Eye of the beholder: Nothing is ‘junk’ at spring flea market

Eye of the beholder: Nothing is ‘junk’ at spring flea market
LARA JO HIGHTOWER
lhightower@nwadg.com

Nearly nine years ago now, Junk Ranch co-founders Amy Daniels and Julie Speed took a risk and hosted a small flea market on the grounds of the Viney Grove Community Center in Prairie Grove. By mid-morning, the parking lot was overflowing, and the duo knew they had a hit on their hands. Today the event boasts national recognition — they’ve appeared on Flea Market Style Magazine’s “Reader’s Favorite Outdoor Small Fleas and Vintage Shows” and “Vintage Show Crush” lists — and is the largest open-air flea market in the region. When the gates open Friday at 8 a.m., shoppers will see nearly 200 booths stretching across the expansive fields of the ranch at 11195 Centerpoint Church Road in Prairie Grove, will have nearly a dozen food trucks to choose from, and, in between bouts of shopping, can enjoy the live music that will be playing throughout the day.

The Junk Ranch vendors travel from all over the country — as well as coming from right here in Northwest Arkansas — to sell their unique brand of vintage deliciousness. We talked to a few about what they’ll be selling, how they got into the business, and what keeps them coming back to the Junk Ranch year after year.

Rusted Arrow

Shay Greeson from Rusted Arrow is already loading her trailer a week before Junk Ranch.

“I’m from Kansas, originally, and I was going to kind of try to make a loop through and then back down, maybe pick as I go,” she explains. “I’m trying to see how much space I’m going to have!”

This is how the self-described workaholic juggles a successful junking career with single motherhood — she’s always planning. Greeson says she fell in love with antiques when she incorporated them into the garden center she owned, and now she brings her eclectic selection to shoppers attending shows like the Junk Ranch.

“If you’ve ever looked at my Instagram or Facebook page, you’re going to say, ‘Oh my gosh, she does too many different things!’” Greeson says with a laugh. “But when I go to flea markets like this, I bring what I call my rusty junk. I’m more of a primitive old soul. I like metal. I like industrial. I find things that I like, things that are cool, things that are different or unique or that catch my eye. In some ways, I guess, it’s artistry, because you pick things that you like that you can turn into something that’s really cool, or gives a visual for people.”

Greeson’s enthusiasm for the business reveals itself when she describes one of the items she’s excited about bringing.

“It’s a really cool, metal military cabinet,” she says. “It has 12 cubbies. I don’t know if it was a drafting table or what it was, but it’s all metal and then the top of it also lifts up. So it’s like 100% maximized space — there’s no wasted space in this thing. I think it’d be so cool in a boy’s room or man cave.”

This will be Greeson’s first trip to the Junk Ranch. She says shoppers and other vendors have been recommending it to her for years.

“I had several people that would see me at different other shows that did and would say, ‘You really need to try the Junk Ranch,” she says.

Viva Vega Vintage

“All through high school I was seen as the vintage girl,” says Sarah Vega. “I had winged eyeliner, and I was real kind of rockabilly style in high school, and it was not the norm. But I was OK with that, because it’s what I really liked. And my love of vintage just really evolved from there.”

Today, Vega owns Viva Vega Vintage, a vintage clothing business that offers shoppers choice selections from nearly eight decades of styles. Vega was a freshman in high school when she was bit by the vintage bug.

“I was given some dresses by a family friend, because they knew that I was loving the vintage stuff,” she remembers. “Some fit, and some didn’t. And that was when eBay and selling online was getting really popular, so I listed them online because they were never going to fit me. Looking back, I made very little profit, but I just felt good that they were finding a new home and making somebody else happy, and I was able to pass on a piece of history, essentially, that wasn’t mass-produced.”

With her own fascination with vintage clothing, it can be hard for her to part with some of her finds — like the vintage Valentino gown she found at a Fayetteville estate sale, along with the Lilly Pulitzer book she found signed by the designer herself.

