SMITHVILLE — While working as pickers previously, Cory Fautsch and Jen Blecha are now business partners, having opened The Warehouse by Fresh Picked in downtown Smithville.
“He and I had a love of antiques,” Blecha said. “His wife and I are friends, and she introduced us so we could talk about old stuff.”
One day, Fautsch invited Blecha to help pick salvage pieces on a friend’s old estate, she said, and they have been picking partners ever since.
“We go into people’s properties and estates — so homes, barns — ... and say what we are interested in that they have and then buy those things,” Blecha explained. “It’s like private shopping. ... We get it directly from whatever the source may be.”
The two business partners work on referrals and specialize in architectural salvage, anything that comes from a building. Blecha has an eye for things like old doors, windows and mantels, while Fautsch is drawn to lamps. They also have parts to match with existing items in peoples’ homes, such as cabinet handles and door knobs.
“It requires a lot of knowledge of your product,” Blecha said. “It is a lot of spur-of-the-moment decisions so we don’t have a lot of time to put a lot of thought into what to buy or how much to offer for it.”
Blecha said picking is a messy and physical line of work. When digging for treasures in a barn, she said the pair could be looking at things that haven’t moved in decades. Items may be rusty, have chipped paint or perhaps are sharing space with livestock.
“I always say it’s not your grandma’s antique store,” Blecha said. “We do a lot of helping people with projects. Maybe it is a project at their house or something on Pinterest and they come in and say, ‘This is so pretty, I want to do this, but I don’t know how to do this,’ so they bring us a picture and we try to help them do things really affordably. ... We try to bring new life to old things.”
When the former theater building became available downtown, the team pounced to lease the space as Fautsch had been eyeing for a long time. With its history and background, Blecha said it’s perfect for their business.
”That’s what I love, things that are kind of a mess, like the chippy paint on stuff,” Blecha said. “I love the story.”
The resale shop also has a room called The Workhouse, which is used for hosting crafting events.
Blecha said she plans to use the space for monthly craft or ladies nights, classes and helping people with specific projects as well as providing space for birthday parties. The business owner said she is also seeking partnerships with those who may want to teach a class or provide a service like massage therapy during an event.
Since opening the shop in December, Blecha said she has been shocked by the amount of support she’s received.
“I’m surprised at how many people come in and say they’ve been looking for a place like this,” Blecha said. “People love to salvage stuff so I’m really touched ... to know it is wanted and needed and it is something that people are looking forward to.”