These are only a few of the rules and regulations of what Kristin Williams and Holly King refer to as the “high holy days” of the 400-mile sale across Kentucky’s scenic historic Highway 68.
It’s coming up the first week of June and these two queens of the quest for flea market finds will be packed and ready to head out on the highway. The twosome (emphasis on TWO) and the truck will be packed with the have-to-have supplies for the day’s foraging: tarps, ropes, plastic tubs, bags, sodas, lunch, wet wipes, cash, and quarters.
“We’ve alienated a few of our friends by turning them away from our totally monogamous mission,” says Kristin. “We tried it a couple of times and it just didn’t work out. Holly and I have a system. This is in our DNA. From the first time we shopped together when we met in 1996, we have known we were born to shop . . . together! Both our parents were antique seekers. We both come from similar professional backgrounds. We just have the same flea market philosophy. So it’s JUST us. And we’ve perfected the annual road trip for cheap chic.”
And the quarters? Holly explains. “I have this objective to see how much I can buy for a quarter. One year I got my son’s summer clothes for the lake with quarter flea-market finds,” she laughingly admits. “It’s just such a rush to get something cute and collectible for a quarter or a dollar. Except there was that one creepy doll guy. Remember Kristin?”
Kristin immediately undertakes her impression of a weird man standing in the middle of a roadside meadow with a pick-up truck bed full of naked, dirty dolls saying in a monotonous voice, “Dollar a doll. Dollar a doll.”
Apparently there are many stories from the now near-decade of day-long driving for bargains that these two best friends have logged together. “Remember that sofa I got for Ashley for $10?” Kristin asks. “And remember that year I bought that cute iron sculpture for your birthday present and you accused me of stealing it out from under you?” Holly replies.
There were remembrances of a great Thomas the Train table that Holly found for her son. Kristin relates her early fascination (she calls it an obsession) with metal tool and tackle boxes. Kristin has a literal shed full of mixed-matched dishes and Mason jars that she has picked up in passing. They both love old linens and vintage cotton tablecloths. Holly is a sucker for painted trays.
“You have to prepare for the hunt,” says Holly. “Otherwise you will just be overwhelmed. You just get gap-jawed doing what we do. Most years we sort of have a theme. I have kids so I often look for those types of things.”
“I’m usually looking for items I can use for craft projects at Ephemera,” says Kristin. “Last year it was old paint-splattered ladders. And of course tool boxes! I’m also usually looking for old books or discarded vintage photos and collage-type materials.”
And then there’s the negotiating. “Always ask for a better price,” says Kristin. “I strongly suggest gathering up a collection of items, taking them to the table, and asking ‘What would you take for all of this?’ You should generally have an internal meter of what you’re going to spend. And you should ask yourself continually at every stop, ‘How bad do I want this?’ “
“One of my favorite finds of all time was probably a Sarah Coventry silver necklace that I paid $.35 for,” adds Holly. “Later I saw one that sold on eBay for $200.”
But finding treasure among the trove of trucked-in displays and yanked-from-the-attic accouterment isn’t really the goal of this diligent duo. “It’s always exciting to see who strikes first blood,” Holly says with a grin. “It feels really good to find something you love at the first stop. It kind of gets you energized!”
But energy has often wearily waned by the end of a long day of driving for bargains. These sleuths of sales have “weathered” freezing cold temps, sweltering heat, rain-pelted sprees, and what once looked like an emerging tornado sweeping across the sky as they drove through LBL. “We’re pretty nasty by the time the truck is full and we’ve hauled ourselves and our bounty into the back of our pick-up,” Kristin adds.
But that doesn’t stop Holly and Kristin from firing up their internal engines for yet another year of taking to the streets from Paducah to Puryear in order to get the goods.