I’ve been pickin’ off-and-on my whole adult life and met a ton of people, collected stories, phone numbers, friends, stuff, and memories along the way! The questions I’m asked remain constant, here are a few of my favorite pickin’ FAQs:

1. Where do you find this stuff?

Winner of “the most common question” contest. (By far!)

Truth is: it’s top secret! Just like Colonel Sanders and his 11-herbs-and-spices, I can’t tell you exactly where I go or how I got there. That’s the Picker-code and it’s understood. Thankfully, most people don’t actually want that level of detail. What they really want to know is; do I spend my “spare time” between thrift shops and estate sales, looking for bargains?

Short answer: Of course I do. Who doesn’t it!?

Long answer: it’s not the main staple of how I acquire “stuff.” Most of it comes from relationships I’ve built with fellow pickers, customers, and connections. Honestly, I rarely roll-up on someone like they depict Mike and Frank doing on American Pickers, flyer in hand and all that. I have, however, chatted with someone in line at the grocery store and watched it turn into an invite to look through their overstuffed garage. (Which is almost always a “big” score!)

woman in red dress vintage ad

2. What’s your favorite part of pickin’? 

Like any good hunter, I’d be a liar if I didn’t say the best part of pickin’ is the thrill of the chase. Sometimes it’s the search for a needle in a haystack. Other times it’s a feeling like “I just know there’s something cool in here.” And then there’s those magical moments where I walk in and make a beeline for something that caught my eye. In any case, rarely do I walk away empty handed and it’s always fun to see what comes back with me… and equally fun to see who buys it, especially when there’s a trade off; me telling where it came from and them telling where it’s going.

 

man in fear of bear

Even better when they send pics!

VW Bug Tailgate light

1966 VW 1300

This rare Volkswagen Bug‘s claim to fame is the boost in power from the previous version, 1200 cc to 1300 cc.

Got it from a fellow picker who had it in his yard for a long time and it went to a customer who’d owned this model in his youth. Now it’s wall art. Win.Win.Win!

old wooden boat doors on display

Wood Boat Doors

Came from a son who’d lost his dad and was liquidating his estate in order to sell the family home and they went to a customer turned friend with a house at the beach.

With just the right nautical vibe, they’re a focal point in her living room and look great!

steampunk fireplace with valve handles

valve/spigot handles

From a fellow picker located about 75 miles from me, in Lewis County. I left her place with a whole bunch and put them in a large enamel bowl.

These folks took some home and steampunk’d their fireplace!

 

3. What made you want to be a Picker?

If you would have asked two years ago, I would have said something like “not sure, I think it’s just that I love history and I’ve always been a collector of cool things and making small talk with people comes easy for me.” But a couple years ago, after looking for five decades, I finally found, contacted, and ultimately visited my biological dad who I hadn’t seen since I was two. Within three minutes of meeting him I knew exactly what made me want to be a picker. DNA!

Wheeler-dealer. Personable. Makes you laugh. That’s my dad.

Sue Darcy and Ken Groves

4. Why a retail shop?

For a decade I lived in Tacoma about a mile off I-5 where I did picking off and on hobby-style. It was something fun to do with the family on weekends or to drag my kid along as punishment (just kidding, he actually liked it). I’d look for big stuff; yard art, fencing, doors, arbors and whatnot and it was easy because I had a ten foot perimeter fence around the backyard and a double garage which gave me the space to store it. But then the kid grew up and flew the coup and we’d had enough of the city so… we moved to the beach. (Don’t ask “why the beach,” there’s not enough time in the world for that story, trust me!)

Basically, it was easy to get someone from Seattle to Tacoma to buy a rusty whatever. Not so easy to get them to the beach for that purpose. So, it seemed like giving a retail location a shot was the thing to do – either that or give up pickin’. (ha.ha.ha.) I tried that, it doesn’t work. I last about a week and then something shiny comes across my face and puts me right back at it. I think they call that an addiction but honestly, in this case, I’m OK with it and so are you, right?!

sooz rusty nail front

5. How do you NOT keep ALL the cool stuff?

First of all, there is no way I can live with all the cool stuff I pick. But while it’s sitting in the shop it’s kind of like living with it 😉 I know there’s a fantasy that pickin’ for a living is all fun and ends in a house full of cool stuff. However, when I’m picking for Sooz Rusty Nail, I’m actually not looking to put it in my own home; I’m looking for things you might want in your home.

Occasionally when pickin’ I find something super neat and take it home for awhile (like a foster parent) and then put it in the shop down the line. There are, of course, things I keep and will never part with but at this point, those items are not accumulating as quickly as I’m selling stuff because the funnest part of picking is… the thrill of the chase! Finally, if I keep it all for myself there’s certain trouble ahead: one, I’ll end up with a hoard and two I’ll end up divorced! Neither of which are very appealing.

 

REI original sign

Yes, that IS the original REI sign from the Seattle flagship store before they changed the logo. I snagged it from the guy who took it down. It’s in my permanent collection 😉

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a sampling of the good stuff...

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