If just a few years ago you didn’t know the meaning of the term “picking” in relation to antiques and collectibles, you likely do now, thanks to the success of television shows like “American Pickers.” One Perry County couple was ahead of the curve, however, and was picking well before it became entertainment. Now they’re turning their love of history into a living.
Harold and Michelle Hughes are the owners of Mountain Treasures Antiques and Sundries on North Main Street in Hazard, where for the past few months, despite an uncertain economy, they have made a business by selling history.
Unemployment in Perry and surrounding counties has been on the rise every month this year, but Michelle noted that she and her husband had no hesitancy in starting their own business.
“We had always planned to (start a business) at some point,” she explained.
It was last year when she quit her job and began caring for an ill family member. She knew that she didn’t want to return to the same kind of job she had left, and her husband Harold was making a three-hour drive from Buckhorn to Mt. Sterling for work. It seemed like a good time to branch out on their own.
Mary Rose owns the building where Mountain Treasures is located, and it was during a conversation with her one day that Harold mentioned that they had always wanted to open their own antique store.
“It just kind of went from there,” Michelle explained, adding that Harold worked in Mt. Sterling for just a while longer before they took the plunge full time. “It just seemed like it all worked out.”
Michelle and Harold have been picking for several years, visiting estate sales, yard sales and mom-and-pop stores in search of a piece of history.
“When we first started, every year for our anniversary we would pick some little town in Kentucky that we’d never heard of, and we would go there and we would shop for antiques for ourselves,” Michelle said.
Their annual trips took them to places like Old Washington and Glendale, and it was from these trips that they began the process of turning their hobby into a business.
“I’ve always been interested in history,” Michelle continued. “It was just going to places and seeing the historical aspect of things and learning about the history of things. It was something we both shared from the beginning.”
Their shop is currently stocked with a number of items, and Harold noted that there’s a little something for everyone, from an antique typewriter to old books and glassware. And while he hasn’t picked a favorite just yet, the search for the rare items is what continues to drive him.
“I just like picking, finding new stuff … you don’t see every day,” he said. “That’s what I try to do when I go out to buy stuff. I try to get things that are unusual or very rare, stuff that you don’t see every day. Usually we’ll bring it home, clean it up and do some research, and pretty much just find its past.”
But not everything is something they found themselves. They also sale on consignment and can also purchase items off the street.
The Hugheses’ shop opened in February next to Maggard Florist, and the hardest part at first was that not many people knew that they were even in business. But business has begun to pick up in the past few months and remains steady.
And while the economy continues to stutter somewhat, the Hugheses say they’re confident that they can continue picking and stocking their stores with items that interest them, and that their customers will want.