By Sue Minton
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
“American Pickers” — two “pickers,” as seen on the History Channel, who go all over the United States looking through people’s homes, garages, barns, outbuildings, and such hunting for antiques and collectables to sell (and sometimes to keep for themselves).
These two guys have nothing on Lynn Spurlock, owner of The Scavenger Hunt, an antique store on East Fourth Street. She also hunts for that unusual item.
As long as Spurlock can remember, she has loved old things and antiques.
“Mom took us to every ‘junk’ store around,” Spurlock said. “She didn’t collect anything. But, she didn’t have the money either. And if she did, she would not have spent it on antiques. She just liked to look. And I liked looking.”
“ I have always wanted to own an antique store,” Spurlock added. “And, on March 11, we will celebrate our 10th anniversary.”
Her shop is located in a house her father bought in 1968 for rental property.
“My dad was operating the Shell station across the street when he bought the house, renting it for years.”
Spurlock said she loved buying old stuff for herself and had accumulated so much she didn’t have room for it all.
“I thought — why not open my own antique shop. If I don’t do it now, I won’t do it. And the house was the perfect place, it was old with lots of room.”
With the help of her mother, Spurlock opened her business on March 11, 2002.
“Mom helped me until she died in 2009. She loved to meet and talk to the people. If it had not been for her, I could not have done it. She would stay with the shop and I would go looking for merchandise.”
The Scavenger Hunt is chock-full of furniture, dishes, mirrors, suitcases, clocks, linens, costume jewelry, old hats and some vintage clothing, all with tiny bits of history, pieces of family memories and untold stories to tell.
“I would love to know the history and stories some of these items could tell if they could talk,” Spurlock said.
She stocks the shop with purchases from individuals, yard sales and estate sales. She keeps something for herself from almost every estate sale.
“Sometimes we will buy a whole house full of stuff — furniture, personal items, everything. I keep what I want to put in the shop and ‘run’ the rest through an auction.”
“You learn a lot about people — the things they had in their homes, the things they did, or the things they collected — when you do an estate sale.”
Most of the items Spurlock buys are in good condition. “We sell a lot of ‘formerly loved’ furniture. If it is scratched, we will touch it up, or maybe paint it. Bring new life to it.”
“I love antiques. They are better made and they are beautiful,” she said. “Old furniture is better made than furniture today. It is mostly solid wood not particle board. I tell the young people coming in if they buy a good piece of furniture, it will last their lifetime. This is true. Technically, to be an antique, an item needs to be 100 years old. This is why we have old stuff.”
And, one of the old items Spurlock collects and keeps for herself are quilts. “I love my quilts and most of them are considered antiques.”
Being 100 years old does not mean it is expensive. “The most expensive thing I have bought or sold was a bedroom suite for $1,500. Most items at The Scavenger Hunt are under $200. You can get a good piece of quality furniture for $200 or under.”
Spurlock said she doesn’t research the Internet or look through antique books to price items. “I know what I have in an item and I know what I have to get out of it to make money. I’m sure I have sold things that were worth more than I got out of them. I know I have, customers have told me I have.”
The most unusual item Spurlock sold was one she was going to put in the trash.
“I purchased a box that had false teeth in it. I was going to throw the teeth away when a lady asked me what the price was. I couldn’t help asking her what she intended to do with them. It was close to Halloween and she was going to use them in a Halloween collage.”
“Just when you think you have it figured out, what people want, they want something else. The more unusual, the better they like it.”
Some of the shoppers who come into The Scavenger Hunt are just browsers, trying to find a treasure to decorate with. But many are regular customers who visit the store weekly and some daily.
“Thanks to the Laurel County Tourist Commission, customers from all across the United States have visited us. Once they come, they come back. We are constantly updating our inventory.”
Because there is lots of stuff outside, customers have stopped thinking Spurlock was having a yard sale. “This time of year we get outside furniture. But once inside, they realize it is an antique shop.”
If a customer is looking for a particular item, Spurlock will try her best to find it for them.
“We do this often. The customer may be looking for that particular piece to decorate with. If we don’t have it, I will contact other dealers or an individual who may have it. We will do our best to accommodate them.”
Stuff from the 50s and 60s is what appeals to young people. “This is old to them. We’re told we need to recycle and save. Antique dealers have been recycling and ‘green’ for years.”
Owning and running an antique store required hard work. “You have to love it,” Spurlock said. “It is always busy, but they are not always buying.”
Every day, month, and year something else becomes an antique. And just about everyone has an antique or collectible.
For Lynn Spurlock, it is not the items in her store; it is a small teapot that belonged to her grandmother. “It is probably not worth $5, but I would not take a million for it.”