Famous Antiques of the Sea — a hidden jewel in Sunset Beach

One of the most internationally-famous businesses in California is relatively unknown to most residents who live near it in the Seal Beach/Sunset Beach area.

“People come here from around the globe but many locals have never been inside,” said Eric Bakker, a Sunset Beach resident and owner of the 40-year-old Antiques of the Sea at Broadway and Pacific Coast Highway.

Bakker has been interviewed on The History Channel; his nautical décor and antiques have been purchased in mass for use at Tokyo Disney Resort; his wares have been rented for such major Hollywood movies as the Warner Brother’s Academy Award-nominated, high-grossing film, “The Perfect Storm,” starring George Clooney and “Waterworld,” starring Kevin Costner.

His customers come from around the World and include such celebrities as Bette Midler and Sandra Bullock.

Bakker was born to Dutch parents on the Indonesian island of Celebes. During World War II, the Japanese took over the island and his family ended up in POW Camps for several years. Eric later was able to immigrate to the US and live with an uncle in South Pasadena.

He became very successful in many sales and merchandising positions, with companies like Fuller Brush, Chiquita Banana and Sunkist. He also met a woman at the beach, who would become his hardworking wife and business partner.

Together, Eric and Elaine operated a successful restaurant, The Sandcastle, at Broadway and Pacific Coast Highway in 1971. They decorated the popular place with nautical antiques and it became known far and wide for its delicious King Crab Legs—2 pounds for $11.95!

In 1977, they opened Antiques of the Sea at 24th Street and Pacific Coast Highway, then a year later, moved it across Broadway from The Sandcastle, where it has been ever since.

In 1987, they sold The Sandcastle and it became Harpoon Harry’s. Meanwhile, Eric has searched the globe for additional nautical items for his store and it’s amazing what he has come up with.

There’s a gigantic 1860 harpoon from a whaling ship; two boarding pikes (which Eric says are from the Navy frigate, the USS Constitution); harpoon rifles, which date from the 1850s; a 1940 copper and brass Navy Deep Sea Diving Helmet, steering wheels from World War II vessels, a variety of brass bells, nautical lanterns and so much more.

It’s just a fascinating place to visit, especially if you’re looking for a unique gift. Eric said he’s offering a 10 percent discount to residents of Seal Beach, Long Beach, Sunset Beach and Huntington Beach. Sample prices in his store range from a $10 cedar float used by Alaskan fishermen to a $21,000 whaling harpoon.

“I have known Eric for 40 years and his iconic store is a Sunset Beach original,” said Mike Van Voorhis, president of the Sunset Beach Community Association. “His Sandcastle Restaurant was always one of my favorites and his personal story is inspiring!”

For more information on Antiques of the Sea, visit antiquesofthesea.com or call Eric at 562-592-1752. You can visit his store at 16811 Pacific Coast Highway at Broadway, Sunset Beach; Friday-Saturday-Sunday, noon to 5. Always call ahead to make sure they’re open.