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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Where are the pickers of yesteryear?

I have always been a nosy/inquisitive/observant/analytical person (some of these are more positive than others in implication--take your pick). So it in my nature to have closely watched the more experienced pickers that came into my purview back in Bloomington, Indiana. Truly, working in a vintage shop (the Eye of Osiris), hanging out at thrift stores--I met  many people not in my usual academic sphere.

I so admired all these women who lived by their wits. I was a rather timid studious type. I learned a lot by watching them. Good memories. And I hope some good lessons about taking chances.

There was Gail, who had been in theater school with Kevin Kline. All she wanted to do was be a costume designer, but alas, she had to take low-paying jobs to support her young daughter after her husband took off. She was only an occasional picker, and  a truly creative person. She was upcycling clothing before the term existed.

There was Sue, who in the way of the 70s and 80s, spelled her name Sioux. She had a husband and a stepson. She drove all over rural Indiana selling insurance policies. While she was in the tiny towns, she went to thrift stores. She said the little old ladies who ran the shops couldn't believe she wanted all that old stuff.

Then there was Karen. I knew her the least, but she was the most interesting to me--a true live-by-her-wits entrepreneur.  Her main business was "feather art." While she created some beautiful, complex pieces, she made most of her money selling simple feather earrings for $7.00.

She drove all around going to craft shows. En route, like Sioux, she stopped at thrift stores and brought back tons of stuff. She had so much that she not only consigned at the Eye of Osiris, but also opened her own shop, The Material Plane, with her soon-to-be-ex-husband.

She also bought up houses, doubles on the cheaper west side of town away from the university. When I knew her, she owned at least two doubles, living in one unit and renting three others. I can't imagine the size of her current real estate empire (?). She was all business.

Noodling around the internet, I discovered that Gail (so sad) died a few years ago at only 67; Sioux--who had a very common last name--may or may not own a real estate business; and Karen--well, she's still at it. She wrote an interesting biographical/historical piece on the site of her business's YELP review. I love her self-identification as "unemployable."


Established in 1985.
I used to sell on consignment at the old Eye of Osiris and I had so much stuff in there everyone said i should have my own store so when my daughter was a babe and I was married i though it would be a good thing for my mate to run the biz while i was Mom and out shopping for stuff. He just held court in the store, smoking clove cigs and giving stuff away to pretty girls after they modeled it for him, so that didn't last long or the marriage but it's been my store now for a long time. He has one in Louisville now and my daughter used to have one here.We've all changed for the better, and time goes on and 80's is vintage.

Meet the Business Owner

karen c.
karen c.Business Owner
I've had a vintage store forever, I'm unemployable! I pride myself in only having what I think is the best, true vintage. I've also created my feather art for a long time. I keep a few pieces for sale in my store.


Miser Mom said...

Just wanted to say, I'm really liking this series. I've never been a picker (I tend to just give stuff away, not sell it), but I enjoy the peek into this side of the yard-sale, thrift-store world that I live in.

Frugal Scholar said...

@MM--Thanks so much! I have been having fun writing about this stuff, but one never knows if anyone else will find it of interest. Ao again, THANKS.

Atlantic said...

Dear FS,

What a delight to have found your blog--you have relieved me of having to have my own since you cover topics near and dear to my heart: Renaissance literature, the manifold delights of Goodwill, the ways in which shopping/money/choices give us insights into our society and ourselves, the passion for travel. And Lucy M's lovely drawings.

This of course raises issues of decluttering. Minimalism is out but then again I do not yearn to be minimalist, just to have the right amount (beautiful, useful). Needless to say it is the beautiful part of the equation that poses the issue as I have far too many things that are beautiful even if not absolutely necessary.

Please do carry on with your musings

Frugal Scholar said...

@Atlantic--Oh my goodness! I am reeling with happiness. Thank you. But you may have to start your own blog, so I can read it.

Thanks also for your cookbook suggestions--love the Breakfast Book!

Atlantic said...

I cannot start my own blog. I have never found a Herve Leger dress... I sit at the feet of a master. While you were feeling poor and shabby I read your post and was feeling...dare I say it: mildly envious? and a wee bit avaricious (hmmm is that small size my size. STOP--I do not need a bandage dress...although my daughter would look great in one. And she does not need a bandage dress either. Really. Clearly not making headway on the minimalism and a looonng way from Buddhism. I hope it is one of the classic bandage dresses and in a good colour but if not it could definitely be sold (along with the other fantastic finds) to make someone else happy and by the sound of it fund a ticket to Paris.

Re that feeling of being shabby. It elicited many thoughts. One was that while we are being obliviously middle class (I speak for myself--not casting aspersion on anyone else) I might inadvertently be making other people feel poor and shabby. I am sure that I have done this when I was in the third world where by dint of being western it was clear that I was rich by global standards. But perhaps I don't notice that this happens here too. As for the 8th arrondissement...yes. I know that feeling too well. A level of high personal grooming/maintenance/exquisite dress that makes me feel that we are not orbiting in the same electron shell. Why do I care? it is the longing for la dolce via that it implies? and by comparison mine does not look very dolce any more? A bit of envy that they live in Paris to boot?

The upper east side does not have the same depressing effect somehow, as the denizens who seem the most wealthy also seem the least interesting. That said one suddenly wonders why so much effort is put into tracking down the fantastic bargain = their castoff. If you have any insight into it, let us know.

At this rate, my comment will be a blog. Must stop...but leave you with a recipe suggestion just on the off chance that you have not come across it: Senegalese peanut soup from Mark Bittman

Ignore the roasted peanuts and just use Trader Joes crunchy natural PB in place of all of it (or whatever else you like).

Frugal Scholar said...

@Atlantic--That looks like a blog post! I have an upcoming post on how rare these fantastic finds truly are--about 1 per year on average. Really. i make peanut soup all the time--mine is from Elisabeth Rozin's Ethnic Cuisine. So easy!