American Pickers and Antique Archaeology Come to Nashville

Mike Wolfe, Photo by Helen Chapman

Mike Wolfe in the new Nashville Store

On July 2, 2011, Nashville, Tennessee welcomed her newest business: Antique Archaeology. Owner Mike Wolfe of History Channel’s American Pickers, has long had a relationship with Nashville, with antique dealers, designers, sellers and private customers.

Wolfe has owned the parent store of Antique Archeology in LaClaire, Iowa for about five years. Since the debut of American Pickers, the store has not only gained in popularity, it has turned LaClaire into a destination in the midst of the prairie. The success of that first store led to the grand opening in Nashville. When Mike planned to open this shop, his intention was to create a ‘vintage experience’. He has succeeded, and then some.

 

When you make your turn off Charlotte Avenue onto 11th Avenue North, you go quickly from what is a bustling city street to a small, almost desolate looking warehouse area. Then 11th Avenue passes Jo Johnson Boulevard, and you veer to the left onto Clinton Street. Suddenly, you are transported back in time. The Marathon Motorworks building took up two city blocks when it was built in 1914. The company’s original name and logo are still painted on the brick facade. You can park either on the street, or on the free lot across the street. Automotive traffic is minimal, although you may encounter some students from Fisk wandering about during a break. The nondescript glass door with the muted cockerel logo takes the visitor on a trip that is not to be forgotten


The first thing you see from the street, aside from the classic Schwinn bike that parked on the sidewalk, is the mint green Vespa in the window. Inside, there are several other bikes, from a 1940 Indian that looks ready to cruise down the highway, to a custom built dual engine BSA that pulled 177 miles per hour and set a land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats. It is easy to see that Mr. Wolfe has a passion for all forms of transportation. There is even a Velocipede, which the store’s owner has ridden

Photo by Helen ChapmanThe store is illuminated with Edison light bulbs, most in custom made fixtures. Funnels have been re-purposed into hanging lamps. Rebar has been welded into a huge cruciform chandelier, or as Mike Wolfe calls it, a ‘Mandelier’. On the black enameled Rebar a local artisan has welded wrenches, screwdrivers and other ‘guy things’.

The stock is as varied as it is interesting. There are odds and ends, bits and pieces, from all over the country. A large silver hubcap with an Art Deco figure hangs on the wall, and below it is the grill panel from a Model T Ford. One wall is covered with the original exterior wall from Mickey Gilley’s in Texas that burned several years ago. The corrugated steel wall, and a sign, are all that remain, and they reside in places of honor in downtown Nashville.

Mike Wolfe himself is the sole buyer for both the Iowa and Nashville stores. On Monday after Saturday’s grand opening he was still in town, and close to noon pulled up in front of the shop and began unloaded a cache of 1950s lamps and bric-a-brac. He happily greeted the customers, posed for photographs and was more than willing to discuss some of the various bits and pieces in the store.

The staff is equally as helpful. Lauren Wray Grisham is a wealth of information. As the assistant manager, if she is unsure of an items provenance, she has the courage to say she doesn’t know, but she knows where to find out. And she does.

Anyone who is familiar with American Pickers understands the premise: Mike Wolfe and his ‘picking partner’ Frank Fritz (owner of Franks Finds) drive through the rural US, buying everything from old printing press letters and naughty photos of Flora Dora girls (signed to a faithful fan of course) to a ‘jet plane’ from an old carnival ride and a neon sign from the Shriners.

Yes, there is a certain amount of excitement at the thought of perhaps meeting a television personality. Then again, this is Nashville, where you might find yourself standing in line at Walmart next to Carrie Underwood, or buying a box of nails while George Strait checks the price for horse feed. Celebrities are the norm here. Antique Archaeology is anything but.

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ewmiller

In addition to my work at Stripe Specialty Media and American Vintage Market with Danielle Colby of American Pickers on History, I am also involved with Calendar of Antiques and Urban Art and Antiques. My work has allowed me to speak on the phone with notable architects, filmmakers and politicians including Steven Holl, Julian Schnabel and North Carolina Congressman Walter Jones. I have a Graduate Certificate in Public Relations from NYU, a Masters in Urban Studies from the University of Akron and am author of a chapter on Ayn Rand’s life in New York in the book Literary Trips: Following in the Footsteps of Fame. I love the visual arts, music of all kinds, cities and urban living, bicycle riding, cats and vegetarian cooking. I am happy to have lived in both New York and San Francisco and to now reside in Dallas.

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20 Comments

  1. Kathryn Lang said:

    Pretty neat, Eric. Looks like the guy has turned fun to profit!

  2. kim soares said:

    I’m excited your here! I wrote (email) you years ago and mentioned you need to sell your stuff on line..but now look your right down the street! Can wait to come in. Weres your buddy frank?

  3. Joe and Gayle Hillhouse said:

    We visited your store in July. Loved the store. Sam was so friendly and fun. Joe and friend, Larry, played the guitar in the picking corner. Steve Wariner came in and picked too. FUN! Many neat and unusual antiques – never seen anywhere else. We plan to visit again soon from Tupelo, MS.

