The outside of the building isn’t much to look at but the inside is something you’ve likely never seen.
“I think it’s going to put Gulfport on the map,” said Ester Venouziou. “I was, like, shocked.”
Rugs and masks sit next to instruments and keepsakes from around the globe in Mike Petras’ Antique Textile Museum. After nearly two decades wandering the earth, the Michigan-native decided to put his cultural collection on display in Gulfport.
“Life’s too short,” he said with a colorful Japanese-themed shirt on. “There’s so much beauty out there and so many beautiful people.”
Petras lived in Asia for 12 years and also made stops in Europe and Central America. Exploring the world became appealing to him after he dodged death on his motorcycle as a 28-year-old.
“He must have came this far from my bike,” he said, holding his hands about a foot apart. “I took the soft shoulder and right into a ravine 30 feet down.
“Three months after that I was off to Korea.”
The motorcycle crash that nearly killed him opened his eyes. Petras decided to see everything he hadn’t yet.
Now, he wants you to see it, too.
“From the outside, you wouldn’t expect to see this in here,” said Venouziou, who founded a company called Local Shops 1 which aims to empower Tampa Bay small businesses. “It’s amazing. You don’t know where to look first.”
His textile museum is open to the public for free and Petras offers tours on Saturday and Sunday mornings to show off his travels to the Gulfport community.
“It’s much easier to name where I haven’t been,” he said with a smile.
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