Longtime beaches resident Tony Prat is a renaissance man, of sorts. As a visual artist, videographer, DJ, musician, furniture maker, surfer, etcetera, etcetera, Prat’s not wanting for creative outlets. A battle-scarred veteran of a beaches-based revolution of his own design, Prat’s known by some from his time stacking wax—his hair dyed Jaguar-print—at Sunrise Surf Shop; others likely remember him singing lead vocals in the seminal Jax-HC outfit Ringworm. Others still have likely caught one of his rock n’ roll, no-requests-granted DJ sets at various venues around the beaches, including Fly’s Tie; and many others lately have seen him playing guitar and singing with his riff-rock outfit 9E.
Yet, a lucky few have been invited inside Prat’s fantasy factory in Mayport. After moving to and then back to Jax from his native New York City in 2013, Prat acquired a humble 10’ x 10’ portion of a nondescript warehouse near Atlantic Blvd. Today he has two entire warehouses to his name, the interiors of which—between his musical equipment, his abstract and assemblage artworks, woodworking tools, and accumulation of offbeat, vintage collectibles and ephemera—brings to mind the dotty dishevelment and abstract nostalgia of the English Country-style of the early to mid-twentieth century; that is, if Johnny Rotten and Lydia Deetz had cohabitated in a London flat.
“I’ve been collecting random stuff forever,” says Prat, leaning back in his desk chair in front of shelves of vinyl records that are topped with a stochastic grouping of estate sale finds—a candlestick telephone, vintage luggage, a stack of felt Mickey Mouse hats. “There is a story behind every, single thing in here.”
I asked Prat about what made a warehouse an appealing place to keep his things, as well as an inspiring environment to make new ones.
How’d you come to occupy this space with your stuff?
It’s a pretty funny story. I moved back from New York in 2013. In the back of my head I’d always wanted a warehouse—you know with the bay door that goes up? I’d been back for just a few days, and I was riding my bike around Mayport looking at warehouses. I saw Ding All [Dale] and Brian [Christenson, owners of Surf Source] and I was like, “Oh, I’ll go talk to those guys.”
So we’re out there in front of Surf Source talking and I was like, “Man, I’m looking for a little warehouse space.” They were like, “Well, how much space do you need.” I didn’t need all that much because at the time, I just needed a spot to put my [music] gear and surfboards and stuff.
So they gave me a 10’ X 10’ space inside a larger warehouse and it just grew from there—10’ X 20’, then me and Dane [Jeffery’s from Volcom] were sharing [a space]; then I had a whole warehouse. Now I have two!
And so this space is a multi-use facility. You’re doing your music and art. But you also refinish furniture. How’d that side-hustle come about?
Well, my mom, Laurette, has been doing furniture for years—buying, refurbishing, and selling. She’s long been known as the Shabby-Chic Queen of the beach—before anybody else was doing it. She was busy and I could see she needed help. I just started helping then it became a thing. Then I started working with reclaimed wood and making tables and mirrors and all kinds of stuff.
How long have you been collecting… well… stuff?
I’ve been doing it forever. And I’ll admit, a lot of it comes from my mom. She’s always had a great eye, especially for things that have little stories behind them. I’m into minimal and modern [design], but I just can’t help myself. [Laughs]. This is who I am and I love finding cool stuff. There is a story about every, single thing in here.
Is there any rhyme or reason to what you collect? Are there things you find consistently?
Not really. I like phones. I like old, beat-up music equipment. But really I never know what’s going to catch my eye.
What’s your favorite item you’ve acquired recently?
Oh, I found this tape recorder [pulls out and passes me a gray cassette recorder with the red Radio Shack logo, possibly from the mid-90s]. It still had a tape in it with a 45-minute interview with this old lady who was born in 1916. I don’t know how to find the people, but I’d love to get this back to the family. I put the interview to music [hits play on his laptop, a bass-and-drum loop plays under a faint voice]. How crazy is this?
After living in New York for so many years, the idea of having a warehouse that’s this size I’m sure would seem crazy. How did your experience living in such an expensive, dense city help you value a space like this?
My last few years in New York I got into making t-shirts—silk-screening, double-dip dyes. I was doing this all on the floor of my apartment. I had no TV and no real furniture, so it kind of worked. But I just really needed space to create: for me that’s the most important thing. Here, I’m able to do my music, my art, my furniture. It’s unlimited possibilities, really.
Are there things that you’ve now been able to do, that maybe you never thought you’d want to do, because you have this space?
I’ve never exhibited my visual artwork. Since I’ve had this space and the tools and the ability to collect materials, I’ve really had a chance to focus on some pieces. I’ve made some stuff I’m proud of and I think I’m just going to open up the bay doors soon and invite people in to see it.
So that’s on the agenda? You’re going to do an art show here?
Yeah, I’ve wanted to bring more art and music and culture to the beach for a longtime. That’s always been a goal of mine. It would be a nice thing for Mayport and the beach in general to have more art and art spaces. There’s cool stuff going on all over the city, but the beach has never really been considered an arts destination. I want to help change that.
This feature originally appeared in Void Magazine’s January 2020 issue.