By Anna Roche Clark
Anyone who loves beach treasures may be completely overcome by the decades-worth of amazing items found upon entering Bob’s Beach Finds store. And yet, despite feeling like you just landed in “beachcombing heaven,” Bob Andreoni’s warm smile brings you back to the moment.
It’s here, on the main street of the charming town of Chatham, Massachusetts, on the “elbow” of Cape Cod, you’ll find Bob and his wife Amy. Each summer weekend they hold court, with a shop full of tourists and locals alike, poring over his collection of beach-found treasures and creations. “I moved to Barrington, Rhode Island, which is on the Narragansett Bay, 35 years ago,” he says. “As a fisherman, I began spotting items of interest on the beach including sea glass, bottles, driftwood, pottery, buoys, and other treasures.” After nearly four decades, these treasures filled his two homes.
Friends would marvel at the beautiful sea glass, which he began making into votive candles, hurricane lamps, and art. Many said, “Gee Bob, you could open a store.” One day when his wife noticed the large available storefront adjacent to Cuffy’s Cape Cod Clothing, she wrote the owner a letter describing their concept and they did the unthinkable: opened a retail business in June 2020 during a global pandemic.
Despite the circumstances, folks love beach treasures, and the store was and continues to be a success. When asked if he considered an online market instead and Bob laughed. “My wife and I love people, so a physical store was better. It lets us engage with customers, share our and customers’ stories, educate visitors, and share our finds.”
Every comber has their favorite finds. When asked what his favorite find is, Bob laughs, “probably the next thing I bring home.” Among his prized finds are intact old bottles with markings that allow for research as to their age and origin. Once, Bob found a pre-Civil War bottle from 1852–1854 in Providence, Rhode Island. “The absolute crazy thing is that I had this pre-Civil War bottle on display in the store, with no intention of selling it. But a customer kept returning until he made me an offer I could not refuse, and I took comfort in knowing it was going to a home where it would be treasured. And then, as if the universe was rewarding me for giving it up, I found an identical bottle five years later in the winter not far from where the first had been found—which is incredible.”
As the waves and currents constantly shift the sand, every day reveals treasures that could not be seen the day before. Other favorite bottle finds include a beautiful teal medicine bottle from “St. Thomas, West Indies,” which contained bay salts for seasickness. Bob points out that St Thomas ceased to be part of the “West Indies” in 1917. He imagines that a sailor must have tossed the bottle overboard after taking the medicine to address his seasickness. He also once found an old medicine bottle with a long narrow neck containing a fully developed clam in shell inside the bottle. “Folks asked me how I got the clam in the bottle, and I tell em….it grew in there!”
“I don’t find a lot of metal, but I do love to find old coins,” Bob says. “I know a few of the folks that use metal detectors on the beach in Barrington, Rhode Island, and one of them found, on two consecutive days, two silver Spanish Reale coins.”
While researching the history of the area, Bob learned about a British customs schooner called the HMS Gaspee. While trying to enforce British control over trade and revenue from the colony, it ran aground in shallow water on June 9, 1772, near Gaspee Point in Warwick, Rhode Island. A group of American colonists attacked, boarded, and torched the Gaspee in protest. (The Gaspee Affair as it is now known in American history was a significant event following the Boston Tea Party leading up to the American Revolution).
Since then, Bob has found a number of old wooden planks whose measurements fit the profile of the Gaspee schooner. “If that’s where the ship burned, then it’s quite likely the Spanish coins came from that ship.” He’ll always be searching for his own Spanish Reale silver coin.
But even after 35 years of beachcombing, some bucket list treasures have still evaded Bob. “I’d like to find a shark’s tooth. That would be something to find!” Given that Chatham is home to one of the largest and most active white shark populations, Bob made a plan to take his boat out to North Beach Island and hunt on the Atlantic Coast for shark teeth. “Sharks lose teeth constantly, so it seems like we should be able to find one,” he jokes.
Sea glass votives are a best seller. People fall in love with the many colors of glass that Bob has found over the years and incorporates in his pieces. Other favorites are sea glass and driftwood creatures and signs—anything uniquely made with genuine sea glass. “I have trouble keeping up my inventory of the votives,” he says.
“There is a lot less glass than when I started 35 years ago. Some of my favorite spots are no longer ‘mine’ and newer glass is just not the same,” he explains. “It’s thinner with less character (bubbles, iridescence, size, color, etc.). The day will come that I run out of sea glass but I have enough to stock the store for at least another year. By then we will have accomplished our goal of whittling down the collection to our favorites and we will have had a successful business venture. It’s a joy to take your hobby and turn it into a business.”
“I will always be a beachcomber, even long after the shop is done,” he says. “It’s such incredibly relaxing therapy and the exhilaration of finding something new on the beach is just a bonus.”
Find Bob’s Beach Finds on Facebook at @bobsbeachfinds.
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine March/April 2022 issue.
Thank you we enjoyed so much talking with you today. Very interesting stories!!! We will be back.