TRASH TO TREASURE
A WOMAN WHO FINDS TREASURES IN OTHER
PEOPLE’S TRASH TURNED A CRACK HOUSE INTO A THRIVING SMALL-BUSINESS COMMUNITY IN
BY MARIA E. HERRERA
NICE TWICE: Some of the vintage items for sale at Divine Trash on 72nd Street and Biscayne Boulevard.
A knack for collecting antiques requires space.
That’s how Donna Ashby Clark wound up with her chic and eclectic vintage and antiques store in the Upper Eastside.
“I was constantly buying things,” Ashby Clark said. “Finally one day my husband said, ‘What are you planning to do with all this stuff?’”
The answer: a former crack house on Biscayne Boulevard that is now a unique and vibrant business community that includes Ashby Clark’s Divine Trash store, as well as a hair salon, a juice bar / health food eatery and a plant nursery.
“I kept seeing this building when I drove by,” Ashby Clark said of the 1934 house that sits on a 9,000-square-foot lot on 72nd Street and Biscayne Boulevard.
It was 2000, and Ashby Clark was a real estate broker ready for a new career.
The structure she kept seeing was inhabited, though not legally. Rather it seemed to be an all-too-familiar sight on the boulevard: a vacant building that had become a hideout for drug addicts.
“When I came to look at the property, one of them told me they were watching the building for the owner,” Ashby Clark said. “There were needles and empty bottles everywhere. I laughed and said, ‘Yeah, right.’
Ashby Clark signed a lease, and a few months and several intense cleaning sessions later, moved in with all the stuff she had been collecting for years. Friends who wanted to get rid of their old belongings also pulled up with truckloads of goods. The space became a treasure trove of the rare, exotic and hard-to-find.
But Divine Trash is more than an antique store. “It’s also a full-service hangout,” Ashby Clark said.
In the back, a few tables are set up in a garden area that seems miles removed from the hustle and bustle of the boulevard. Residents of nearby neighborhoods rent the garden for parties or weddings, and some simply stop by to have a glass of wine with Ashby Clark. They sometimes find an odd note on the window: “Come find me in the garden,” the note reads. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
That mysterious flair defines the property. Inside, vintage jewelry and brooches sparkle in the dim light of the small room. Clothing, lamps and paintings from local artists clutter the place in the most bohemian yet elegant of ways.
Since January, Ashby Clark divided the space inside to accommodate fellow vintage merchant Elaine Mitzer, who offers a select collection of vintage clothing in a corner of the store. She operates by appointment only.
“It’s a lot more upscale than it was before,” Ashby Clark said. “She is a pleasant addition to the compound.”
Outside, the garden is a cozy corner protected by a lush canopy of trees. There, Ashby Clark keeps what she calls the “antiqui hut”: A shed where she stores home furnishings and other treasures. A couple of years ago, set designers for the movie The Hours came rummaging and bought a ‘50s lounge chair they used while filming in Hollywood.
MANE EVENT: Hair stylist Hannah Lasky cuts Sheila Kozer’s hair at Primal Hair on Biscayne Boulevard.
The garden is communal. On Sundays, health-food
eatery Nectar of Life holds a brunch with a disc jockey. The rest of the
week, anyone wanting to find a pair of 1960s platform shoes can also get
their hair done by a team of stylists from Primal Hair Salon while sipping a
fresh smoothie. They can also pick up a houseplant or clay pottery from
Or they can hang out at the garden and feel like they’ve discovered a slice of paradise hidden away from the hectic boulevard.
“It’s got its own energy vortex,” said Nicole Becker, who owns Primal, the hair salon that sits upstairs from Divine Trash. “As soon as you come in, everything else is gone.”
PHOTOS BY RONNA GRADUS/HERALD STAFF