Junk Queen doesn't begin to describe Michelle Robinson, who works under the name of My Shabby Passion here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She maintains not one, but two booth spaces at Camas Antiques, and still manages to work full time, work out regularly, and spend time with her husband.
(See what I mean? She is possibly a step above a Junk Queen...more like a Junk Ninja, if you ask me.)
I had the opportunity to spend a couple of completely delightful hours at Michelle's home, where I am pretty sure we spent more time laughing than we did talking.
Michelle's home is filled to the brim with shabby vignettes, and vintage treasures, and once I had a tour of her main floor, we settled in for our interview:
How did you first get into junking? I’ve always done it! Forever! Probably when my kids were little...how many times did your kid leave his coat on the playground? And then you go to a yard sale or shift store for another...!(Laughing)
How long have you had your booth? Oh gosh, I don’t know!! I started at Uncovered Ruby in Battleground- When they closed I called JoAnn at Camas Antiques, and she knew who I was, and gave me a good spot. I later moved to a bigger booth in the annex portion of the store, and finally the main aisle. I have done the best on the main aisle of the store.
Before becoming a vintage dealer, what all did you do? You mean besides being a dealer? My real job is...not as exciting as this job! I love the thrill of the hunt! You’re afraid you’re gonna miss out! (She gave a big laugh.) Ohhh yes!!!!!
I'm at Horizon Air...I've been here for 28 years...full time...Oh, and I like to lift weights..I have always been very athletic. I’m slacking these days. I do just enough to maintain.
(Let me say here that Michelle's version of "slacking" is more than most of us do when we are working hard at fitness!)
My junk biz is full time. I am off from my day job by 2:00 so I still have some daylight to do my junk.
What does a typical week look like for you? I work 4:00 am until 2:00 pm, and then...then it depends. It depends on my car....sometimes my car takes me to a thrift store. (We both start laughing. I think all Junkers can agree with this phenomenon.) or...my car may take me to a sale. I did have Thursdays and Fridays off and so I was always able to be there way early for sales. Right now I work four tens, and so I have weekends and Wednesdays off.
If I have a flea market coming up, I am like...oh!!!! I am busy painting furniture, and getting things ready. I shop for stuff all year long. My cargo trailer is like my own storage unit.
What gave you the idea to get the cargo trailer? When you do a flea market and you don’t want to do a million trips...you get a cargo trailer! (Laughing.) It’s fairly big...maybe 20 feet? I am not sure. It acts as my storage unit, and for flea markets...and it's great! It takes up a big spot in the driveway...
What do think your hot ticket items are that customers just can't get enough of? Workbenches! (We both laughed again, because Michelle truly cannot seem to keep rustic workbenches in stock in her booth space!) Thats really hard. I don’t know...I buy what I really like and what I would buy for myself...I love the industrial, and old architectural stuff...vintage barware...I'm eclectic. I think people are ironstone'd out. I still look for it, but you know...it has to speak to me for me to buy it...Old farm stuff..anything farm related I love.
What are your non selling items? I can tell you I do not buy teacups any longer...or teapots...no more, no matter how cute they are! I pass on things I think won’t sell...decanters and wine glasses sell.
How would you describe your style? Hmmm...eclectic...I'm a little bit of country, a little bit rock and roll! That’s how I would describe it!(We both busted up laughing again here!) One thing I really probably don’t love, but I have to admit it is growing on me is mid-century modern.
Do you think the shabby look is still in or are you seeing less of it now? It’s in in my life! (Big laugh!) I think yes, to a point...mixed with other stuff.
Do you utilize social media? If so, which ones work best for you? I really don’t do social media..I post a few pictures when I have a flea market coming up, or the Mothers Day plant sale...I suppose I should, but I don’t. I used to have a blog, but making yourself sit down...it's too much! (I checked, and sure enough, Michelle's blog is still up, so if you'd like to read some old posts, you will find it here: myshabbypassionblogspot.com )
How many days a week do you work your booth? What is your system?? It all depends...supply and demand..most of the time I work on stuff every day...during Christmas I was going in to my booth every single day. I was nonstop. Go to work, come home, work on my other job...you want your furniture to sell, but you want a back up...Sure, I have stuff, but is it ready????
Oh! And Tracey, you have to put in here somewhere just how wonderful and helpful my husband is. He is my handy man...he helps me lift, fix, transport...I couldn’t do it without him.
I don't want to take in smalls, I want to take in bigs! It doesn’t matter how perfect a thing looks when you buy it, you get it home and...shoot! Something needs fixing on it!
Why do you think your booth has been so successful? I think because my booth is eclectic...some old, some new.I always try to have stuff in there that appeals to men too, and really everybody...it’s all stuff I like, but I try to appeal to people...I try to by cheap and sell higher... but, sometimes with a one of a kind thing, you have to pay a higher price. I am always trying to buy different stuff no one else has...stuff with history.
What advice would you have for someone going into business for themselves? Be prepared to work very hard, and spend a lot of time on working this, and if you have a booth, go in at least a couple times a week. You get out what you put in...and you have to spend money to make money... treat it like a real job. you have to love it...of course!
What do you think the biggest mistakes are that vendors make? (Laughing!) Oh gosh... what would you say, Tracey? Not having enough inventory, and not having interesting things in your booth...where people say, "Wow! I have never seen one of these before! This is cool."
Things have to be staged! It can’t be grandma's antique mall...You have to grab attention...have an attention getter...One guy said he always tries to have a weiner in his booth… that weiner that grabs your attention...LOL! Yes, a guy at the Rose Bowl Flea Market said that...
I know you do any barn sales and Vintage Markets. How many a year do you do? I really only do two. The Camas Street Fair and Rag Tag Revival. I also do two sales at Camas Antiques; the sidewalk sale in June and the Mothers Day Sale in May.
If you could change one thing about your booth what that be and why? Thats easy! (Laughing!) Make it bigger!!!! Expand! Add on! Knock some walls down! You have 2 booths at Camas Antiques, one upstairs, and one down...is that why? Some people have a spot in more than one store...in my opinion, just do two spots in one store!I swap things around, make it work...having two spots works for me! I don’t want to pay for storage in a place people can't see (Some vendors rent storage units to hold their inventory)...when, in a booth space it could sell. It takes time, but it works.
How do you stay motivated? Doing displays inspires me...umm...is that an issue for you? (Laughing loudly!) Hmmmmmm, okay, well, I would say it is very fun to buy and to hunt, and that gets you motivated...to go shopping...then I get it home, and...it just has to go. The shopping motivates me. You want to keep it, but you don’t...plus you just want to get crap outta your house! Ha!!! Just getting stuff out...that motivates me. My paycheck keeps me motivated too. The store keeps me motivated too! So many people in there do an amazing job. They motivate me to do well too. I don’t want to be in granny antique mall. (Laughing!) You have to stay motivated.
A huge thank you to Michelle, for sharing all of her insights and perspective on being successful in this fun and fabulous industry of junk!