There’s only one place in town where you can get horse tack, concealed-weapon purses, Southern memorabilia and Rebel collectibles all under one roof,” said John Loetscher of Brooksville.
Loetscher, 51, is the owner of Country Depot. A unique and colorful store offering an eclectic mix of leather goods, antiques and Western memorabilia, all in a double storefront that has a charming flea-market feel.
“I like to say it’s where the South and country meets fashion and antiques,” said Loetscher.
Located in Cedar Wood Square on West Jefferson Street in Brooksville — the store also resembles a gallery or a museum — it’s chock full of art, apparel, country goods, ladies purses, bling-beaded belts, Confederate-themed merchandise and so much more. The store fills a unique, niche market not found elsewhere.
Loetscher explained that he wanted to create a place selling all the good things we used to see that have now vanished from modern stores.
“It’s a little bit of nostalgia too,” said Loetscher. “And it’s different for everyone…Nostalgia takes you back to your childhood and things you like to remember."
Originally from Blue Ridge, Georgia, Loetscher has spent years dealing with memorabilia — scouring through piles of flea market finds and attending auctions and garage sales, looking for just the right pieces. He buys everything from old metal signs, stuffed animal heads, Victorian furniture and glassware to wagon wheels.
There's even a ceiling fan painted with Confederate colors.
“I used to sell my stuff at flea markets but then I was involved in a serious car crash a few years back and had to rethink my future,” he said.
Loetscher opened his store early last year and business is blooming. So much so that Loetscher has also taken over the next door storefront to his, knocking an entryway through and creating two distinctly different rooms of merchandise — one for Western goods and the other for antiques.
“I got in just at the right time with my Rebel and Confederacy memorabilia,” said Loetscher, referring to the recent controversy over the Confederate battle flag.
“And then the “Trumpster” came along — I had people lining up at my door for campaign posters, car bumper stickers, hats and other election stuff,” he said. “I was real lucky.”
It was those two controversial elements, Loetscher said that helped him get started again.
Loetscher’s girlfriend Paula Frenette, also shares his fascination with Civil War history and memorabilia. Frenette, a local Realtor with Century 21, helps out in the store when she can. Frenette loves horses and has introduced a range of ornate saddles and tack to the store.
Inside Country Depot, the smell of vintage hand-tooled leather saddles welcomes customers as they browse through an eclectic mix of furnishings and accessories from throughout the West: hand-painted horse figurines, stuffed deer heads, some with antlers; airsoft guns, knives, brightly colored horse halters and stirrups, cowboy and girl hats, and suede tasseled waistcoats.
For customers, the objects are often intriguing and unfamiliar and exude the real flavor of rural America.
“My inspiration for what other brands to stock comes from customer requests and suggestions,” said Loetscher.
The Country Depot inventory also includes Montana West, American West, Muddy Girl, as well as FloGrown apparel — a clothing company that promotes Florida's culture and lifestyle with pride. FloGrown manufactures hoodies to window decals to T-shirts and bandanas.
The Montana West display at Country Depot shows off several beautiful leather purses and satchels that combine traditional western elements with modern design. According to Montana West, their purses are “an integral part of the modern cowgirl’s wardrobe.” Each purse has a zippered pocket on the back where a handgun can be concealed.
‘’The joy of this whole memorabilia thing is that it doesn’t matter who you are, you can always identify with something,” he said, sitting at a replica Old West saloon bar in the back corner of the store — on the wall above his head, two magnificent antlered deer heads.
Country Depot regularly offers store giveaways. Loetscher says he posts his special deals monthly on the Country Depot Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/jpcountrydepot/.
“Customers get a free ticket and if they buy something at the store, they get another free ticket,” he said.
“We’re not getting rich but it’s getting better every month,” said Loetscher. “Our FB page is testament to that,” he said. “I have nothing but 5-star ratings and all my customers’ comments are so complimentary.”
"I hope I’m doing my little bit to preserve our heritage and history," Loetscher said.
'There is nothing more satisfying than having your customers leave happy and with a little bit of Americana,'' he said.