Junkers adds to army of antique shops downtown

James Fenton
Downtown Junkers co-owner Sarah Herrera talks about her products Wednesday at her store in Farmington.

FARMINGTON — Sarah Herrera is a mom, artist and admitted "hoarder" who has made a sizable industry of the antiques and second-hand items she restores and paints in whimsical colors.

Today, Herrera and her family opened their new enterprise, an antique store called DownTown Junkers at 109 N. Allen Ave., a half block north of Main Street.

Three Rivers Art Center occupied the North Allen space until February when it moved into the former home of the SnS Skate Shop on Main Street after it went out of business.

Herrera and Scott Smith's spouses help track down new finds — lots of furniture, hutches, bookshelves and tables — that Herrera will, in turn, restore, redesign and paint.

The store also sells antiques or one-of-a-kind items, like a stuffed pygmy goat or an old Borden ice cream cart.

A lowboy table Herrera found at a yard sale covered in mold and dirt that she breathed new life into with a lot of elbow grease, new handles and a fresh coat of paint is one of her favorite items.

"With power tools and paint, you can do anything," Herrera said. "You can truly do anything."

Since last summer, Herrera has sold her creations and finds at a booth inside A Beautiful Mess, a two-story site where vendors rent space to sell products ranging from vintage to new home décor and handmade merchandise. The store is just around the corner in the old Wallace Furniture building on Main Street.

Herrera said she plans to continue to sell her items at A Beautiful Mess. She also recently has worked as a portrait photographer at Signature Photo Express on the east side of town.

But Herrera said she isn't a one-woman show. Herrera's brother, Scott Smith, and her parents, Dan and Rebecca Smith, are co-owners of DownTown Junkers.

The newly opened Downtown Junkers is billed as a 'thriftiques'  shop.

"It's not all me," she said of the collective effort of running and adding inventory to the store. "It's really cool how it works. Because there are so many of us, it could be overwhelming, but every single person contributes something that the store wouldn't work without."

Her mom, sister-in-law and kids will help run the store. Her dad and brother stay busy hunting down items at estate sales and storage unit auctions.

Her husband, Max Herrera, often finds himself making detours on errands to pick up raw material for his wife's creative impulses. He said she once saw a truck hauling a load of old fence pickets and other materials among weeds and fill dirt. They got the attention of the driver and convinced him to unload the entire haul on the couple's front lawn instead of taking it to the landfill, where it was originally headed.

"She says she wants it, I go and get it," Max Herrera said. "What I thought was just junk, she can turn into amazing pieces that you'd never believe used to be headed for the dump."

Sarah Herrera said that the store is a complementary confluence of her and her brother's opposite qualities. Where she sees things "in circles," she said, her brother, Scott Smith, "sees in straight lines."

Like any siblings, they hold different opinions on what they wanted out of a store.

Her brother originally wanted to open a thrift store. Herrera was adamant that she wanted an antique store.

A compromise produced a happy medium — the "thriftique" store, a hybrid term that encompasses the preferences of both siblings.

Sarah Herrera, left, Max Herrera and Rebecca Smith talk Wednesday at their store, Downtown Junkers in Farmington.

Scott Smith coined the term, she said.

"Thriftiques. As far as we know, Scott made it up," she said. "I actually hated it at first. I was just so nervous. I just didn't want this store to become a thrift store. There's a difference between an antique store and a thrift store. But, come to find out, the best of both worlds is thriftiquing."

Mendie Terry, who opened A Beautiful Mess a year ago, said she already is a DTJ customer. She bought a double sink there.

Terry said Herrera is very creative and hopes that the store succeeds, which will help reaffirm downtown as a viable shopping and entertainment district.

"I'm an average woman, and I started my own business, and (Herrera) can, too," Terry said. "Sarah has a great eye for display. She's hands on. I want more people to come shop downtown, to shop local and, despite the economy, to remember us little people."

James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621.

More information

What: DownTown Junkers

Where: 109 N. Allen Ave., in Farmington

Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday

More info: Call 505-402-8310 or search for DownTown Junkers on Facebook