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Ashland Pickers

Ashland has a subculture of residents who love to hunt for vintage treasures — and their numbers appear to be growing thanks to the popularity of television shows such as "Antiques Roadshow" and "American Pickers."

"There is a community of people who love used and vintage things," said Ashland resident Barbara Patridge as she browsed for items at Hospice Unique Boutique, a resale shop at 1618 Ashland St. that is a picking hotspot in town.

The word picking has entered the popular lexicon thanks to the History Channel's show "American Pickers," which follows the cross-country adventures of two vintage hunters as they search for "rusty gold" to resell in their Iowa and Tennessee shops.

A picker is someone who buys and sells vintage items, often scouring thrift shops, resale boutiques, yard and estate sales, flea markets, houses, sheds and barns for finds.

Vintage fans in Ashland generally agree that the PBS show "Antiques Roadshow" — which debuted in America in 1997 — ignited popular interest in antiques and was the grandfather of the new genré that also includes "Pawn Stars," "American Restoration" and "Market Warriors."

Patridge has been hunting down and selling vintage wares for decades and currently rents a booth in a Medford antique mall.

"It's like a little treasure hunt," she said.

Patridge literally wrote the book on finding overlooked treasures.

In 1972, she penned "Bargain Hunting in Los Angeles," which went through several editions.

Partridge said she searches for items that have an emotional and artistic appeal, not valuable antiques.

Many of her eclectic finds decorate her home, where she has everything from old clocks to modern blown glass.

Patridge said successful pickers need to cycle through their finds and let many of their found treasures go, especially as their taste continues to evolve.

She drops off items she no longer wants for her home collection or hasn't sold at Goodwill and Hospice Unique Boutique.

"When you drop things off, you pick up other things," Patridge said with a laugh.

She said a variety of shops in Ashland have helped fuel the vintage craze for both sellers and buyers by accepting items on consignment, including Ashland Recycled Furniture, Revive Home Decor and Deja Vu Fashion Consignment Shoppe.

The craze translates into more revenue for those stores plus Rogue Valley thrift stores, many of which benefit charitable causes.

"It has a good impact. It increases our sales," said Hospice Unique Boutique Shop Manager Melanie Alvarez.

The shop, which has a mission to raise money and awareness for end-of-life care in the Rogue Valley, has a good rapport with pickers, many of whom are regulars, Alvarez said.

Workers and volunteers at the Goodwill locations in Medford and Grants Pass, as well as at the American Cancer Society Discovery Shop thrift store in Medford, said their locations are regularly visited by pickers as well.

Newbie picker Margretta Brown said she enjoys buying from Hospice Unique Boutique and reselling items at two booths she rents at the Ashland Artisan Emporium, 1670 Ashland St.

With just three months of picking under her belt, she has made rookie mistakes and experienced both the ups and downs of vintage selling.

Brown, who lives in Grenada in northern California, was drawn into the world of picking after her parents died.

She was left with an overwhelming number of their possessions and decided to sell many at the Ashland Artisan Emporium.

"Unfortunately, that's given me a license to buy and sell," Brown said.

In the beginning, she said she was too ambitious and bought too much clothing that didn't sell. She has a furniture booth and a clothing booth.

"I always buy with the intent to resell. A lot of it ends up in my house — to my husband's consternation," Brown said.

She said she has been wondering what to do with her unsold inventory and is looking at options such as donating items to Goodwill or having a sale.

Brown recommended that any would-be pickers start out on the conservative side when it comes to the number of things they buy, and to also buy at low prices so there is room to mark up items.

"It can be a compulsive thing because it is fun," Brown said. "It's the fun of the hunt."

Veteran picker Stacey Shelley grew up abroad visiting flea markets with her parents and has always been interested in vintage items.

Shelley made the leap into brick-and-mortar retail in 2010 when she opened Revive Home Decor at 264 Fourth St. in Ashland.

She stocks the shop with her own finds and items that she accepts on consignment.

The upscale store features stylish items that range from vintage Asian finds to mid-century modern decor.

Shelley said the new breed of vintage fan is looking for aesthetically pleasing items, not expensive antiques and collectibles dating from the 1800s.

Even items from the 1970s are considered vintage and are sought after, she said.

Shelley said people who want to join the vintage craze can start small by renting a booth at an antiques mall or selling online on sites like Etsy, a global Internet site for sellers of vintage items, handmade goods and art.

"See how people respond to the things you've selected," she said.

As for the biggest risk of picking — losing money and being stuck with loads of unsold inventory — Shelley said sellers need to be willing to mark down slow-moving items to the purchase price to recoup their money, or even to take a loss.

Shelley said her shop has been warmly received by Ashlanders and she's glad that more people are appreciating vintage items.

"Old is cool," she said. "There's something about the lines and colors and shapes and quality in how things were made. They are still around and as solid as ever."

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.