Local antique shop celebrates five years in business
Barbara Christopher opened her shop on Petrolia Line five years ago; she’s watched the downtown business landscape evolve since 2012 and aims to share her passion for antiques. Melissa Schilz/Postmedia Network
Barbara Christopher turned a lifelong hobby into a future retirement career just over five years ago. The small business owner opened Picker’s Emporium on Petrolia Line in May 2012, and since then she’s seen a number of neighbours come and go.
Christopher and her husband are Petrolia’s own local pickers - they travel across North America on the hunt for vintage goodies to spruce up and make new again. And while they were once one of several antique shops in town, some closed their doors after a decline in the market.
“People have come and gone…the antique stores left,” she said, adding that two years of construction on Petrolia Line wasn’t ideal for keeping their doors open. “It was hard…it hurt everybody…but we stuck it out. We’re proud that we made it through.”
What has kept them going is a deep love for relics of the past and a unique business model that brings in shoppers from all over. Christopher said this is her passion, and they don’t just put anything up for sale – they make sure it’s beautiful first. She said they hope to show younger generations that vintage and antique pieces can add something to their home that a generic item from Ikea just can’t.
“The quality is just different, it’s night and day…everything is made of either wood or metal,” she said. “I just love what I’m doing.”
She said her passion started as something she and her friends would do together – they would share children’s clothing and furniture, and always helped one another paint their houses after moving. For them, it was a great way to save dollars and enjoy a unique sense of style.
“When we travel, we always go into antique stores…we just love it,” she said. “We buy it, we clean it, we paint it…we try to make it relevant again.”
Their search for treasure has taken them all over Ontario and America, all the way to Florida, North Carolina and West Virginia, just to name a few places on their tours of the continent.
“We go to these lost towns and there’s always some sort of interesting store,” Christopher said.
They go in with their truck, buying what they find from small town locals and hauling it back home where Christopher revitalizes pieces in her workshop. The couple also takes on custom works, refurbishing old bedroom or dining pieces for anyone who asks.
“We buy it, we clean it, we paint it,” she said. “We try to make it relevant.”
The shop has held on strong, Christopher and her husband bought the building they are now based in three years ago and sold their Corunna home to live in the upstairs portion.
She said it wasn’t an easy decision, but she’s learned to love her new abode. Using her artistic touch, they transformed the old apartment into a cozy home that features refurbished antique pieces, high ceilings and a modern touch mixed with vintage flare.
Christopher still works a full-time job during the week, but she said her retirement will revolve around her shop – she has even started teaching painting classes where people can bring in their own antique pieces and style them to their liking.
Christopher said they are about supporting local residents and keeping their prices affordable and accessible for everyone. July marks their annual sidewalk sale, as well as their paint for pasta event which supports the local food bank. From July 11 – 15, anyone who brings in a pasta donation will get a $5 discount on Country chic paints, and proceeds will go to the Petrolia Food Bank.