  4. Michael Bowling said:

    I personally have been going to antique shops in California and picking for over 25 years, now I live in Indiana. Have been selling my vintage items online, Would love to go visit
    Mike Wolfes shop in Nash~Ville……Oh, I would also love to work their as well:)

  5. .major hixon said:

    i just moved to tennessee and watch your show all the time i cant wait to .come to the store in nashville and maybe bring in some interesting things i have from my grandmother thanks for all the entertaing shows keep up the good picking..

  6. EARL said:

    lOVE WATCHING YOUR SHOW! YOU GUYS ARE JUST SO DOWN TO EARTH,
    PLEASE STAY LIKE YOU ARE, AND DON’T LET BEING POPULAR
    CHANGE YOUR FUN, LOVING,AND HUMBLE PERSONALITY! LOVE YOUR
    SHOW, AND HOPE YOU ARE ON TV FOR A LONG TIME. KEEP ENJOYING
    LIFE AND GOOD LUCK IN YOUR PICKS!!

  7. John Wiseman said:

    I work for Bradley’s Towing here in East Tennessee and I watch the show all the time. If you all are ever up near Sevierville, Tn then if u all ever need a tow job then feel free to call (865) 453-5005. We tow almost to anywhere in the U.S. if u ever need a tow ask for John Wiseman. You all are AWESOME!!!! You all go places that are unique very interesting, hope to c u n Sevierville one of these times.

  8. Pepper malm said:

    Mike we have a lot of unique antiques they’ve been collected from my father in law that was a rocket scientist with jpl. W/ NASA he never believed in getting rid of anything but yet keeps it in amazing condition. Please contact us. We would live to send you picks to show u what wonderful items we have. Thank you for your time.
    Malm’s Henderson, Nv

  9. Jim said:

    We are comming to nashville this weekend and want
    to come to the store, can’t fine the address for the .

    Can you help?

    Jim Evans

  10. Cris Westphal said:

    I was just at the Nashville store this past sunday April 1,2012. It was totally a let down from what I expected. I was expecting lots of picked, or bought, traded antiques to search through. Instead I found the store nothing more than a common tourist trap. a Few over priced items on the wall and the rest was all made up of logoed Tee shirts, hats, and gloves. Will I be back, nope. Will I continue to watch the show, not sure yet. I understand your in it for profit, but what your selling I can get on line. in lots of different locations.
    Also the size of the store was unimpressive. About the size of an over sized closet. I will give this a thumbs down.

  11. Tom Wolfe said:

    We went there yesterday, Saturday 28 April. What an immense letdown — as someone else commented, it’s nothing more than a souvenir shop. It’s the size of a large garage, and the vast majority of the antiques there are marked ‘NFS'; Not For Sale.

    What IS for sale are piles, and bales, and stacks of cheesy American Picker claptrap. If you’re in the market for a tee shirt, or beer cozy, or refrigerator magnet, you’ll be in paradise, but DON’T make the assumption that it’s an antique store. There are maybe thirty ‘picked’ items for sale, but even those can be suspect — for instance some of the ‘authentic’ old photographs for sale are actually duplicates, immediately replaced with other copies as they are sold. And the few authentic (and non-copyable) antiques that are actually purchasable are hugely overpriced.

    Now, I understand how Wolfe is ‘making hay while the sun shines’, but my strongest memory is of my wife quietly weeping while saying, “We drove five hours for THIS?”

  12. Abbie Hull said:

    I enjoyed visiting your Nashville store and i would like to purchase another tee shirt the honey hole with building on it i was told since you guys didnt have a large one in store I could purchase one online but i haven’t seen the one i purchased at your store online.Abbie in California

  13. Michelle Werther said:

    We are planning a trip through Nashville the 2nd week in June. What is the address in Nashville so that we can Garmin it and get to visit? Looking forward to seeing the Nashville store!
    Thanks,
    Michelle
    Protem, Missouri

    • Reymundo Gonzalez said:

      I have signs if interested. A Skoal sign and 2 Schlitz signs

  14. Adam russell said:

    I have an early 1900s shotgun. The cool thing is thatit has volunteer gun co. on the side.my phone number is 615-586-8453. Please call or email if intrested.

  15. Mark Trybus said:

    The Nashville Antique Archaeology is basically a T-Shirt Shop. Lots of the Inventory is marked N.F.S. Not For Sale.There are a few items but very few and very expensive.

  16. Shri Anandan said:

    Great article… have a Starfleet mens 3 speed bicycle..and a Baypoint Huffy ladies 3 speed in great condition. Also a personal weighing scale with adjustable scale ( healthometer). please call 727 531 5809./Anthony or Braxton./727 831 9385. anytime.

  17. Michele Kaimana said:

    i love watching American pickers I just moved from Hawaii to TN… will definitely stop by………….. awesome…. thanks my friend marz for telling me their here……

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