from the Archives

“Definitely Deco”

Read Time: 5 mins

In the early 80s in the Art Deco Historic District, in the lobby of the Washington Storage Company, 1003 Washington Avenue, you could find the eclectic antique and gift shop by the apropos name of “Definitely Deco”.

Washington Storage Company, 1003 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach circa 1980s. Photo courtesy of Marilyn Sandoz.

Marilyn Sandoz was the creator and owner of this unique shop. Marilyn would continually haunt estate and garage sales seeking Art Deco items to sell at the shop. We recently spoke to Marilyn who shared her memories of being the proprietor of “Definitely Deco”….. “Lenny Horowitz and I were friends and would go out weekly to Thrift stores, etc. in search of Deco Treasures. After a while, I had collected many items. I was familiar with and loved the Washington Storage building and decided to open the store. I was a bored housewife and did not like not being active. The store was ahead of its time and drew a lot of attention. In the beginning Deco days, I had visitors from all over the world. There was even an article in a Chinese paper. Many collectors frequented the store and we sold a large variety of items…collectibles, furniture, vintage clothing, jewelry, etc. I would buy items from the old hotels being closed on the beach. I purchased furniture and fixtures from the New Yorker Hotel prior to its demolition. Little old ladies that lived in the hotels would bring items for me to purchase. I had some incredible pieces in the store. At one point I had a Chiparus bronze. I sold a lot of celluloid and Bakelite jewelry, Chase chrome pieces, Turner prints and Deco fixtures and furniture. Sheet music with Devo graphics were very popular too.”

Window looking into “Definitely Deco”, painted with a beach scene.
The eclectic assortment of items for sale at “Definitely Deco”.

“At Definitely Deco antiques, the collectibles for sale span from the 30’s to the 50’s. The panther was to the 50s as the flamingo was to the 20s and 30s, an animal whose lines, color and moves symbolized the times. The panther—black, sleek, streamlined, stealthy—stalking across a television, hunched at base of a table lamp, sleeping on a nick knack shelf. Rude and so very New Wave….the original panther clocks, lamps and planters come in rose, green, brown, red and even gilded. Save the panther, Florida.” (From an August 1983 Miami Herald article)

Todd Bernstein posing in the shop with model wearing Art Deco era clothes sold at “Definitely Deco”. Photo taken by Kevin Murray courtesy of Marilyn Sandoz.

“For those whom new shiny things simply won’t do, there’s always Miami Beach’s deco emporium, Definitely Deco, 1003 Washington Ave. Lots of pink, flamingos, lots of super little gifts that couldn’t possibly have come from anywhere but the Beach. Among them are a wicker serving tray with hand-painted plastic glasses for $47.50; a heavy gladiola vase for $32.50; and a hairbrush and mirror set for the dressing table for $37.50. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.” (From a December 1983 Miami Herald article)

Another happy customer outfitted with clothes from “Definitely Deco”!

And for some memories from those that patronized the shop back in the day, Dennis Wilhelm remembers, “I went there many, many times. It opened in the early 1980s when Washington Storage opened a shopping arcade on the first floor. Marilyn Howland (Sandoz) was the owner. I believe that she was the first antique store in South Florida to use “Art Deco” in the store name. Mary Klein opened Decolectable on 14th Street later in the 1980s. I purchased some great ties there. I think I may still have one or two. Also a tie rack that was the epitome of Art Deco.”

Marilyn Sandoz and Sonny Page during the car show at an Art Deco Weekend in front of the Leslie Hotel. Clothing came from Definitely Deco. Photo courtesy of Marilyn Sandoz.

Dona Zemo has some very fond memories of the store, “Yes, I shopped there often. Marilyn had a fabulous eye and collected remarkable items. Loved Marilyn’s Deco taste. OMG finding a place like Definitely Deco was a dream come true. I bought a light coral 1940’s dress there. It fit me like it was made for my body, I loved and wore the dress frequently. It was one of many pieces of clothing from DD but it was my all time favorite. I still have a fiesta jug I bought there as well!”

Photo taken by Kevin Murray prior to a fashion show. Models were dressed in vintage clothing from the store. Photo courtesy of Marilyn Sandoz.

At the time, Marilyn Sandoz also was the organizer for MDPL’s walking tours and the tour committee chairman for the MDPL tour guide training academy. The one month course taught qualified people to give walking and bus tours of the historic area to visitors of South Beach. The four sessions were conducted by a different preservation buff each week that included Barbara Baer Capitman, Leonard Horowitz, Laura Caerwinske and Diane Camber. The walking tours would begin at the Definitely Deco shop and end at the Cardozo Hotel at 13th and Ocean Drive, where they had facilities available for tour participants to change into beach wear and hop across the street for a swim!

The Mathews family owned the Washington Storage building. Photo of DiDi Fleischner, Jim Mathews’ sister. The owners of these classic cars are unknown but they were stored in Washington storage. Photo courtesy of Marilyn Sandoz.
"Browsers" in front of the "Definitely Deco" store.

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