If we ever needed a time to reflect back on a simpler era, it is now.
And the way to do it is not only free, it is hidden in plain sight in South Daytona. Within the walls of the 6,000-square-foot Goodfellas Classic Cars building, owned by Nina and Mickey Pandelos, lies treasures from the '40s, '50s and '60s.
The couple have created a magical place among the cars they sell with close to $1 million of viewable artifacts with a guest book signed by visitors from around the world. A special-made sign even beckons “welcome to once upon a time.”
There is no charge for the museum but donations are encouraged for the St. Jude’s Cancer Fund. The charity was picked because many of their family members and friends have succumbed to cancer, including both of Mr. Pandelos’ parents and his identical twin brother.
Authentic historical pictures and newspaper stories line the walls. Rooms are themed with an old barber chair and shoe shine chair at the entrance along with a replica of a paperboy (Mr. Pandelos delivered papers). There are several original gas pumps from the past, antique cars, a historical cash register, coin operated jukebox, a wall operated telephone, a carousel horse and Coca-Cola memorabilia.
There is a racing-themed room, Bonnie and Clyde replicas, old-fashioned ice cream and soda shop, pirates, '50s diner mural, frontage of old shops, antique bicycles, old coolers, tires and sleds.
“We moved here 40 years ago with our car, our clothes, our two sons and $900,” Ms. Pandelos said. “It was a gutsy move. The reason for making the move is Mickey did not want our sons to grow up in that atmosphere. Mickey’s family had supper clubs up north in Pittsburgh and Wheeling, W.V. They catered to the Mob. (The shop is named Goodfellas for a reason … don’t ask too many questions).
“This was for a better life for our boys,” she said. “We lived in a motel room for a year. We did everything. We’re so proud of those boys. We have six grandchildren. We’re blessed.”
Florida just made sense, Mr. Pandelos said. “If we were going to be poor, we might as well be poor in the sunshine.”
He had several trades before finding a career in real estate, including early years as a chef where he occasionally cooked for Wayne Newton and other celebrities at his family’s restaurants. The Pandelos’ were former part owners of Inlet Harbor Marina and Restaurant, which was recently sold and still have 13 acres of the property. Mr. Pandelos’ career in real estate has switched to classic car sales.
The museum was the brainchild of him and his later partner, Dale Murray. It has been open 16 years. The site was originally bought to store their classic cars, which led to them getting dealers licenses. Mr. Pandelos now owns the building outright.
“I started collecting stuff, but I didn’t want it to look like hoarding,” he said. “My partner and I just started buying things. I especially designed every scene to have its own personality. I’m very fond of old things and classics. I’m so proud of this place.”
Mr. Pandelos owns Pandelos Real Estate and John Pandelos is part owner and general manager of Daytona Mazda.
Ms. Pandelos, 75, is originally from Steubenville, Ohio, and Mr. Pandelos, 78, is from Martin’s Ferry, Ohio. They spent a lot of time in Pittsburgh and West Virginia as well where Mr. Pandelos used to shine shoes as a child. They are also world travelers.
The museum is at 1660 S. Segrave Street in South Daytona. Mr. Pandelos is usually there Monday to Saturday. To be sure to get a look inside, call him at (386) 214-1030 and make an appointment.