I’ve undoubtedly had many favorite picks, but this one ranks at the top. The odd thing about this particular story is I’ve never shared it with you, my readers. I’ve told the story countless times to anyone who will listen. I even overhear my kids re-telling the story to others. So, without further adieu, allow me to introduce: Graceville.
Back in November, a message arrived in my in-box from a local gal alerting me of a picking opportunity. Like most picking adventures, I dropped my plans, loaded the kids in an empty suburban, and away we went. That empty suburban wasn’t enough, as we made a trailer trip, and even a third pit stop with an empty truck. Needless to say, it was an amazing score. Small towns are rich with history, cool old buildings, and stories to tell. This western-Minnesota gem is no exception. From what I know, Graceville is known for it’s fun street-dances, amazing pizza at Headquarter’s Bar, and often a pit-stop for my husband who travels west for hunting and fishing. I now can officially say it was home to my best picking experience to date.
Upon rolling into Graceville to meet Bonnie, we pulled up to a shot-gun style building, common in many small towns. It was tall and skinny (traits I wish I had), made of cool old brick and architectural beauty, spanning half a block. As we went in the back door, it truly was like the gates of Heaven opened and filled the place with song. I quickly learned Bonnie was a life-long picker and even had a cute little store named Shabulous.
She used this building to store her treasures, with a quaint walled-off front entry as her store. The heavenly part to this pick is that Bonnie had her inventory organized beyond measure. There was a room of chairs (of which I proceeded to buy that entire room).
One had a room of just mirrors. Tables were all lined neatly in another area. Doors were lined next to each other. Keep in mind, pickers are used to crawling through groves, abandoned barns or estates. So this organized picking was unlike anything I’d ever done. It’s like I grabbed a cart at Target and made my way through the store.
Now, this isn’t even what makes this story great. As my son and I made our way to the basement (because let’s be honest, that is where the best treasures usually are), Ethan stopped in his tracks mid-way down the stairs. “Mom, this place is creepy; i’m not going down there,” Ethan said. The kid’s intuitions weren’t far off.
The basement had a terribly creepy sense to it. It, too, was very organized; as I poked in every nook and cranny. However, the spooky feeling loomed at every turn I made.
As I made my way back upstairs to join Ethan. he and I stood on what appeared to be an old hand-crank elevator shaft. As the floor swayed slightly, Ethan asked Bonnie, “Say, what did this place used to be?” What a classic question coming from a junker’s kid.
She quickly responded that back in the day it was the funeral home in town. The elevator shaft we were standing on was the how the caskets were moved to and from the first level, as the basement was where the body prep occurred. Bonnie quickly pointed to the casket mover that she continued to use to haul the large furniture pieces about in her storage areas. My smile was big and my junker heart was happy. I was picking at a former funeral home.
I now had the added pressure and excitement to try to find a piece of that Graceville funeral home’s history. Bonnie agreed it would be cool, but most of the funeral home stuff was gone. She wasn’t about to part with the casket truck either. I knew with a careful eye, I would find something….anything. We left that afternoon with as much as our suburban could hold, including my kids. I knew I would be re-playing the many rooms filled with organized treasures in the coming days as we prepared for our trip(s) back to Graceville.
Junk Hunk was needed for the return trip, along with an empty trailer. As we headed west, Jon playfully joked he couldn’t believe his empty trailer was enroute to western Minnesota not full of decoys. He didn’t even have his gun or fishing rod packed. Needless to say, we were “hunting” for different stuff that western Minnesota had to offer. I did catch Junk Hunk slacking on the job, soaking up the November sun.
During the 2nd trip back to Graceville, we filled half of the trailer with the room full of chairs I purchased (50+). Like an intricate puzzle, we continued to fit as much as we could in the trailer.
It was obvious that Bonnie, the owner, has a bittersweet feeling as we loaded her year’s worth of collecting. About an hour into our conversation, Jon brought up Junk Bonanza. Bonnie’s eye lit up. She had always wanted to apply to be a vendor at Junk Bonanza, but never did. She was beyond thrilled that her treasures would be making their Junk Bonanza debut, even though she wouldn’t be. These awesome western Minnesota pieces would see the Twin Cities junking market.
Amidst the excitement of the day, I still yearned to find a piece of the building’s historical funeral home days. So, I headed to that eerie basement one more time. The many rooms that were once filled with treasures that been shrunk down to one metal pile. Bonnie and her crew sure had done a lot of purging and selling since I had been there last. I spotted what I hoped would be the golden piece in the pile of metal rubbish. It was a stainless steel waist-high little stand. The slightly cupped top was positioned at an angle, with it’s pedestal metal base on casters. Could it really be the piece I was hoping for?
As I frolicked up the stairs to confirm it’s potential funeral roots, Bonnie knew it wasn’t hers. In fact, she said it was in the building when took over ownership and it had never left the basement. That was all the confirmation I needed. I found my trophy, a piece I will never sell. Call it creepy. Call it cool. Call it, what you will. I love that I nabbed a piece of Graceville’s history in what used to be a funeral home. My junker heart was full. Thank you Bonnie and thank you Graceville.
Junkers, pickers, and antique hunters….I’d love to hear from you. Where have you had some of your favorite picks been? Tell me about the people, places, and things you’ve encountered. Email me or leave a comment below.