His business is the stuff treasures are made of

When John Weinrich was a boy, he found a treasure in a garbage can — an old watch with an etching, a gold tooth, an etched carving, a public phone sign and a little brass container emblazoned with a tree of life.

“That was my treasure find and I was hooked,” Weinrich said. “I thought, ‘Why would people throw this away?’”

Weinrich has been collecting treasures ever since, and for the past year has operated Newport Vintage at 114 S. Park St., a shop selling some of those finds.

“It’s a little bit of everything with a twinge of vintage,” Weinrich, who for decades owned Newport Shores restaurant in Port, said.

Throughout his life he said, he has collected old things.

“They have soul,” he said. “They have a quality you don’t find today.

It’s kind of a nice lifestyle. You don’t throw stuff away. You learn to appreciate stuff.”

His fireplace at home, he noted, is made of bricks he picked up along Port’s lakefront and those that once graced the facades of buildings close to his heart—Port High, the former Harry’s restaurant and more.

Much of the stuff he has, Weinrich said, found him.

“None of this is planned,” he said. “I don’t look for anything. It comes to me.”

He doesn’t shop estate sales, except on occasions when he’s looking for something specific, Weinrich said, but often he finds himself needing to buy an entire lot of stuff instead of just the item he needs.

Sometimes he trades for things, he said, but usually it comes with a condition — if you want one or two things, you need to take everything in the garage.

He recalled a neighbor offering him everything in his shed.

“I’m expecting a garden shed,” Weinrich said. It was 30-by-100. It had to be empty. It took me two days. I still haven’t looked through everything.”

He donates a lot but other stuff he keeps, he said.

Some of it’s rubbish. But there are plenty of treasures too,” he said.

Just as his collections grew without a plan, so too did Newport Vintage.

“I had no intention of operating a store,” Weinrich said. But then he ran to Ruth Ruiz, who repurposed the furniture and was looking for a workshop. He offered her space at his building, and after Ruiz saw the building and its contents she asked, “Why not open a store?”

“I told her, I don’t have the time or energy,” Weinrich said. “I like to goof around and play.”

But she convinced him, and Newport Vintage was born. Ruiz, he said, is the “driving force” and manages the space.

“She does all the local artwork in here,” he said.

Just as he didn’t intend to run a shop, Weinrich didn’t have a plan in mind when he bought the building—the former home JJ Schowalter Co., which supplied carnival games and toys.

“I spent a lot of time here. My dad worked here forever,” Weinrich said. He was always in the back. He built those games.”

So when the building became available about 10 years ago, Weinrich bought it.

“I thought, ‘I’ll turn it into a man cave, a workshop,’” he said.

Today, the building is filled with Weinrich’s finds. As he walks through, he pauses to talk about different pieces.

He pointed at a wood table, noting it doesn’t look special. But open a drawer and you find the inscription “Gottlieb Maechtle” and a note that it was a wedding gift in 1873.

He has artwork by Sid Stone, who created the community called Stonecroft off Highway C south of Port. After Stone and his son Robert “Bobo” died, Bobo’s son Mike stored many of their possessions in Weinrich’s building.

“He said, why don’t you just sell this for me,” Weinrich said, and he did. But while going through one of the books in Stone’s collection, he found numerous four-leaf clovers and asked Stone about them.

He said, ‘I have to have those back. My grandmother found them all the time and she collected them.”

“Those are the pieces I like,” Weinrich added. “They have a story.”

There’s an old pump organ, artwork, a grandfather clock made in Milwaukee in 1919, fishing supplies, boxes of postcards, music, books and magazines.

“I just sold a comic book for $400,” he said. “

He’s got a pair of boxing gloves signed by Mohammed Ali — one signed Ali and the other Cassius Clay.

There are also albums and instruments.

“I sell eight-tracks to guys who have old muscle cars,” Weinrich said.

There’s plenty of furniture, wooden pieces that aren’t valued the way they once were. But, Weinrich pointed out, they are timeless, unlike many pieces made today.

“It’s 100 years old, and in 100 years it’ll still be here,” he said.

He has “like 400 hinges” of all types, Weinrich said, as well as a large collection of cap guns, knives and chairs from St. Mary’s School is made in Port Washington.

“They had to be made at the Chair Factory,” Weinrich said, although they weren’t marked.

He has more than 1,000 bar glasses, and a plethora of china from Smith Bros. Fish Shanty restaurant.

“I bought 1,000 plates at the Smith Bros. auction,” he said. “I don’t know what I was thinking.”

While many rooms are organized as showrooms, others are more storehouses.

And the back room is a bar room, its ceiling created with tin tiles from the former St. Mary’s School in Port, which Weinrich purchased in 2020.

It was in Mrs. Hommerding’s classroom,” he said of the ceiling. “I used to stare at it all the time. I thought, ‘I’m going to bring it here.’

The bar he built in the room also features tin ceiling tiles from the school, and several lights in the room were from St. Mary’s convent, he noted.

The walls are decked out with wine boxes. Weinrich has a license to sell alcohol and features a number of bourbons, ryes and red wines.

He’s also a retailer featuring all the products Ansay International imports from Luxembourg.

While some people might call Weinrich a hoarder, he says that’s not accurate.

“I call it a wise investment,” he said. “I know where everything is. I know what I have.”