Big Brain 2012 Finalist: Sweet Salvage
Photos by Jamie Peachey
In Phoenix, people are always talking about building community and how impossible it is to bring folks together, but Kim Rawlins and Katie Hibbs have the secret.
Not just any junk -- we're not talking about your average yard sale or even your favorite thrift store on a really good day. High quality junk: industrial metal racks, globes, cloches and cake plates and card catalogs. The stuff you drool over on Pinterest, the stuff Pottery Barn knocks off. The really good junk.
Fill a warehouse on 7th Avenue with it. Put out the word on Facebook. And even on one of the hottest days of the year, even without air conditioning, they will come. In droves.
Rawlins and Hibbs were no novices when it came to junk. They'd met years ago in neighboring booths at an antiques mall in Chandler, and before that, Rawlins threw "kick ass" garage sales in Minnesota, while Hibbs honed her skills on eBay. But they'd never attempted the holy grail -- the monthly flash store. After running a successful vintage shop on Cave Creek Road (Not Too Shabby) for years, the two took the next step -- renting a spot on 7th Avenue (prime junking territory), hand-picking dealers and inventory, and choosing a theme.
"Midsummer Night's Dream" premiered August 18, 2011, and given the temperature that day -- 118 degrees -- it could have been a nightmare. But it wasn't. There was a line out the door before the shop opened, and it's been the same every month since. Even bigger. One of the most gratifying parts of this whole process for Rawlins and Hibbs has been watching a community form before their eyes -- people meet in (the really long) line to make purchases and recognize one another the following month. Treasures are discovered; friendships are made. And yeah, sure, there's a little squabbling from time to time over a particularly wonderful armoir.
Junking is tricky in this part of the country. The state's only 100 years old, after all, Hibbs reminds, and people have come from other places -- leaving their would-be future castaways behind.
And as with many things, it took Phoencians a while to catch up to the industrial junk trend. But they have. "People think everyone is into kokopellis here," Hibbs says. People are wrong. Feeding the need is the biggest challenge.
Photo by Jamie Peachey
"It took a while to get kind of a junk trail here," Rawlins says, and now that she's got one, she's super mum about it. The ladies admit they drive to California to do much of their hunting, but only mention the largest and most obvious sources -- the Rose Bowl and Irvine flea markets -- when asked for specifics.
Hey, those are trade secrets. In fact, the theme for the next show, opening the third Thursday of April, is "Salvage Secrets." Joanne Palmisano, author of a book of the same name, will be there to do a signing. And Rawlins and Hibbs promise they have a big secret to share with their shoppers.
You'll like it -- we promise.
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