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Finding Minnesota: The Shark, The Rocket & Other Oddities Along I-35

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO)-- Drivers do a lot of double takes along I-35 in the south metro, where a life-sized shark statue is on a hillside next to a replica submarine, rocket ship and something resembling a Martian vehicle.

They're there to draw attention to Hot Sam's, an antique shop overlooking an eclectic salvage yard that's been nicknamed an "antique theme park."

The owner, Jake Hood, calls himself a third-generation junk man. Since the 1970s, he's been filling his ten acres with attention-grabbing items, and arranging them in a way to attract the curious.

"Kind of a junkyard with a sense of humor," Hood said.

His collection includes a gypsy fortune teller's wagon, the wreckage of a mosquito-spraying plane from Florida and a 1940s St. Paul Police paddy wagon.

"That's a bullet hole," he said, pointing to a shattered passenger window. "Somebody was maybe shooting back, I don't know."

There's a 20-foot sculpture of a guitar that Hood says was made from an old therapeutic tub that Vikings players used at training camp in Mankato.

He said the shark was a prop from the movie set of "Jaws."

On a recent visit, his friend and resident artist, Barry Bolden, was attaching light bulbs to a makeshift UFO sculpture, made from satellite dish-size military antennas.

"It just excites me to make things materialize," Hood said.

The big items are on the property, in part, to draw customers to the antique store, which Hood runs with his long-time girlfriend, Kathy Sakry.

Lately, though, they've seen more of something else: photo shoots.

Photographers like Donae Cotton pay $50 an hour just to have access to the one-of-a kind backgrounds.

"The availability of the props, the backdrops," Cotton said, "it's a photographer's dream, absolute dream."

In fact, Hood has photographers and kids in mind with the way he and Bolden freshen up some items.

"The fact of it is, I'm a kid myself, and I just understand things like this for some reason," he said.

Hot Sam's, it turns out, is a tribute to Hood's own family. His grandfather, a proud immigrant, was a scrap collector and so was his mother, Gladys Hood.

"Oh, this was her heaven," he said. "I did everything I could to support Ma and what her life was about, because I built this actually for her."

He's a third-generation junk man who's turned discards into a destination.

"I just enjoy everything about it," he said.

Hood says he doesn't have time for the Internet, so he doesn't have a website. He just depends on people coming off the interstate, and word of mouth.

Hot Sam's Antiques is located at 22820 Pillsbury Avenue in Lakeville. The phone number is 952-469-5922.

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