Some people claim that seeing a cardinal is a sign of bright days ahead.
Others believe that cardinals appear when angels are nearby.
Still, others ascribe to the cardinal a harbinger of rain or an association with good fortune and sun.
For the past three decades or so, one might assert New York’s Warwick Valley has had the embodiment of a cardinal in the form of a wise, kind, discerning, and unusually prescient man by the name of George Laurence.
George Laurence is an antique dealer and auctioneer who owns the Eclectic Eye in Florida, New York. Anyone who has spent any time at all in the area has almost certainly encountered George and his slightly forward-bending posture and his half-rim glasses, which he wears low on his nose and peers over, squinting when he speaks to his customers.
Quick-witted, self-deprecating, and considerate, George answers his customers’ most common question, “How much for this piece?” with a brief description of the artist, the era, or origin story, and the answer, “Well, it’s marked $275, but for you, I’ll knock off 30 bucks.”
In 1991, George relocated from Northport, Long Island to Warwick, and that’s when George’s shared attributes with the cardinal seemed to have begun.
He opened the Eclectic Eye at The Clocktower building in the Village of Warwick, near the intersection of Main Street and South Street. He remained there until, as George described, “Some investor bought a building nearby and started to get $2,500 a month for the commercial part of the building. That was in 1998,” George emphasized. “Space in The Clocktower was in demand, our rents went up, and they squeezed me out.”
It took George a couple of years to find a new space, which he did on Railroad Avenue in the Village of Warwick. It is there where he opened the next evolution of Eclectic Eye in 2000. He continued to operate his antique business, complementing his income and inventory by the estate auctions he’d regularly hold throughout the Town of Warwick and beyond, in a nearly 4,000-square-foot storefront, which today, is two separate leased spaces.
Once again, during a period of the next 15 years, the Railroad Avenue location became gradually more popular. As Warwick grew both in population and popularity among weekenders, automobile traffic and foot traffic increased, and the cost for commercial real estate in the Village of Warwick inflated to a point beyond which George could profitably operate his business.
As he’s apt to do, George took the change in stride.
In 2015, he moved into his third location at the intersection of County Route 1 and Pulaski Highway in Pine Island. When George moved Eclectic Eye into a “garage” in the complex that had originally been built for a car dealership, there wasn’t much else at the large, multi-unit commercial corner. However, in 2018, The Jolly Onion Restaurant, which had occupied part of the building and shuttered a decade earlier, reopened successfully under new management. Once again, like the cardinal and a harbinger of good things to come, George picked an area and a location that was on the cusp of a revival. Not surprisingly, the new economics of Pine Island persuaded George to close the Eclectic Eye and seek new quarters.
Since 2019, George Laurence’s Eclectic Eye has been located at 42 Main Street in the Village of Florida.
Is it any surprise that since the Eclectic Eye has reopened—and in spite of the implications of the COVID-19 restrictions—several businesses have opened, reopened, or announced plans to open in Florida including, among others, a delicatessen, a distillery, a specialty consignment shop, and a high-end restaurant?
The odds are pretty good that Florida, New York is on the verge of a business renaissance, but George has no plans to move. “I think Florida, New York is the place for me,” he smiles thoughtfully.
Is George Laurence like a cardinal who portends good fortune wherever he goes or is he an unusually shrewd judge of undervalued real estate? Both, maybe.
To speak with George today—to hear him talk about the ways he wants to help his friends be successful and to see the way he caringly matches his antique buyers with the perfect piece of history—one thing is certain: George is like a cardinal in another way.
He is truly an angel in our midst.