Smash open those piggy banks, boys and girls, because we’re going on a treasure hunt of epic proportions! Nestled between a local sports shop and a construction office on Olympic Avenue in historic downtown Arlington, sits an unassuming white storefront, a building worn by time, once the home to a card shop and a nail salon. Now, a different picture is painted. An old rowboat on the sidewalk, vintage flags draped from the ceiling, wooden fruit crates, well-aged pianos…my goodness, the pianos.
Welcome to Arlington Pickers, a new twist on the age-old model of antique and junk stores, born out of a passion for family and community. “Let’s just start a business…and my kids can just hang out with me all the time.” Meet Shane Henderson, owner and founder of Arlington Pickers. Calm in demeanor, with a kind voice and eagerness to laugh and smile, Henderson might not quite fit the History Channel’s “American Pickers” mold.
When it comes time to order his breakfast, he smiles at the server, and pleasantly requests “two links, O’Briens, eggs and toast,” kindly returning with “Oh, thank you miss Karen, oh my goodness…” as she delivers his bountiful plate at Blue Bird Cafe, a longtime Arlington fixture steps from Arlington Pickers. He jokes about me “not being a 5 a.m.-er” as I get a refill on my coffee, and shows genuine care and interest as the three of us chat.
Henderson first opened the doors December 1, 2015. While running a junk hauling business since 2000, he noticed a great opportunity to repurpose some of what his clients no longer wanted, and in doing so, bring some joy to others. But the initial steps were a challenge, with Henderson noting they “just kind of winged it for years” before finally getting into a groove and establishing a customer base.
His love of family extends easily into a love for his community, as Henderson shares his pride in being involved with the tight-knit culture Old Town Arlington has crafted over recent years. “My goal is to see people enjoy Arlington,” Henderson begins, “take your family, walk the streets.” He is not alone in this outlook, and notes putting a lot of energy into helping shape and implement a vision, poetically saying, “I really want to keep my Mayberry, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ feeling down here; Bedford Falls, keep this a family friendly place.” In terms of drawing traffic to the downtown core, Henderson’s dream is a little bit Snohomish and a little bit Leavenworth all at once. His gentle spirit and community focus is reflected through his staff, all young people from his church, stating, “There’s a certain countenance that we bring to…the store. I like our light to shine.”
The Pandemic Petting Zoo
Henderson strives to take people back to a time when everyone came together regularly, and society empowered strong families, capable children and quality time. During the first summer of Covid, he began what the papers dubbed “The Pandemic Petting Zoo,” staging a few of his own goats in a makeshift pen under his front window. With the local fairs closed, he wanted local kids to still have a chance to “touch the animals and sit on hay bales.”
The Freedom Pig
At one point this past June, an escape artist pig named Penelope bolted into a car show on Olympic, and went on her own joyride around town for a few days. As locals searched high and low for her, the community rallied and took pride in the newfound celebrity of the “Freedom Pig.”
The Arlington Farmers Market and many local businesses began adding to Henderson’s finder’s reward, and by the time she was caught, the bounty on this little piggy was $300, a dozen cookies from Hammond Bread Co., a maple bacon-scented candle from Hometown Candles, a farmer’s market t-shirt, a metal flying pig cutout from Rustic 2 Refined, an Elegant Pig painting from Happy Little Paint Parties and a crocheted pig cozy for a coffee cup from Stout Farmhouse, among other prizes.
With daily sightings and multiple attempted captures, the “Freedom Pig” had the key to the city for several days, but Penelope was finally returned to Arlington Pickers by a local family. She and a littermate went on to ride on a float in the 4th of July Grand Parade, and still continue to inspire local merchandise and market events. “It really put us on the map,” Henderson chuckles, “made us known.”
Gammie's Treasure Garden
The petting zoo morphed into other hands-on ideas for children during Arlington’s annual summer street fair. Henderson set up some donated boards with hammers and nails, along with a bathtub full of dirt and small “treasures.” These features proved to be a hit, with kids learning to swing a hammer, and then searching through “Gammie’s Treasure Garden,” named affectionately after Henderson’s grandmother. “I wanted to do something unconventional,” he explains, “almost like grinding wheat, it takes you back to a different era.”
The 92 Cent Campaign
In store, the prices might also take you back in time, with many items priced at a surprising 92 cents. With current sales tax rates, this strategic pricing means you can take something home for a single dollar bill. With a desire “to be set apart,” Henderson started the 92 cent campaign in 2017, continuing, “it just took off…people loved it.”
With income seemingly taking a backseat to customer joy, he loves seeing people, especially kids, find something unique, saying “that’s a high for me; I want people to find something cool…that’s almost patriotic to me.” On one of my routine stops at the store, I stumbled upon an antique apple box from the fruit company my grandfather and his brothers started nearly 100 years ago.
Other than one box at the company headquarters in Naches, and another at a museum in Yakima, the rest of these boxes were long thought lost for good. Henderson could not recall where this particular box came from, but noted my story is what his mission is all about.
As far as any weird, unique or exciting things he has seen, Henderson simply states, “it’s a blur to get it out…it’s coming in by the truckloads.” Items in the store come from all avenues, with the hauling business and local donations forming the bulk of the supply. “Getting my hands on junk is not a problem,” Henderson laughs, “I’m even getting calls ‘Will you come out and pick my barn for me?’”
Plate Breaking Therapy
With all that material flowing in, eventually there are unsellable items, especially breakables. Henderson recalls messing around one day with his daughter; as they each threw a plate on the ground, he said, “‘Isn’t that fun?’” His mind went to an unused concrete wall in the store, and the “Plate Breaking Therapy Area” was born, quickly becoming a smashing success.
When I visit the store, there are often first-time customers inside when someone hurls a chipped tea cup, and watching the reactions never gets old. When the broken pieces pile up, Henderson scoops them into bags and sells them to crafters and artisans. Some unique or unsellable items are on permanent display, such as the numerous pianos placed about the store with invitations for children to play them. Mixed in with the old-school country, bluegrass or gospel music typically streaming through the store, a chaotic crescendo erupts from the pianos from time to time.
At the end of the long, 8 to 6 day, Arlington Pickers lives and breathes family and community, promoting a mission 92 cents at a time. Just as it has with some of the long-lived items on the shelves, time will tell the Arlington Pickers story. In the meantime, they have nestled in nicely to the fabric of the Old Town lifestyle.
To go on your own scavenger hunt, or simply break a few plates to relieve some stress, visit Arlington Pickers at 332 North Olympic Avenue in Arlington, open every day except Sundays and a few select holidays.
For more recommendations for antique shops in the area, read Antiquing in Snohomish!