By KEN BECK, The Courier
"American Pickers" creator and star Mike Wolfe confesses he owes much of his success to Nashville.
In return Music City is receiving dividends via the 300,000 to 400,000 visitors a year who drop by his Antique Archaeology store in Marathon Village.
"The tourism board told us we were the second most-go-to-location last year in Nashville behind the Grand Ole Opry," says the picker, who buys and sells practically anything with a bit of age that strikes his fancy.
The Iowa native moved to Middle Tennessee four years ago, making his home in Leiper's Fork with his wife and young daughter. But he discovered the village several years earlier while riding through on his motorcycle and soon made friends within the entertainment community.
"A lot of my friends in Nashville helped me get the show. They helped me understand what a treatment was, helped me edit the videos and encouraged me to never give up pitching it. I wouldn't even have a show if it wasn't for Nashville," said Wolfe, 50, calling from New Mexico last week.
He will appear at the Country Living Fair at 1 p.m. Saturday at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon on the main stage for a discussion on antiques and collecting with the mag's editor-in-chief Rachel Hardage Barrett, followed by an audience question-and-answer session. From 2-3 p.m. Wolfe will also sign copies of his book, "Art of The Pick."
His program, co-starring picker pal Frank Fritz, has spawned multiple versions across the globe.
"Our show is shown throughout the world. There's Australian Pickers, English Pickers, Italian Pickers, Canadian Pickers. It's a format that can be plugged in anywhere. The show is relatable to just about anybody," said Wolfe, who began pitching the show in 2005 and finally got it on the air in 2012 on History.
A total of 173 episodes are in the can. He believes season seven will debut in the middle of May.
His lifelong passion of picking through old stuff began when he was 4 years old.
"I started digging in the garbage walking to kindergarten. I just saw things in the trash that my family couldn't afford, like bicycles and old toys, and as I got older I moved into comic books," said Wolfe. "I always had a love for bicycles, and as I got into my early 20s, I started looking at antique motorcycles and got into those.
"My main collections have always been motorcycles and bicycles. Really that is that is how Antique Archaeology got started, with those two categories. As the years went by, I started broadening my horizons in regards to what I bought and sold."
His private collection stars about 20 rare bicycles and 75 motorcycles, and photos of a few of these may be seen in his 124-page, hardcover book, "Art of the Pick" ($30), which he will sign on Saturday. The book also features Americana folk pieces, 1930's advertising and children's toys from long ago.
"The title really describes the book to a 'T'. It is looking at things that are discarded and rusty and dirty and focusing on their beauty," he says. "The photographs are shot in an artful way to visually stimulate someone and help them understand why someone would collect, seeing the beauty in something that has been cast aside or really shows its age and celebrating that."
When not crossing the U.S.A. with Fritz, with whom he has been a pal since the eighth grade, Wolfe enjoys time at home with family and friends and riding his cycles.
But he also keeps busy creating and pitching new show ideas.
His "Nashville Flip" show has aired twice, and he's working on "Bad Blood" with Kris Williams of "Ghost Hunters" fame and a show titled "All Lynn in the Family" with Loretta Lynn's family, and he's especially enthralled with his show called "Saving America."
"It really focuses on smaller communities throughout America, how people are moving home to buy their dream house and raise their families. ... They want their children to have the same experience they had," said Wolfe.
Country Living Fair
The Country Living Fair runs 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday, April 24-26 at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon. The event offers a unique shopping experience featuring more than 150 vendors offering antiques, gifts, home décor, jewelry and more. Guests will also have access to cooking, crafting, do-it yourself demonstrations and will be able to sample locally sourced, artisanal food. Mike Wolfe, star of History's "American Pickers" and owner of Antique Archeology, will appear at the fair at 1 p.m. Saturday on the main stage for a discussion on antiques and collecting with the mag's editor-in-chief Rachel Hardage Barrett, followed by an audience question-and-answer session. From 2-3 p.m. Wolfe will also sign copies of his book, "Art of The Pick." One-day admission is $13 in advance and $16 at the door; three-day weekend passes are available for $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Admission is free for children 16 and under. For tickets and more info, contact Stella Show Management Co. at 866-500-FAIR or stellashows.com. For additional details, visit countryliving.com/fair. Wolfe's Nashville Antique Archaeology store is located at 1300 Clinton St., Suite 130 (Marathon Village), and open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday.