Robert and Brenda Bentley have a message for anyone exploring downtown Aiken: “Come on in.”


Last month, the couple opened Bentley’s Antiques at 133 Laurens St. N.W., and they’re eager to welcome visitors to their new store.


“We like talking to people,” Brenda said.


Added Robert: “It’s nice to learn from other people. Everybody has a story. A guy came in here the other day and told us all about fountain pens.”


The Bentleys moved to Aiken from Texas several years ago. Brenda is a native of South Carolina, and Robert is originally from England.


“We both have always loved antiques,” Brenda said.


But until now, both Bentleys had been busy in the car rental business. They have two rental locations in Florida and another will open soon. “We just recently sold our business in Augusta,” Brenda said. “I ran that one, so I don’t have as much to do. What I need to do for the places in Florida can be done on the computer, but I’m not a stay-at-home kind of person.”


Consequently, the timing seemed right to open an antiques store, which the couple had discussed in the past.


“Robert told me, ‘If you can find a shop, go for it,’” Brenda said.


Soon afterward, the Bentleys spotted a “for lease” sign in a downtown Aiken building that they liked.


Filling the shelves and the walls of Bentley’s Antiques didn’t turn out to be a problem. Throughout the Bentleys’ 26-year marriage, searching for and purchasing collectible objects from the past had been a hobby. When the British pound was more valuable than the dollar, they sent some of their finds to England to be sold by a friend who had an auction business.


But many of their antiques ended up in boxes.


“We had a lot of stuff in our house,” Brenda said. “Much of it was in the attic.”


The items the Bentleys decided to put on display in Bentley’s Antiques include silver and porcelain from the 1700s, oil paintings, furniture and pottery.


“They are fine antiques, and they reflect our taste,” Robert said. “When we buy something, we like to think that it will fit in our home if it doesn’t sell.”


But while the adjective “fine” indicates quality, it doesn’t mean that all of the Bentleys’ wares cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.


“The discerning buyer that looks closely will see that we also have affordable items,” Robert said.


Bentley’s Antiques is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.


Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.