It was purely by chance that I stumbled into Junker Chicks with my daughter and husband in tow. I was, first off, in awe of the furniture pieces I saw. As I described it all later, if I was to be in design and furniture, her store would be the resulted baby. Haha. Vintage meets shabby chic. Then I started looking around and of course I took a peek at price tags, I thought I was going crazy, so I looked at a few more. The first thing I thought was, "That's worth nearly double that price or more!" Then it was, "Babe, we can actually afford this stuff!" I love just about anything with character, with a story, that makes me wonder what life it had before. This is the kind of furniture usually displayed in a tiny crowded, yet adorable, little storefront, looking at price tags nearly the total of your paycheck, mortgage, etc.. You love it, but keep walking.
I was instantly enamored with Betty. As I later described the experience, from her bare feet, to her affordable prices, and the style she had, I couldn't help but to ask her to work with me. And I couldn't help it, so I asked her on the spot if she wanted to collaborate with me. She said yes. Hahaa. We planned to meet the following week and what I thought would be just a couple hours turned into nearly an entire work day of just talking. We got to know one another and by the afternoon, I felt more comfortable with her than I would've ever imagined. We shared secrets and history, tricks of the trade, the good and the ugly, and it continued on while I occasionally wandered and took character detail photos of her shop, and she worked on a few pieces.
While I could talk about this experience all day, I'm going to share a list of DOING WHAT YOU LOVE questions to showcase who she is, her business, and how she does it. So here goes...
1. When did you start your business?
2. What inspires you?
"I just want to paint." I love to see people happy, I didn't get in this to get rich, if I did, I wouldn't be here now. There was this little girl, Abbey, who came into my store one day. She loved a vanity that I had and asked her mom for it. She had to wait for her dad's approval, so I let her write her name on a piece of paper with HOLD on it, until she came back. She dreamed of having a Little House on the Prairie bedroom and told her mom, "I've wanted this my whole life." So the girl left, and I just had to get this to her, so I took a photo of her note on the vanity and shared it to Facebook and a buy, sell, trade group, asking if anyone knows her, to tell them to come back, I want to give it to her. A friend of the girl's mom saw it and they came back and I just gifted it to her. Her dad offered to pay and I wouldn't take anything. She was just so happy, I couldn't. Her mom told me later on that the day she came in was her third day into summer break and they were trying to cheer her up, she had been bullied all year long. I knew there was a reason and that's what helps me sleep at night. To see people so happy to afford these things. I don't turn a huge profit, but I can pay my bills, and in the end, that's what matters right now.
3. How did you get started?
I started with a piece of furniture I had at home, my partner's mom saw it and offered me $75. I sold a few more items that I had painted, and thought, I could start a business. I started with storage auctions, bought spaces at antique shows, rented a space at an antique mall, and opened a small storefront before moving into a bigger space. My first store was so small, I didn't have a bathroom or sink, I didn't have a space to paint, so I would work right outside the store on the sidewalk. People would drive by and tell me they'd come back and buy it. I would sell pieces before I could even finish them.
4. Do you stay involved with the community to help your small business?
No. Most of my business comes from online, people have driven across states to buy from me, and I stay so busy because of that. Certain days a week that my store isn't open though, I will volunteer my time. I don't tell people I'm a business owner, I just do it because I know what it's like, and maybe someone will remember the lady who smiled at them or told them things would get better, and it will stay with them and know their life can change like mine did. I pay for food or things they need out of pocket, I'll serve them food, deliver it, whatever I can when I hear of people in need. I actually met this lady awhile ago who collected items in her garage and when she found someone in need, she wouldn't question them, just gathered things for them specifically and gave it all away. They didn't have to meet certain criteria, and I loved that, so I bought my first pack of diapers, I had never bought any before, and I took them to her.
5. What are some of your best experiences?
All of them. I love making people happy. I've given things away, I've sold them for less than I paid. It may not be the smartest decision, but I don't care, they're happy and I have it to offer. All the good and bad I've experienced in business, I really love it. People said it would be a roller coaster ride, well it is, but they're fun!
6. What advice do you have to offer people who want to do what you do?
Grab a brush. I offered free paint lessons twice a week. When I first started, I saw this beautiful dresser I felt like I had to have, I would just die without it. I inquired about it, asked about the color, but no one would tell me. Everyone keeps things so secretive, so I found out myself. I learned how to do it, and you know what, it's not hard.
7. What advice do you have to offer people who want to start their own business?
Be yourself. I discovered me three years ago. I don't dress up, in fact, I rarely wear shoes or decent clothes. I get paint on everything, so I quit caring. Wear slippers, don't wear slippers, it doesn't matter. People will come in or they won't. Be real, be true, this is it. I have sandpaper everywhere, there's dust all over, and you may have to go home and clean it, but that's real. I love when someone is wiping off the surface of something and telling me how cute it is, because that's just how it is here. That's how I keep my price point where it is, and yeah, I work 12+ hours a day nearly everyday, but right now, this is what I love to do. I will never order from a catalog, I find everything I have or I make it. If I wake up tomorrow and I don't feel this way anymore, I'll change it. Business is a lot of hard work, but this is me, who I am, and people love it or they don't.
Check out Junker Chick's on Facebook.
Check out Junker Chick's on Facebook.