Another’s Treasure: Beauty in eye of beholder at Junk Ranch Oct. 1-2

Another’s Treasure: Beauty in eye of beholder at Junk Ranch Oct. 1-2
LARA JO HIGHTOWER
lhightower@nwadg.com

An auction was Junk Ranch founder Amy Daniels’ gateway drug into serious junking. She can’t remember what inspired the trip out to a farm sale with her sister Holly, but once she was there, she was hooked.

Friday’s entry fee to the Junk Ranch is $10, versus $5 for Saturday; many people pay to shop on Friday to make sure they don’t miss anything they might have seen a Junk Ranch vendor post on social media. “There’s nothing to see someone bum-rushing the gate, on a mission,” says the Junk Ranch’s Amy Daniels of the show’s enthusiastic shoppers. “You can tell when people are almost flat-out running, trying to get somewhere.” (Courtesy Photos/Lara Jo Hightower)

“I think I just learned about them, that there were good deals, and it was something I had never done, so I thought, ‘Let’s go do this,’” she remembers. “I think the first thing I bought at an auction was a pretty ratty quilt.”

Flea markets and tag, estate and yard sale addiction soon followed.

“I remember the first time I learned about haggling,” she says, laughing. “One of the first things that I haggled on was a $1 item. I look back at that now and think: ‘I would have run me off!’ But I did get it for 50 cents.”

Daniels’ parents-in-law owned an antique store, so it didn’t seem odd when Daniels started moving in the direction of selling as well as buying.

“I just kept going, and just like everybody else, you start sifting out things that you’re not interested in, or you buy things that you get by the boxful, and then you’re like, ‘What am I going to do with all of this?’” she says. “So I had a tent sale at my sister’s house: We set up a big tent, rented a bunch of tables — it was kind of crazy. I think we maybe broke even.”

That tent sale may have been the birth of the idea that would eventually become the Junk Ranch. Eight years ago, Daniels tried a tent sale on a bigger scale at the Viney Grove Community Building in Prairie Grove, and the huge positive response both overwhelmed and energized her. She and her Junk Ranch partner, Julie Speed, searched until they found the exact right venue to expand the event; these days, it’s held on farm land on the outskirts of Prairie Grove and is Northwest Arkansas’ largest open-air flea market, attracting thousands of people to the area and boosting the local economy for two weekends a year. When the gates open on Oct. 1 for the fall show, eager shoppers will find more than 200 booths selling anything from rusty barn finds to polished antiques — and everything in between. Ten food trucks and live music add to the county fair-like atmosphere, which attracts avid vintage shoppers on a mission, as well as families, with kids and pets in tow, looking for a laid-back, fun afternoon.

On the phone two weeks before the sale starts, Daniels sounds calm and organized, despite the huge to-do list in front of her. Over the next week-and-a-half, she has to finalize the vendor layout, mark it on the grounds, brush hog the field, get the barn cleared and get the parking area ready — and tackle the myriad of last-minute emergencies that inevitably crop up in the run-up to an event this size. It’s a lot of work, but it’s that kind of hard work that led her to producing one of the biggest flea market events in the state.

“I think everything is about timing in life,” she says. “You take little things away from everything you do until you end up with the timing to put everything together. You have a vision and a plan, but sometimes it takes a little bit of time to baby-step your way to it.”

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Vendor Spotlight

A tent sale may have been the birth of the idea that would eventually become the Junk Ranch. Eight years ago, Amy Daniels tried a tent sale on a bigger scale at the Viney Grove Community Building in Prairie Grove, and the huge positive response both overwhelmed and energized her. Now the event has grown into Northwest Arkansas’ largest open-air flea market (Courtesy Photo/Lara Jo Hightower)

Amanda and Jimmy Armstrong

Funky Junk Antiques

Amanda Armstrong had been a single mom for years when she agreed to accompany her oldest daughter to church one Sunday morning. Out of the blue, she says, a man sat down in the pew next to her.

“Jimmy plopped down beside me, and he said, ‘Is this seat taken?’” she remembers, laughing. “I was like, ‘What?’”

Maybe Jimmy had an instinct that the two would hit it off. Amanda was a junker at heart, and Jimmy owned a pawn shop — this year marks his 40th year in business — so the couple had a lot in common right off the bat.

“It was just meant to be,” says Amanda. “He said, ‘I’ve never had this much fun doing this before,’ and I said, ‘Well, my [first] husband never liked junking ,’ so it was almost like a meant-to-be thing.”

At the time, Amanda was styling hair for a living, but when the two realized they worked well in the junking arena together, they started a flea market booth at the Midtown Mall in Little Rock. That one booth turned into two, then three, then steadily expanded over the years. Today, the pair own and operate Funky Town Mall in Russellville, a flea market with more than 80 vendors, and sell at several shows like Junk Ranch throughout the year. They also travel to dozens of states to shop at flea markets there.

“We have a smorgasbord of things,” Amanda says of what shoppers can expect to find in their Junk Ranch booth. “We have mid-century modern, we have primitive, we have antique, farmhouse, antique hunting supplies, belt buckles, groovy lamps, collectible pocket knives, furniture, couches; vintage, antique, retro, primitive, mid-century, shabby chic, man cave, farmhouse — I’ve brought just about everything over the years.”

She says that’s one of the things she loves about the Junk Ranch: You can find just about anything there.

“The Junk Ranch does a great job of picking vendors to cover wants and needs and desires that shoppers are looking for,” she notes. “Shoppers are looking for everything — they don’t just want T-shirts or furniture or painted signs. They want everything.”

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FAQ

“I just kept going, and just like everybody else, you start sifting out things that you’re not interested in, or you buy things that you get by the boxful, and then you’re like, ‘What am I going to do with all of this?’” says Junk Ranch founder Amy Daniels. The answer, of course, is sell it to someone who will love it. (Courtesy Photo/Lara Jo Hightower)

The Junk Ranch

WHEN — 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 1; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 2

WHERE — 11195 Centerpoint Church Rd., Prairie Grove

COST — $5-$10

INFO — thejunkranch.net

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