CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — They are two sets of sisters — Rochelle “Ro” Noffsinger and Katherine “Katty” Jimenez — and Noffsinger’s daughters, Annie Boulanger and Brynn Cantrell.
Three of the four work in the Casper school system. Noffsinger is an office manager for a dentist.
Before Christmas in 2016, Noffsinger called Jimenez and explained the dream she’d had the night before.
“We were doing furniture again, and we put it in an old truck,” she said. “And we were doing it where we wanted, when we wanted.” Thus, Retro’s Roadtrip was born with the slogan, “we’ve got junk in our trunk.”
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The two had sold upcycled furniture from Ro’s Attic and Retro for several years. But when Jimenez’ daughter entered middle school and her sports schedule got crazy, they gave the store to its current owner, who has rebranded it as Rustic Cottage.
Now, it seemed, Noffsinger and Jimenez had the bug once again, this time with the help of a repurposed delivery truck.
“My daughter-in-law found a truck in Bozeman and we drove it home,” Noffsinger said. “A six-hour trip took 13. It was not fun because it doesn’t go fast.”
The four are from a family of junkers, and Cantrell remembers scouring garage sales with mom and their grandma at an early age. Boulanger, however, buys many of her pieces from Casper Classifieds.
Last May, the four had a display and business cards at the spring Funky Junk downtown. The truck debuted later in the summer, at weekly farmers’ markets and Rock Around the Block on Thursday nights at the Yellowstone Garage.
“That truck was infested with birds and mice and it was nasty,” Boulanger said. “We did it all ourselves. We painted, scrubbed, had a logo designed.”
Originally, the four were going to sell their refinished furniture at home parties, pulling up by invitation to curbs where friends had gathered for wine or book club or whatever. But they found that didn’t interest them as much as community events.
“We’re not really sales people, we like the social aspect of community events more,” Noffsinger said.
“We all have full-time jobs. This is just to keep our hobby going. None of us rely on this,” said Cantrell, who will move from Dean Morgan to her dream job of teaching Functional Life Skills at Kelly Walsh in the fall.
Boulanger teaches English as a Second Language at Kelly Walsh and their aunt, Jimenez, works in the IT department at the Natrona County School District’s Central Services.
At each major community festival or farmers’ market, the truck needs to hold at least 20 major pieces of furniture, plus smaller pieces as well. On a good day, the truck will sell out.
Inventory is just a matter of time — the ability to find pieces at a garage or estate sale and refinish them before the next big event.
As they watched the rain pour down the day before this year’s soggy Funky Junk, the women lamented the weather and said on a big day with good weather, they’d make $2,000 to $3,000.
Each of the four is independent when it comes to her income. Each buys her own pieces, pays for her own supplies, does the refinishing work, prices it and gets the money it brings.
They try to collaborate on a schedule and who works the truck when, but Boulanger admitted they hope to do a better job of that this summer.
Jimenez, Boulanger and Cantrell still have kids at home, which makes for good help but also scheduling challenges.
Social media has added another layer the business. Often, they sell a piece just by posting it on Facebook and it never makes it to the truck. Again, that impacts the inventory that can go in the truck.
All of their home garages have been turned into workshops, where gel stain and wax containers sit atop dressers without drawers.
Noffsinger said the show, “Fixer Upper,” and HGTV network in general have made women crazy for refinished furniture pieces.
“There are at least five of us doing this in Casper right now and we’re all friends,” Boulanger said.
Cantrell’s childhood friend, Samantha Harkins, owns Lee Brennan Charles Design, a business she began in her garage a year ago.
“We started garage saling together when we were 13, and now to think we’re both making money from it,” Cantrell said.
Noffsinger said the favorite piece she’s ever done was her first — a sofa table with legs painted creamy white and the top a dark stain. And she has a message for the buyer.
“If you have that table, I want it back!” she cried.
Noffsinger said that sometimes, a $10 piece at a garage sale turns into $125 sold from the truck.
“Sometimes we barely have to do anything to it, and sometimes it’s a total re-do,” Boulanger said.
She prefers mid-century modern pieces, which are tough to find around Casper.
When Jimenez refinishes a piece, she wants the new buyer “to love it as much as I do,” she said.
This summer, the plan is for the truck to alternate between the farmers’ markets and Rock Around the Block.
“We just don’t have enough inventory to do both every week. We hope to alternate and do two or three shows a month,” Noffsinger said. “But our schedule will be on our Retros Roadtrip Facebook page.”
Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com