Folks knew they could stop by Finders Keepers on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays to browse the antiques and collectibles or simply to enjoy a cup of tea with the owner, Alice Marshall, and catch up on the town’s happenings.
Many of her friends were frequent customers, and even more of her customers became longtime friends.
Alice, who ran the shop on Main Street in downtown Windermere and operated hundreds of estate sales in southwest Orange County from 1969 to 2008, died Jan. 2, 2019, at age 94.
Close friend Gaby Spector said probably half of the furniture in her house — as well as the plates and tablecloths and vases — came from Finders Keepers.
“In the beginning I thought I was going in to see what was available,” Spector said. “When I went back a couple of times, I just found it was a place to sit and have a conversation. … I was a good customer, and then we became good friends.”
It was a stop-over-and-visit place, said Ruth Gillard, who worked many Finders Keepers estate sales and has known Alice for decades.
“We had a lot of memories together,” Gillard said. “I can’t say enough about her because she was a fine lady and I really did enjoy the years with her.”
To befriend Alice was to become a member of her close-knit circle of friends. They shared their tea and biscuits, their peas and cornbread.
“She had the gift of friendship, which means that she would not let you go,” Spector said. “We often meet people (and think), ‘Oh, I really like that person,’ but then you don’t call or keep in touch. … But that wasn’t the case with Alice; she always called. … She would never let you go as a friend.”
Luisa Acosta is another dear friend who eventually worked at the shop with Alice.
““We would just talk for hours,” Acosta said. “She was my best friend. Her friendship and her personality — it transcended age. … She had a young spirit.
“In 20 years, she was the best gift, her friendship,” she said. “She could be my mom in age — but the connection we developed, so many similarities, and she was a woman (with) out-of-the-box thinking on her experience in life, … in her creativity. She was an amazing woman.”
Alice was a world traveler when she was young, her passport filled with international stamps, including ones from the Suez Canal, Japan and England.
She loved hosting gatherings, especially her annual Christmas pie party, when she set out the china and served her special punch.
She was quite the animal lover, said her daughter, Laura Zern. Through the years, the family owned cats, dogs, a monkey and an angora goat, as well as a menagerie of rabbits, squirrels, ducks and baby birds.
Alice bottle-fed and raised many baby raccoons, including one that slept in the household curtains, and she was known to take her pony foal to the shop with her and keep it in a playpen.
Finders Keepers was a gathering spot — for animals and humans — as much as it was a business.
“It was a place not only to sell all the different antiques and collectibles, it was a place just to meet and remember old times and also comment on what was going on and just to cherish friendship,” Acosta said. “So many people would stop by to say hi, and it was so refreshing to sit down with people who have the same connection and the same community. … That place was the heart of Windermere for sure.”
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.