We've been to Texas, Y'all!

A customer walked in yesterday, clearly on her lunch break from her office job and said, “I heard you got a new shipment?”  I chuckled to myself as a fantasy unfolded in my mind. 

I’m being chauffeured around on a covered ATV, pointing at things I like with no regard for price.  My assistant jumps off and gets the location details from the vendor while a crew rushes to collect my purchases, forwarding them on to the shipping company conveniently located in a nearby field.  There, they carefully wrap and package my semi-truck load full of treasures to ensure that nothing is damaged on the long journey home (while I catch a plane). Once the “shipment” comes in, another crew unloads while my pointing finger gets back to work.  I shout out orders like, “Place that over there” and “Woopsie, that whole vignette has to move in order to accommodate this one piece”.

This is how I imagine the Roundtop Flea Market experience is for the likes of Joanna Gaines.  But this is NOT the reality of the still infant Ampersand Old & New.

Here is the not-so-pretty truth of it:

When that customer came in around 1pm, we’d JUST finished resetting the store.  We had arrived home about midnight, gotten a hard 5-6 hours of in-our-own-bed sleep, and were unloading the packed-to-the gills truck interior, truck box, truck bed, and 12’ trailer by 8am.  Just the two of us - no “crew”.  Then everything had to be cleaned of its fuzzy green Texas “pollen” (or just plain dirt), priced, and artfully displayed.

Over the previous four days, we clocked 37 miles, on foot, scouring the 20-some continuous miles of flea markets for our haul.  Our priority was, as always, unique items that we don’t see anywhere else.  Our wish list included at least one sofa, a desk, and a “shit ton” of smalls.  Our budget was firm, give or take a few hundred dollars.

As I’ve reiterated in just about every blog, we absolutely LOVE what we do.  But it is not for the faint of heart, the inexperienced, or the slow decision makers.  It’s competitive, fast-paced, and utterly exhausting.  So, here’s a rundown of the good and the bad (in reverse order):

  • ·         Someone broke into our trailer the first night, in Austin.  Thank God, it was empty, but it required a good deal of repair.

  • ·         The weather was CRAP: cold, windy, and that kind of rain that doesn’t really get you wet but feels like darts when it hits you. 

  • ·         The terrain was ROUGH.  We were often walking on rocks, gravel or slanted, wet ground.  The parking areas were at minimum a quarter mile from the vendors so getting back to the truck carrying heavy furniture was often an ordeal. 

  • ·         Robin packed and repacked the trailer A LOT.  Too many times to count.  It’s hard to pack a big box when you don’t know what the contents are. 

  • ·         The hotel, which was one of the few available when we booked 2 months ago, was adequate.  Notice I didn’t say “nice”.  The people above us seemingly tromped around in steel-toed boots all night, the laminate wood floors were cold and dusty and there was NO COFFEE in the room.  NO. COFFEE!?!?

  • ·         The people were KIND.  Despite the completely obnoxious amount of Trump signs and t-shirts, they were happy, helpful and almost always offered better prices once they found out we’re dealers.  They also gave me booze and lots of it. 

  • ·       The food was AWESOME.  We ate at booths or food trucks most of the time and it was healthy, fresh, inexpensive and amazingly delicious.  Among the Texas-style specialties we sampled: Peach Pie Pancakes, Chicken Fried Steak, and fresh Gulf-Coast Shrimp. 

  • ·         There was free live music everyday/everywhere. 

While the selection was largely country-themed and quite repetitive, as in, enough farm implements to sink the Titanic, we fulfilled our wish list (beyond our expectations) including the aforementioned SHIT TON of really GOOD vintage stuff. 

Results:

  • ·        Our store looks incredible!

  • ·         My left foot/ankle is still inexplicably swollen to the point that it barely fits in any of my shoes and I’m walking with a limp. 

  • ·         Robin’s knees are hurting so bad that even his prescribed pain medication isn’t helping. 

  • ·         I slept 12 hours straight last night and could still go for more. 

I’m really not complaining…  I just want you to know how hard we work to bring you our (trendy word alert) “CURATED” collection of furniture, home décor and gifts.    

Our “old” merchandise is painstakingly selected after traveling far and wide.  It often requires extensive cleaning and/or repair, is increasingly difficult to find and can be fickle depending on current trends.

Our “new” inventory may be a little easier to obtain but has no less thought put into its selection.  It is also more expensive for us, with lower profit margins and added shipping costs but brings a diversity to our overall aesthetic that we believe we need.   

So, there you go!  As promised, a brutally honest not-so-pretty truth about our otherwise seemingly glamorous profession.  Photographic evidence below.

One of the many beautiful pastoral scenes near downtown, Roundtop Texas.

One of the many beautiful pastoral scenes near downtown, Roundtop Texas.

The traffic on the one-way-in, one-way-out road to Roundtop is like this everyday, for about 3 weeks.

The traffic on the one-way-in, one-way-out road to Roundtop is like this everyday, for about 3 weeks.

A typical flea market “field” in Warrenton, a few miles west of Roundtop, where the pickers and higher-rent dealers shop.

A typical flea market “field” in Warrenton, a few miles west of Roundtop, where the pickers and higher-rent dealers shop.

The “higher-rent” dealers have roofs over their heads.

The “higher-rent” dealers have roofs over their heads.

Just some cool old stuff.

Just some cool old stuff.

Did I mention the abundance of farm implements?

Did I mention the abundance of farm implements?

Robin making friends.

Robin making friends.

Another Bloody Mary, please.

Another Bloody Mary, please.

Cara Evans