|By Susan Emerson Nutter
HUDSON, Ohio — Homegirl’s Gina Bishop comes by it honestly. This young mother of two girls and wife to husband, Brian, haunts garage sales, flea markets, church bazaars – and more – all for the opportunity to acquire unique, old objects that are looking for a new home.
“My mother raised our family on a very tight income; one that required us to shop garage sales,” Bishop explained.
“I learned from watching my mom how to track down bargains, and how to look at things from a different perspective – to see how what others felt they were done with; could in fact, have another life. I do have to admit, though, I remember begging my mom could we please be ’normal’ just once and buy a piece of furniture from Ethan Allen like everyone else?”
This picker-in-training’s upbringing did come in handy when she entered the workforce. For a time, finding great “stuff” was actually Bishop’s job.
“I was a visual designer for Bath & Body Works for several years,” she explained. “Back then, each store had their own ’look’ created by putting together locally found objects. It was my job to find that stuff.”
Fast forward a few years and Bishop has left the corporate world behind and is now Homegirl to her many fans – a visual designer of sorts for those wanting that repurposed, vintage look in their own homes; that look Bishop grew up with. Bishop has carved a niche out for herself by peddling to others the objects she finds from scouring yard sales and thrift stores.
And she does this in three ways; via her website www.homegirlshop.com, her facebook page (search Homegirl) and by hosting sales out of her own bank barn situated on the family’s three-acre homestead in Hudson, Ohio.
“After years of my finding great stuff and stashing it everywhere I could, my husband finally pulled me aside and said something had to give. I think the fact that four complete vintage kitchen table and chair sets were taking up space in our basement was the breaking point,” Bishop remembered.
“I initially set-up my Homegirl booth at shows like Country Living Fair in Columbus, Ohio put on by Country Living Magazine, which was wonderful, but expensive to do and took a great deal of time,” Bishop said.
“My husband is my helper at shows, and after setting-up and tearing down at numerous events he eventually said, ’Gina, I have a full-time job, remember?’ I knew I needed to come up with another way to sell to my customers the objects I continued to find.”
The solution? Barn Sale!
Both levels of the small bank-barn on their family’s property just outside of Hudson are packed to the rafters – literally – with vintage items as well as repurposed pieces Bishop has created. The past couple of springs, Bishop has stuck a sign at the end of the property’s long lane and offered her Homegirl findings for sale. “I’m always worried people won’t show up,” Bishop stated.
That’s funny. More than 1,000 shoppers descended on Homegirl’s three-day Spring 2013 Barn Sale this past May. An hour before the first session of the sale; a Thursday night from 6-8 p.m., a line had already formed in the Bishop’s front yard.
There was also a camera crew there from a major production company shooting a “sizzle reel” to develop a television series. And yes, Brian and the girls were on-hand helping to direct traffic, park cars, and keep overly zealous early shoppers from storming the barn.
Barn sales such as this are a quick growing trend for vendors/dealers like Bishop who are realizing, “If you find it and offer to sell it; they will come,” especially if what’s for sale is displayed in a barn, garden or farm setting.
These pop-up markets offer shoppers the ability to create their own Country Living look without having to do all the flea market, garage sale, thrift shop scouring or the necessary clean-up and refurbishing.
Not only does Bishop provide that certain “look” to shoppers, she has helped other vendors host similar sales.
“I have actually helped mentor five others across the country who wanted to do something similar to what I’ve done with Homegirl,” Bishop said.
For example, Page Price, the proprietress of The Rural Society and The Rural Society Antique and Garden Show held twice a year at her family home, Warwick Farms in Mount Vernon, Ohio visited Bishop’s Homegirl sale one year and thought, “I could do this.”
“Page puts on beautiful sales, that are truly an event,” Bishop added.
“I think those of us who open up our farms and barns to sell what we have found love giving people the opportunity to create that unique ’feel’ for their homes that only comes from using vintage items,” she said. “And being able to do so in our own backyards makes it a more intimate, personal shopping experience. Yes, it is a lot of work. But it is so much fun.”
Bishop likes utilitarian hunks of furniture, or at least sturdy items that can be used as furniture. For example, a massive antique workbench ($750), complete with two vises and an area to stash tools, was presented as a possible kitchen workspace or sideboard. A repurposed bench ($439) having bread board ends with deep, nailed drawers was touted as a kitchen counter or island. An open cupboard ($345) with multiple cubbies was displayed to show how it would work in a mudroom for stashing boots, gloves and hats.
Looking deep into a display is necessary at any Homegirl sale. Layers of items line the walls. For example, different styles of old doors were stacked against the barn’s back wall and included a pair of white-washed louvered doors ($85) along with a worn sliding barn door ($125) dressed in old green, chipped paint and having a vintage metal lift latch. A leaded glass window painted turquoise was $129.
Smaller items, many wearing old paint, filled both levels of Homegirl’s barn. An early metal maple syrup sap bucket in orange paint was $24. A red metal folding shopping cart was priced $34. A vintage garden hose reel, $55; a metal garden gate, $58; old movie reels were priced between $9 and $19 depending on size.
“Wow, so much sold I have to say it was all popular,” said Bishop when assessing what attracted buyers. “I have a hard time identifying patterns of any sale because each one is different and people buy different things.
“Pieces I thought might be a hard sell – flew! It seems that the items that are most unusual; that I hand-picked, go! Two of my ’favorite’ sales were both owls; an owl I made of recycled items for a decorative art piece, and the other was a large ceramic owl that someone had made for their husband or wife which had ’Happy Anniversary 1974’ etched in the bottom of it.”
Locals, of course, show up to shop, but people from outside Ohio also appear at Bishop’s barn.
“Shoppers from Pennsylvania, Illinois and Michigan spent the night in Hudson on Thursday to be able to attend the sale,” Bishop said. “We had a lot of new people come, and I love that. I love when I meet like-minded people who seem to ’get’ what I do and can appreciate the unusual things that I like as well. It is very validating.”