Karlee Hickman has a crew working hard to make the warehouse at 2585 Summer Avenue look as old as possible. It isn't the new lighting, reconfigured space or paint scheme that will give it that aged look, but what fills it.
One will find, throughout the 10,000 square feet, antiques of every size, shape and conceivable use. Propcellar
is the name of the business, and vintage is the name of Hickman's game.
The goods--everything from chairs to tables, burlap to bumbershoots, whiskey barrels to gramophones, and a cathedral's worth of church pews--aren't for sale. This is no ordinary antique shop. The props are rented to photographers in need of a set, to hostesses in need of a conversation piece and, the vast majority of her business, for weddings. Hickman has also worked with organizations such as Ballet Memphis
and Overton Park Conservancy
It all began with a blue couch with red legs. Hickman found it and loved it, yet couldn't make it work in her home. The self-proclaimed "professional hoarder" couldn't make herself give it up, so she rented it out.
"People started asking for more stuff, and I'd always collected old things anyway, and someone asked for pews," Hickman says.
Shortly after, she took delivery of 40 pews, found a warehouse in Rossville, Tennessee, and opened up a showroom in 700 square feet on Poplar Avenue in East Memphis. That was in January 2013, and the concept was new in town.
"I think Memphis is ready for it, and I love working with all the local, creative people who are having all these exciting ideas," she says. "We're all really lucky to be here right now."
Demand was overwhelming from the start, and Hickman, a transplant from Sacramento, California, fell in love with the Broad Avenue Arts District
. The idea of moving into the area stuck with her in much the same way that blue couch did. The search lasted about six months before she finally found the old Laukhuff Stained Glass factory on the corner of Summer Avenue and Bingham Street. Though not on Broad proper, the avenue of the hour can be glimpsed from her showroom, and the building backs up to the Water Tower Pavilion. It's a home one could get comfortable in, as comfortable as a broken-in easy chair.
"We'll have things stored efficiently for moving and doing things, but also I want it to be like the coolest antique store you've ever been in crossed with a really cool theatre production; so, a feast-for-the-eyes antique store."
Hickman plans to open in August and has a vision beyond the main thrust of business, including setting up a photography studio for use by area photographers and for on-site events.
By Richard J. Alley