In Search of the Perfect Pumpernak
Special to Lakeland Local by Melissa Rodriguez
Ann Rubin comes from a family of collectors. “What do you collect?” is just her way of getting to know her customers better.
“When I started dating my husband, that was one of the first questions his family asked me,” said Rubin. “I said, ‘Good question.’ I ask a lot of people that. It kind of helps you steer the person where to look in this crazy shop.”
Tucked away in Trader’s Alley — yes, the actual alley — is the downtown gem known as Pumpernaks.
The store, no bigger than a master bedroom, is chock-full of knick-knacks, tchotchkes and great antique finds.
The carefully selected merchandise fills the room and spills out into the alley to entice would-be shoppers.
This vast collection of interesting items comes from many places. Some items come from a barn in Gainesville, filled with things from houses in New Jersey and New York. Others are handmade by Lakeland locals or from Etsy stores. Rubin even makes a few of the items for sale.
“Everything I pick up I’m attracted to in some way, or I’d like to change it but I don’t have the time,” said Rubin. “I try not to paint or change too many things because I know somebody wants to take something home and make it their own.”
“I don’t think Lakeland has never seen a shop more personal than Pumpernaks,” said Olivia George, a Lakeland writer.
Rubin opened Pumpernaks in October 2010 on the recommendation of her husband, David, as a “kind of therapy” after her mother died.
Her little “outlet of funky things” is filled with bronze mermaids, vintage knitting needles, vases, books and other items that line the store’s shelves, floor and windowsills. All of them are an expression of her creativity, her childhood and all things she loves.
Rubin’s mother inspired her love of vintage and antique things at a young age by taking her to antique stores to look for things from her mother’s childhood: 1950s angels and plates.
“I see everything and it reminds me of my mom,” Rubin said. “I can’t pass up an angel no matter how much it’s not my style.”
Customers pour into Pumpernaks- which is open on Saturdays from 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m., First Fridays and during special events. Quite often, they’re looking for something unusual and unique to make their own. Rubin says she sees many 20-somethings in the store looking for fun items to fill their first apartment.
As an interior decorator, Rubin is always glad to offer suggestions on how to display items— in groups of three is one of her favorite decorating suggestions.
“It’s a little store, but there is a lot in here.” Rubin said.
Many ask Rubin what exactly is a “pumpernak.”
Her husband’s grandfather had a restaurant named Pumperniks, where Larry King would interview people in the 50s and 60s.
Utilizing her love of making old things new again, Rubin put her own twist on Pumperniks and named her store Pumpernaks. Rubin says she likes to think of a pumpernak as anything you like; something you’re attracted to whether it’s a found item, or something new, old, or handmade. Everyone who walks into her store is simply on the hunt for their perfect pumpernak.