“It was a rainbow 1960s maxi dress designed by Valentino,” she says of the gown. The estate was from a couple who had relocated from Manhattan to Fayetteville many years ago. “The dress was specifically made to wear to a party that Lilly Pulitzer hosted, but she didn’t want her own clothing being worn at the party, so the woman had this dress designed to wear.

“I bought it to sell, but I just don’t know if I can get rid of it,” she admits.

This will be Vega’s second time at the Junk Ranch, and she’s bringing along some vintage-inspired children’s clothing this time.

The Spotted Dog

Tim White and his wife Donna have been married for 49 years and have had a mutual fascination with antiques for at least that long — so, says White, when they decided they didn’t want to get up with their cows on frosty winter mornings any more, they turned their hobby into a business.

“We mainly carry primitives, grandpa and grandma’s stuff, you know, from the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s and ’50s,” says White. “Not everything is kitchen related, but we do have a lot of Hoosier cabinets. We bring about 80 percent primitives, and then we bring about 20 percent of just cool stuff.”

One of the couple’s personal collections is quilts, and they sell some as well.

“We have our own family quilts,” he says. “My grandmother quilted; my mother quilted. Me and Donna got married when we were very young, and she helped my mother and grandmother quilt, and they taught her the ins and outs, and her grandmother did too. I guess you could say that old antique quilts kind of tie you back to where you started.”

With decades of hunting and picking under his belt, it’s hard for White to name the most exciting find he’s ever come across, but one experience in particular does spring to mind when asked. It was at an auction in West Memphis, Ark.

“They had those big humpback trunks, about 25 of them,” he remembers. “They were all full. I bought them all.” White talked to an ex-employee of the man who had owned the trunks who told him that the man was in the habit of buying one at every auction he went to, filling it up with all of the smaller things he purchased, and packing the trunk away in his warehouse without ever opening it again. It took White a half a day to go through each trunk. “I had Christmas for about two months,” he says with a chuckle.

The duo hosts several auctions a month on their Facebook page, Spotted Dog Antiques. The first Sunday of every month at 6 p.m. you can bid on some of the beautiful quilts they’ve sourced, while Tuesdays at 7 p.m. are a general auction sale. As for in-person sales, White and Donna used to go to 30 shows a year, but now it’s just one: The Junk Ranch.

“It is one of the better shows in America,” he says. “We’ve done shows all over the United States, mostly in the south and southeast and a few out of Oklahoma and Arkansas, but they’ve got a very good show. Amy and Julie act like they appreciate you coming. That’s worth a lot.”

The Turkish Trunk

The best business people are those who truly believe in what they’re selling. That describes Meredith Brown, who fell in love with vintage Turkish rugs for her own home before turning that passion into a career through her business The Turkish Trunk. Brown was building a new house when she found a beautiful vintage rug in an antique store, brought it home, and realized the authenticity of the antique made her manufactured rugs pale in comparison.

“I thought, ‘This is embarrassing!’” she says, laughing, about the difference in quality. “I thought, ‘I need to get new rugs, immediately.’”

In the course of searching for rugs for her entire house, she met a woman from Turkey who was running a rug company that had been in her family for generations. The two struck up an online friendship, and she helped Brown learn how to tell an authentic Turkish rug from a fake. Soon, Brown was ordering rugs straight from her Turkish company. When friends and family saw the rugs in her new house, they asked for her help sourcing some of their own — and a business was born. That business got quite a nudge in the right direction when Brown was selling at a local show that turned out to be mostly new, mass-manufactured items, causing Brown and her vintage textiles to feel out of place.

“It felt like everyone was kind of walking by looking at us like we were dirty hippies,” she laughs.

But when Jenny and Dave Marrs, Bentonville residents and stars of HGTV’s “Fixer to Fabulous” rounded the corner, Jenny made a beeline for Brown’s rugs — and ultimately asked her how she felt about her rugs being used on their television show.

