Along historic Main Street is where you can find life-long Darlington resident Ted Thuli driving his 1927 Franklin Limousine. It’s just one of his many collectibles.
Thuli started collecting as kid when his parents would take him to auctions. Anything that was left over for a nickel or a dime he would grab and it just evolved from there. Collecting has become way more than a hobby. Thuli says, “It’s an addiction definitely – motorcycles, cars and stuff – ya bad.” Thuli is so “good” at something he describes as “bad” that he caught the attention of the stars from the History Channel’s “American Pickers.” They even bought a vintage porcelain Goodyear sign from Thuli.
Thuli helps run the family business but his sights are set on keeping things local. His first big adventure the Thuli Family Creamery. He turned an old gas station into a cheese factory and converted a semi-truck into a cheese making tourist attraction. Guest are greeted by a prop from the movie Jaws; just another one of Thuli’s collectibles.
Across the street renovation is underway on the Driver Opera House. The flat floor opera was originally built in 1876 and was last used around 1958. Thuli is helping to reopen that space to the public. One block north is the renovated gas station where Thuli worked as a teenager. He bought building and restored it. In the process it was converted it into a coffee house in the morning and a brewery that serves local beer at night.
Step into Thuli’s house and you will step back in time. The entry way looks like the old Standard Service Station built in 1929 in downtown Darlington. Thuli salvaged the façade during demolition. Upstairs another Darlington original, the old theater built in 1942. It’s now the entrance to his own home movie theater – box office and all. His home is so unique he’s been featured on various HGTV programs.
But at the end of the day what is Thuli’s motivation behind his obsession with collecting and preserving? Thuli says, “Yeah, a lot of people ask that. My wife asks that. “Why ya doing this? I don’t know. It’s a passion. It’s a respect for what other people have gone through. I mean I love Darlington.” Thuli admits looking back he is hopeful people will remember the past and the part he played in preserving the future.