas Hobbs, Co-owner & founder of Flo's Attic
Douglas Hobbs is the co-owner and co-founder of Flo's Attic. After finishing a tour of duty in the Navy, going to college, getting married, then divorced, he finally found his niche in vintage and antique furniture. With the help of William Cayll and just $5,000.00 they started their first business on Orange Avenue restoring and selling furniture.
In the 1990's Douglas opened a bar with his son William Walker called Will's Pub. He helped manage the pub with his son. He also opened a motel in Orlando called the Lockhaven Motor-Inn. By the early 2000's Doug closed the motel and left the pub entirely to his son so he could focus on the very successful antique shop at the time.
Doug manages Flo's Attic's workshop and also works in the shop doing the furniture stripping. Full of vigor and pride, Doug can be a feisty person. His dedication to keeping the company going even during economic recession may seem foolish to analysts, but to him it is his life's biggest accomplishment.
William (Bill) Cayll, a Winter Park native since 1941, co-founded Flo's Attic with Douglas Hobbs. Bill has always operated the showroom and financial parts of the business while Doug ran the workshop and restorations. He is very well versed in glassware and other intricate small collectibles.
Bill's history includes modeling for Ivy's department store in Merrit Island, and being a desk clerk at the Mt. Vernon Hotel in Winter Park. During the 1990's he began working out and even competed in "ironman" competitions. During his peak years at Flo's Attic many of the lady customers would come by just to see him.
If looking to sell your glassware, crystal, and small collectibles, this is the man to talk to.
William passed away on May 8th of 2018. He was 76 years old.