What role does fate play for a collector? Do you occasionally believe you were meant to find something? Is it just being in the right place at the right time. You have to make the effort and travel to the flea market, antique store or gift shop to put yourself in the right place with hopes to find an addition to your collection. But, every once in a while do you feel yourself being drawn to an item like a mythological Greek siren? Did I loose you? Let me explain. I recently acquired an unusual miniature replica of the Washington D.C. Convention Center. The path I took to find it was unique and multilayered. You may know that I helped organize this year’s Souvenir Building Collector’s Society convention in D.C. I also volunteered to host our Friday night reception and needed to find a caterer for the 70 members attending. As I thought about local candidates and menu options, I wanted to avoid large chain restaurants. I searched for someplace unique with local roots and, of course, great food. I researched a few places and then thought about a barbeque restaurant not too far away. Whenever I mentioned this restaurant to friends, they sang its praise. However, I didn’t want to put in a big food order if I had not tried it myself so we went for dinner one evening. Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company has a huge menu and a casual country atmosphere. We ordered a few different items to sample possible options for the reception. From the first bite, I loved it. The meats, chicken, pork and beef, are grilled over a wood fire giving them a smoky flavor. The side dishes each have an unexpected ingredient and that’s what makes them stand out. The cold slaw has bits of fennel and the cucumber salad has chopped mint. That night, I found a caterer I liked and thought BBQ would be a great way to welcome our group to the southern state of Virginia. The dinner reception was a success. Many people complemented the food during and after the reception. They were really taken with the unique flavors. Anyway, I digress. You want to hear about the souvenir building. As you might guess, we continued to eat at Rocklands sometimes more than once a week it seems. A few times we’ve also suggested to friends that we meet there for dinner. Fast-forward two months after the convention. We are waiting for friends, also building collectors Glenn & Steve, to join us for dinner. I strolled over to a display case filled with eclectic antiques (this is a no-brainer for someone who collects many things) and notice a few interesting items and then…wait. What is that doing there? Sitting behind the glass is a miniature building of the Washington Convention Center. I had not seen one before. Where did it come from? Why is it here? Who made it? Naturally, I had to ask the manager who told me to contact the restaurant’s owner, John. I wanted to call him immediately, but it was Friday night and I thought it best to call during working hours on Monday. I called and left a message about the building replica and hoped me might have the time to call back and not think I’m crazy. He did call back and chatted about the building. John received it in 2003 for his work with the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington and their effort to encourage tourism in the city. The souvenir building is 5.5 inches long, 2.5 inches wide and just over and inch tall. I told him about my collection and that I’d give it a good home if he was interested in parting with it. I said that I was willing to pay for it, but was unsure what sentimental value it held for John. He planned to take a closer look at it and would call me back soon. A few days later, he called again and told me I could have it. Even though I offered, he did not want payment for the building. John just said, “Pay it forward.” Meaning, continue the good deed and do something nice in the future. I was surprised, elated and immediately began thinking of what I could do in return. John collects meat cleavers and spittoons to use as decorations for his restaurant’s 4 D.C. locations. He suggested I keep my eyes out for those and let him know if I find any. To be sure I will and have already enlisted help from a few other antique-hunting friends. The real Walter E. Washington Convention Center was completed in 2003 and is named after D.C.’s first home rule mayor. The sprawling 2,300,000-square-foot building was designed by the architecture firm Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback & Associates. To recap: I found Rocklands because of the SBCS convention. I continued to dine there and eventually noticed the convention center souvenir in a display case. Was it fate that lead me to add this replica to my building collection? What do you think? Do you have stories about similar experiences with collecting? Let us know via the ‘comments’ link below. There is also a replica of the Old Washington Convention Center.