ROCHELLE — The history starts before you even get inside Pickin Station, the Rochelle antique shop that opened in February.
The site at 708 Lincoln Ave. was a Texaco gas station years ago. Studebakers were also sold there. That’s why Owners Pam Easton and Stan Bennett decided to have an old Texaco sign and gas pump and a Studebaker car out front. Easton said she’s had to turn down buyers for the historic items.
“I just want to bring back a piece of Rochelle's history,” Easton said. “That's why we did that. I just happened to see this was for sale. We wanted to have that old gas station theme and sell that kind of stuff. It was perfect that this used to be a gas station. So many people want to buy our display stuff. And I can't sell it. If I do, what's going to attract people here?”
Easton and Liliana Rodriguez, the shop’s manager, say business has been “going really good” despite just eight months in business. Pickin Station has seen customers come from “all different states” including Alaska.
The shop operates under a consignment model with and rents out selling space to 40 different vendors along with the things Easton sells of her own.
“I chose the vendor model because I wanted variety,” Easton said. “I didn't want to just sell my stuff. Because not everybody likes a certain kind of stuff. If you have variety, then you catch all different kinds of people that want different kinds of stuff. I think it's better to have variety than to just do my own thing.”
Easton and Rodriguez attempted to detail some of the rarer and more interesting items that have come through the shop. They’ve included a Murphy bed from the early 1900s, a whale gun that shoots harpoons and “a lot of” petroleum-related items that fit the shop’s theme. Outside, you’ll find a phone booth with a payphone in it. Inside, you’ll find a vintage jukebox.
“We've had a lot of cool stuff come in,” Rodriguez said. “But it comes in, and it sells right away.”
Easton and Rodriguez said the Pickin Station prides itself on its atmosphere and they wanted to make it a comfortable place to come to even just have a cup of coffee or tea. They like to keep the shop bright and the TV on. They enjoy talking and hearing stories from the people that come in.
“We have a lady that comes in every week,” Easton said. “She's 88 years old. We call her Pickin Station grandma. Every Tuesday she sits with us.”
Pickin Station tries to do a flea market at least once a month. The business also works with local residents that are attempting to sort out estates of loved ones that have recently passed away.
“They just give us a call and say they have a space for us to come and look through,” Easton said. “They have some stuff left over. I buy whatever I think I should buy and try to resell it here in the store. It happens a lot. People don't know what to do with their stuff and don't want to have an auction or a garage sale. They don't have time."
The owners of Pickin Station had to make the tough decision of opening during the COVID-19 pandemic. Easton said she didn’t expect it to go as well as it has. She finally gave into urging from Rodriguez, her manager, and landed on a Feb. 2 open date.
“I said I was afraid it wasn't going to do very well,” Easton said. “I think people got to the point where they were tired of being cooped up. They had enough of it. It had almost been a year during COVID-19. When I opened, they were glad we were here for someplace to go. There wasn't a lot open. I said we wouldn't know until we tried. I was going to wait until spring or summer. Then we started to get more vendors.”
Now, prospective vendors have to be put on a waiting list before they can sell items at Pickin Station. Easton said she thinks the antique industry is doing “pretty well” right now. She’s seen the younger generations getting into it lately. Pickin Station sells some furniture to those that want something unique and don’t want to buy from furniture stores.
Pickin Station is also proud of some of the local historic items it has that come from the city it resides in, along with promoting other businesses in the downtown and Rochelle area, Easton said.
“We have a lot of Rochelle stuff in here,” Easton said. It's a really hometown type of a shop. As much as we have wanted an antique shop with a little bit of everything, the best part is when you get the word out that we're here and we tell them about all the other shops there are around here. We refer people everywhere, all through town. We want to help other small businesses here.”
Some of the history at Pickin Station doesn’t come from the items at all.
“You can't wait to go in the next day to see the different kinds of people you're going to meet,” Easton said. “That's what's nice. You hear the old stories.”