The Story of my Picker

When I had a shop, it attracted lots of individuals who wanted to sell me antiques. Some of them had good stuff. Others had junk. Many wanted too much for their inherited mementos.

One old guy brought me cracked and chipped tea cups and got mad when I wouldn’t buy them at any price.

A young couple came into my shop once. The guy distracted me while the woman shoplifted. She took an ivory handle off of a walking cane and put it in her big coat pocket while I bought stuff that they’d probably stolen from another shop.

But the guy who brought me bonafide antiques was stealing them from his own relatives to support his drug habit. When he was clean, he was a great guy, willing to help, hang signs, go pick up large pieces of furniture, etc. I didn’t catch on to his drug problem for a quite a while.

He would fill up his pick-up truck and offer me the whole load for $500. There’d be guitars, random pieces of farm equipment, old furniture, and once a huge brown buggy from the early 1900’s.  Another time he brought me a cathedral-shaped stained-glass window that is 54 inches high (I kept it).

I’d always buy the truckload. He figured out what I liked and brought me more – old signs, wooden crates, lots of dishes, and vintage hats.

My shop did well on Prospect Avenue until the roof started to leak during a January rainstorm, and I had water dripping into my linens room.

I moved around the corner into a vacant spot (same landlord) on Hartz Avenue, next to a popular new restaurant. My new space was smaller and didn’t have a cemented area out front for me to place baskets of merchandise.

I did string up a clothesline outside for my vintage aprons, and I put out a mannequin every day wearing a pioneer outfit or a Halloween apron or a Santa suit.

The property manager called me and said the town didn’t allow mannequins out front. I knew that couldn’t be true, because other shops put theirs out.  I called the town offices to ask. They told me there was no such rule.

The property manager confessed that it was the restaurant that didn’t want it. Too flipping bad was my response.

Since my shop opened at 11:00, and since the restaurant opened at 7:00 for breakfast, I often found strollers or bicycles blocking my front door when I got there.  I’d move these items into my flower bed out front or to the sidewalk, only to be screamed at by the owners of the items when they came back to retrieve them.

“You were blocking my door,” I’d say while they ranted at me.

One busy Saturday, a woman parked her stroller and herself in front of my door at lunchtime, waiting for a table to open up.

“You can’t stand here,” I said.

“It will only be for a minute,” she said.

“Get out of my doorway,” I said over and over until she moved.

I put out lots of wooden signs. People would stare at them while they ate lunch and came in afterward to buy one.

It was a love-hate relationship for three years until I closed my shop.

People stole from me, switched tags, broke things, tried to return things they had broken or destroyed. One woman put her antique quilt in the dryer, and the fabric shredded. She wanted her $150 back and brought two friends, who stayed in my shop for almost an hour until they gave up and left. Fortunately, she’d paid with a debit card, not a credit card, so she couldn’t get a refund that way.

I had to put paper slips with cloth purchase receipts after that, saying once you wash it, it’s yours. Don’t put antique cloth items in the dryer.

But I digress.

The day I moved my shop was the day after my picker had sold me an antique arcade scale that also gave your horoscope.  He didn’t show the next day to move me, because he went on a drug binge with the money I’d paid him.

My team of teen-aged girls had to move the contents of the entire shop with little red wagons. I was horrified but also determined to get it done.

When the picker showed up a few days later, offering to help me move, I said, “You’re too late. I couldn’t wait for you. Don’t ever come back here.”

He learned his lesson, and I learned my lesson (don’t give your picker a hunk of money the day before you want him to work).

I also learned that having an antique shop is hard work, not for sissies, and that there will be losses as well as gains. 

I was only in the red (didn’t make my rent) once out of the 78 months that I had my shop. I met everybody in town and sold half of them stuff.

Would I do it again? Never.

Am I glad I did it? Of course. 

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