JulieAnne Leonard and her mother, Cathy Hufstedler, give new meaning to the phrase “treasure hunting.” Julio and Jo Sweet Pickins is definitely not your average used goods store. JulieAnne is “Julio” and Cathy is the “Jo” of the Sweet Pickins namesake, and the two are following their life dream and passion of collecting, fixing, and repurposing household items from tackle boxes to furniture. Specializing in the latest trend called “occasional sales”, Sweet Pickins is open the second weekend of each month with a new staging of different merchandise each month. JulieAnne Leonard described the collecting process as architectural and salvage.
“We like digging and looking for stuff . It’s something we’ve done all our lives. We hear about occasional sales, gather stuff, stage it and kind of have a party.” She also added that In metropolitan areas, customers often line up for the opening of similar “occasional sales” stores and hopes that residents and visitors will find this type of enterprise useful and entertaining for this area.
Rather than base the value of an object on monetary worth, Cathy admits that she chooses items for Sweet Pickins often because of an emotional connection. “It’s really all about life. There are feelings and stories attached to these items, especially the old ones. Sometimes we get so fond of an item after we’ve dusted and cleaned it, and reworked it into something different, that it’s difficult for us to let it go.” Both women recalled a special fondness for an acquired tackle box, the contents of which had nothing to do with fishing. “As we went through the things in the box, we realized that this was a picture of someone’s life in 1980. There were concert ticket stubs, matchboxes from places he visited, keys, even a court document, and oddly, only one fishing lure.”
The earth and the environment are also very much on their minds as they hunt for items to replenish the store. “We’re really big on repurposing. It’s respect for the earth and for the things we collect in our lives. Milk crates become magazine racks and wine holders . An old baby crib spring becomes a craft display and organizer. Going green means rethinking your philosophy about trash and junk. If you don’t have to throw it away, find a different use for it.” According to JulieAnne they are particular drawn to old items and consider them treasures not because of their “antique” value, but because of their durability. “Old stuff was made better. People did not have a lot of money so they took better care of and valued their stuff, so it had to last.”
The Hufstedlers are long time residents of Lincoln County and raised their children in Ruidoso. Sweet Pickins is housed in an old landmark of Capitan and haunt of residents old enough to remember the Rusty Anchor Bar. “We love the pace in Capitan. It’s that horse country lifestyle and close to the earth feeling. Very special and calming.” Undoubtedly this is especially refreshing for JulieAnne, who is a practicing attorney in Ruidoso and for various soil and conservation districts in the area. Her husband, Travis, is an international aviation consultant for a Fortune 500 company and intends to base out of this area. “We believe that a three- hour trip to an airport is a small price to pay for living in this beautiful area.”
For Julio and Jo, Sweet Pickins is very much a family affair. “We get to do what we love and we get to be together.” The husbands are described as the “haulers” of the treasures that JulieAnne and Cathy find, and the men have their own little section in the store referred to as “Man-tiques” that consists of old tools and equipment. Even JulieAnne’s three-year old son, Pratt, looks forward to selling cokes on Saturday so that he can have money to buy tools.
Summer plans include featuring a local artist “on the porch” and synchronizing their hours with the Capitan Farmers Market. Cathy enjoys writing stories about the treasures that come through the store and invites everyone to their website, www.julioandjo.com, which also contains the link to their facebook page and information about sale dates.
Treasures, dreams and gracious hospitality are the “stuff” of Julio and Jo Sweet Pickins. Their very clear philosophy is heartwarming as well as exemplary. “This is a new adventure for us. We’re still excited about life and everything about it. You’re never too old for adventures. You just have to keep dreaming.”
(published in Ruidoso News Vamanos Friday, June 15, 2012)