If you've seen American Pickers, you know how Mike and Frank scour the countryside for vintage and antique finds. Their travels have taken them to far-flung places across many states. In case you didn't know, Mike has become a bona fide Tennessean, with a residence in Leiper's Fork, Tennessee and he's often spotted hanging out with our friends at Blue 32 in Columbia. So how did Sherri and I get started picking? And do we pick like the American Pickers? And where can YOU find great picking spots?
Some of you know our back story. For those who don't, here's the Reader's Digest version: Sherri and I have known each other for years through church. Along the way, we discovered we both like kicking around estate sales and flea markets.
One fateful fall day in 2014, we were at the Nashville Flea Market with a group of friends. I asked if anyone had thought about having a booth at an antique shop and Sherri said she was interested.
We began looking for a booth....and we quickly learned it's not always easy to find an opening. But she persevered, and got us a spot in a mall in Franklin, and then an opportunity to consign to a shop in Arrington, too. We picked a name - The Southern Pickin' Chicks - and began figuring out the ins and outs of this business. Fast-forward a few years, and I cajoled her into opening our own shop and we filled it up with our own vendors and consignors. We changed our name to Re-Invintage when we opened in mid-March 2017.
As we approach our 4th anniversary as a brick-and-mortar shop in our hometown, it seems like a good time to answer some of the most oft-repeated questions we get, namely what/where/how do picker chicks pick?
Let's start with the WHAT we pick. We aren't Mike and Frank, so we don't keep an exhaustive list of items we are interested in. (We like to keep our options open.)
However, there are certain items we instinctively gravitate to, including anything with drawers or cubbies: card catalogs, apothecary cabinets, metal or wood parts bins. We also tend to stop in our tracks for interesting seating - everything from folding theater seats to old church pews and school benches. And we have a soft spot for embroidered linens, along with a variety of vintage dishware, glassware and barware.
So WHERE do we pick? If you've asked us this, you probably got a vague answer. It's not because we are guarding some bottomless fountain of vintage treasures...it's because we really do find ourselves picking through auctions and estate sales, old barns, cellars and attics, as well as the occasional thrift store, flea market or antique shop.
We hunt and peck for interesting items locally, and we cast our nets wider into other parts of Tennessee, neighboring states. Occasionally, we haul things home from trips several states away. This photo shows my best side picking through a shed in Maury county before the homeowners tore it down to build a new home.
What you can't see in that photo is the temperature. It was right after New Year's, so you can guess it was a typically chilly January day. It wasn't the time of year we'd prefer to pick, but when you get an invitation, it may come when the weather conditions are less-than-ideal.
And finally, the HOW we pick. This video was from a few years back when we sweated our way through the Nashville Flea Market.
It is true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We dig through clutter and less-interesting stuff to pluck out a piece when we spy a back stamp or hint of a pattern peeking through. It takes practice and patience to build up a mental Rolodex of information that allows you to know what an item is and whether it's a knock-off or the real McCoy. Or whether a particular color or style or pattern makes it worth buying even though there's a rust spot, a snag, or fleabite chip out of the rim.
Then there's the matter of taste. What we pick isn't necessarily what you would pick. But after a lot of trial and error, we have honed our eyes and tastes to have a pretty good idea of what is worth hauling home, cleaning and polishing and displaying for sale.
So do you want to be a picker? There's always room for more pickers in the world....but be careful. It might just lead you to becoming a business owner along the way.
And when you spot a vintage treasure in a store, keep in mind that somewhere, someone probably had to unearth that piece, haul it home, store it, clean it, haul it to the store, and then patiently wait for the right buyer to come along and want it enough to pay a fair price for it.
WHO WRITES THIS STUFF?
I'm Terry Lea, owner of Re-Invintage Home, a vintage home goods shop just south of Nashville in Murfreesboro, TN. A lifelong passion for vintage picking led me to open a shop with my picking pal, Sherri in 2017. Come see us!