Junk vendors and treasure seekers gathered Saturday at MetraPark for the Prairie Sisters vintage market party.
The antique roadshow, which is based out of Missoula, started as a hobby for Laura Branson and Molly Mortensen -- the Prairie Sisters -- until about two years ago when they decided to turn their collections of repurposed junk into a traveling vintage market.
Turns out, their love for junk has become one of the hottest trends in the world of vintage markets and home decor these days.
"Junkin' is getting really big,” Branson said. “Junk is cool. It’s about reusing everything you can and finding creative ways to decorate inexpensively.”
The term ‘junkin’ means to repurpose old items, Branson said. Old barn doors and window frames are left with the worn paint and scars of age and turned into picture frames and shelves. Vintage luggage cases can find new life when stacked and used as an end table. An old rusty rake with a broken handle can be used to hang wine glasses.
More than 60 vendors from Montana and Wyoming displayed everything from junk to antiques to crafts to artisan foods. Vendors collect items from auctions, old houses, barns, garages and people’s attics, Mortensen said.
Jaclyn Baird of MaudeLady Vintage, a vendor out of Missoula, exhibited her collection of vintage apparel — dresses, coats, jewelry, shoes, handbags and an assortment of men’s Pendleton shirts. Dressed in vintage garb, 21-year-old Baird said her best finds are usually from estate sales.
Her most treasured find on showcase Saturday was a gold dress made by American fashion designer Claire McCardell, accredited as one of the first American designers, Baird said. The wool dress was made in the late '30s, sought for its functional and stylish approach. Baird said she purchased the dress for $55 and wore it for two years before she realized its value a few months ago.
“When I researched the designer, I found that I was sitting on gold,” Baird said. “The dress is worth upward of $800.” She was selling the dress, however, for about half the value.
“For me, it’s really more about the appreciation of vintage wear and nostalgia than it is about the money,” she said.
For most collectors and buyers, they said they look for conversation pieces.
“It’s fun to find things that you remember seeing in your grandma’s kitchen,” Cindy Bertsch, of Bozeman, said. “I love seeing all the genius and creativity that goes into turning something old into something new.”
“The nostalgia touches people’s heart,” Branson said. “It’s fun to see people find those treasure pieces that end up being the centerpieces above their mantels.”
Kristie Sotelo and Craig Duff, of Great Falls, travel to schools and flea markets in the United States and Europe for their pop-up store Duck Duck Goose, named after the popular “retro grade school game.” Their collection includes old-school globes, classroom maps and clocks.
“We just hate to see these items destroyed under the rubble when these old schoolhouses are demolished,” Sotelo said. The soon-to-be married couple donated 10 percent of their proceeds to the Montana Hope Project, an organization that grants wishes to ill children.
The Prairie Sisters said one of the big changes to flea markets has been the domination of the market on Internet sites such as Etsy—an online storefront for artists and collectors. Many of Saturday’s vendors buy and sell items on Etsy.
Even so, it’s no comparison to a market. “We call this a party for a reason,” Mortensen said.
The market’s “junk hunks” -- fully clothed men who volunteered to use their muscles -- held people’s items until they were finished shopping and then would load the treasured finds into their vehicles.
The road show of vintage goodness from days gone will be in Missoula at the County Fairgrounds May 4 and Sept. 14. Admission is $5 for everyone 10 and older.