“I just wanted to like sob, like ‘Thank you!’” says Brown. “So, yeah, something did come of that show!”

This will be Brown’s first trip to the Junk Ranch, and she’s bringing a healthy selection of her rugs, all of which are handmade and between 50 and 70 years old.

“Literally every person has said, ‘You should do the Junk Ranch,’” she notes. “And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, why did I not even think about that?’ I think it’s going to be full of my kind of people.”

Revinished

Sherri Williams and her husband were looking for a way to escape the 9-to-5 grind when they were given a shop full of tools. Neither were particularly proficient with woodworking — Sherri says her husband had some rudimentary, basic carpentry skills — but that didn’t stop them: They embraced their inner student and soon they were turning out beautifully re-configured vintage furniture for their business Revinished.

“We repurpose vintage items into pieces of art,” Williams says. “Mostly, old wood and metal.”

The Williamses have found a way to make a living doing what they love, and they continue to tailor their business practices to a schedule that maximizes their job satisfaction.

“There are a lot of different kind of shows,” says Williams. “We’ve done a lot of high-end scale shows where it costs thousands of dollars to participate. We’ve been vendors at the State Fair of Texas for a few days, where you’re there for 24 days. But we’ve decided that, at our age, and with what we’re doing and where we’re at in our lives, that we just want to do the shows that we really love. And the Junk Ranch is one of those shows.”

Twisted Turquoise

Benett Raible was just 19 years old when she created the Twisted Turquoise Boutique. A fan of vintage Western wear, Raible specializes in hand-distressed Wrangler jeans and shorts, vintage western clothing, and unique pieces created by hand.

“It’s been a big learning experience,” she confesses. “I’ve had to learn a lot about the social media marketing,aand learning the highs and lows of the clothing market. It’s seasons, finding what’s in for the season, figuring out what your customers like. It’s been great to see what I’ve imagined come to life and be able to adapt to feedback that I’ve gotten from customers.”

PersimmonMade

The pieces North Carolinian Lucy Miller creates for her business PersimmonMade are so quirky and unique, she finds herself engaging with interested customers in her booth when selling at an event.

“People spend 15, 20, 30 minutes in my booth, talking about the whole process,” she marvels. “’Where did you get this idea?’ and wanting to see every single thing. I have a great time. It makes the time go by so fast. I think people haven’t really seen my stuff before, so they don’t even know what to do when they look at it — they’re like, ‘What is this?’ It’s really fun.”

What sets Miller apart from other vendors is how she seamlessly blends her art skills with her love of anything old.

“I noticed that ceiling tins kind of look like attic rafters,” she says. “So I painted little animals that you might find in your attic — realistic pictures on roof tins. And then I looked at some beautiful ceramic platters, and I’ve done these animal portraits on platters that are just hysterical. I love old books, and I noticed a little place that I could paint on the cover of an antique book. And now I’m painting quilts on barn wood.”

She’s also taken on a new genre of projects that take the whimsy a step farther — she’s creating adorable, secret worlds in old clocks that children love to discover.

“If the clock is broken, I put in little battery operated clocks so it still functions as a clock,” she explains. “But when you open the back door, a little mouse lives in there. They’re these tiny little worlds that I’ve created. One is a little bunny; you open up the clock and he’s got a little farm he’s growing in there. They’re still an antique, but they’re also something to play with. The idea is that this is something an artist from a long time ago made, it’s still around, only now you can play with it. And 100 years from now, somebody else can play with it. It’s something I do getting kids interested in imaginative play.

“When a great-grandma has it at her house, and you play with it when you go to her house, you associate that with your family — it’s kind of like an instant heirloom.”

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Go & Do

The Junk Ranch

When: 8 a.m.-3 p.m. June 3; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. June 4

Where: 11195 Centerpoint Church Road in Prairie Grove

Cost: $10 Friday (good for Saturday readmission); $5 Saturday; kids 12 and younger free

Information: thejunkranch.net

Categories: Cover Story