Strange Is Good When It Comes To My Store


I’m working at my antiques mall today and, I must say, things have gone swimmingly without me here. The store is clean and organized; the clerks have developed true and lasting friendships; and the customers are happy, happy, happy. I should go away more often.

Fortunately, they need me for restocking purposes.

Before the show American Pickers ever appeared on TV, I read a magazine article about men who went around New York City, culling the area for interesting items that they then resold to antiques shops. Clearly, that would be the perfect job for me! It would let my quirky sensibilities fit right in. The only downside, the men said, was walking past the window of the buyer’s shop later that month and seeing the price tag on the item. It was so much higher than what they’d been paid.

To solve this problem, I bought a shop, figuring I’d be my own “middle man.”

If you are a picker, or would like to be one, here’s the secret — the rare, oddball, difficult-to-find items are what you’re looking for. It’s a combination of knowledge and luck. It’s almost like shopping for clothes. If you go into a store with an exact idea of what you want, you are going to have trouble finding it. It’s only if you keep an open mind that you will be successful.

Luckily, my mind is so open the air whistles through it.

This trip, I brought to the store several cool things that I know will keep my customers amused, and that’s why they keep coming back. I send out an e-mail blast letting them know that the trailer is on its way, and they immediately begin to wonder, “What has that crazy loon picked up this time?”

Certainly, they can’t resist coming in to see.

This time I brought an entire collection of model railroading tools and supplies, an Amish cookbook, a 1950s City Bus Lines toy, a wooden trunk sporting a vintage Tokyo sticker and a 1930s sign that says “Photographer.” It’s way cool.

But the highlight of this trip is a 1950s pink refrigerator. It has rounded corners and enough chrome to look like a car. I fell in love with it the moment I saw it. It even works! It may be difficult to sell — not too many homes have pink kitchens anymore — but it will definitely be a conversation piece.

I buy a lot of old kitchen appliances. I do this with fear and trepidation because, especially in the case of stoves, I don’t know if they really do work unless I buy them straight out of a kitchen. Then my poor husband somehow wrestles the thing into the trailer, we drag it 1,500 miles to the shop, and it sells within two weeks. Why? Because most shop owners are too smart to risk spending hundreds of dollars on a something that is going to take up a lot of space in the store and may or may not function. It’s a risk-reward thing.

This goofy refrigerator was supposed to wait until our next trip because the trailer was already full, but Mark was able to pick it up and put it in the SUV, and I couldn’t bear to ask him to take it out. We stuffed our suitcases in around it and drove with our knees up under our chins.

It doesn’t matter — the fridge is already sold. The first person I told about it said, “I’ll take it.” It’s not even out of the car yet. I didn’t get a chance to scrub it down, and I didn’t have time to put in that six-pack of old-time Cokes like I was going to do. It’s sold.

Now, just like looking for a particular dress, I am going to spend the rest of my life looking for another pink refrigerator. Or my customer will want the matching stove.

Gosh, I hope not.