It's antique season in Texas – that glorious time of year when the wildflowers are blooming, big white tents are popping up in empty fields, dealers and purveyors of junk are dusting off their finest (and rustiest) treasures, and big-city folks from Houston and Austin get ready to meet in the middle for some good old-fashioned pickin'.
We checked in with Jolie Sikes-Smith (television's Junk Gypsies, Garage Sale Wars, Endless Yard Sale) about tips and tricks for newbies to the experience. Jolie (along with her sister Amie Sikes and mom, Janie) turned an early passion for pop-up flea markets into a life for themselves as The Junk Gypsy Co. – with both a strong online presence and an 8,000-square-foot (not brick-and-mortar) structure in Round Top, Texas. In 2012, the sisters invited America to “hop on board” their pink Suburban (a.k.a. Large Marge the Party Barge) in HGTV's Junk Gypsies and explore the world of flea markets and re-imagined relics.
“We're so passionate about antique week, we love talking about it,” says Jolie. “We always say, 'This ain't your granny's antiques show.' We like to refer to the word 'junk,' but you can absolutely find antiques out here. We use the word 'junk' in a loving way.”
She says that people come from all over the world, and the offerings really are the “best of the best.” From European antiques to a rusty old wheelbarrow for plants, from cast-iron skillets to clothes, “it's just everything. There's nothing that you can't find at antique week.”
Jolie says that it's best not to have any expectations before setting out. “The thrill of the hunt; it's called that for a reason. It's not the mall; you won't find the perfect button-down shirt. It's fun; it's like a treasure hunt. [When] you find that perfect thing, it's so exciting.” She says that persistence is key and – even if you go home empty-handed (which is very rare) – you're still going to enjoy the day.
“It's the happiest place on earth: Everybody has chosen to be here, the dealers, the shoppers, everybody is happy, the culture, and the music, and the theater, good food, and not just corn dog food,” says Jolie. “We have a group of girlfriends that have been coming out for 15 years – families – once you come, you're hooked.”
Over the years, she and her family have been involved in all kinds of projects — “we showed all over the place; we did Airstreams for celebrities, crazy projects” — but now they have put down roots in a town with a population of 90. “Our heart just knew that this was where we wanted to call home.” Their store is designed to be a “wonderful experience of the senses,” with the sounds of Janis Joplin and B.B. King, and a mix of both old and new merchandise. They've got rocking chairs on the front porch — “it's a slower pace out here” — and, from March 24 through April 2, have almost daily book signings, live music and even a couple of parties.
Jolie says that the event started out smaller, but has really grown over the years and now spans several weeks and includes Round Top, Warrenton and Burton. “Come prepared for any kind of weather: sunscreen, hat, cap, glasses, tape measure. If you are looking for something specific, bring measurements, a paint chip,” she says. “I think the most important thing is to have an open mind, really enjoy the day. Just really enjoy being here, and meeting people, and meeting kindred spirits.” While most junkers accept credit cards nowadays, she suggests bringing cash as well.
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“This time of year out here, the wildflowers are worth the drive alone, the bluebonnets and paintbrushes,” says Jolie. “It's the best time of year to see them. That's like a little bonus to come out here.”
View the Houston Press online calendar for more information about Texas Antique Week events (live music, book signings) at The Junk Gypsy Co. "world headquarters" (March 24 through April 2). Festivities include The Junk Gypsy Boot Launch Party (Friday, March 25, open till 7 p.m.) and the return of the popular Junk-O-Rama Prom (Thursday, March 31 at 7 p.m. at the tent at Zapp Hall). For information, call 979-249-5865 or visit gypsyville.com.
The Burton Spring Antiques Market kicks off this week (March 17 through April 2), with extended hours at participating venues and special events like the Kountry Chick Show and Karaoke at Flown the Coop (Friday, March 25 at 7:30 p.m.) and White Linen Night on Saturday, April 2, 6 to 9 p.m. For information, call 937-215-4732 or visit 2flownthecoop.com.
In Warrenton, some dealers are setting up as early as March 18, with most participating venues selling (March 24 through April 3). For information about live music, places to eat and participating dealers at the Zapp Hall Antique Show, call or visit zapphall.com.