Charlie’s Funky Junk Shop: Mother-daughter owners lay claim to their corner in downtown Statesboro.

Dana Lark

Downtown Statesboro is pretty far down on the list for many in-town shoppers. Despite recent efforts like the Blue Mile Project, the growth in the area has been painstakingly slow.

However, Trish and Olivia Carter, mother-daughter co-owners of Charlie’s Funky Junk Shop, are determined to anchor down at the corner of West Main and North Walnut Street and wait for the miracle to happen.

The family-owned building, circa 1900, showcases authentic tin ceiling tiles and original flooring. Exposed brick peeking behind walls that are filled with all things funk and junk.

If Pier 1 Imports and your grandmother’s attic had a baby, this is the fun, eclectic offspring.

Postcard and matchboxes priced at a quarter. Mirrored dressers alongside vintage vinyl records. Hand-stitched quilts draped elegantly down the walls. Tin-can gardens are packed to the gills with vibrant succulents and breathe life into the room; the cans are ornately dressed in beautiful lace and burlap and buttons.

“It took us forever to figure out how to describe what we have,” Olivia Carter said.

The decadent collection of proclaimed funky-junk started off as a simple yard sale in front of what was the family art studio in downtown Statesboro. Trish Carter began clearing out one room of her home at a time in an attempt to downsize after her children left the nest.

The downtown yard sale was comprised of kitchen gadgets, household odds and ends, and clothing; typical yard sale fare.

Carter was approached by shoppers at the yard sale who loved the concept and wanted to sell their own items to her.

This spark of an idea turned into a reality. The Carters began to buy items from locals and enlisted “Charlie’s Angels” to help pick up furniture and auction finds. What they will take from local sellers has no strict parameters. They will take it by the box load, car load, room-full, or house-full, Olivia Carter said.

“People like shopping and I think it’s fun that this isn’t T.J. Maxx home decor,” Olivia Carter said. “Every week it’s something new.”

Charlie’s Funky Junk Shop officially opened its doors in August of 2017. The store’s namesake belongs to Trish’s father. In the late 1960s, he started an antique business in upstate New York. Knowing little about the vintage world at the time, he quickly learned as he went.

Trish Carter gained an appreciation for antiques and collecting items from her childhood immersion in the trade. However, antiques can be intimidating at times.

You won’t find a chair you’re afraid to sit in at Charlie’s Funky Junk Shop, Trish Carter said. It is accessible to everyone in every price range.

Like the OG Charlie, the Carters don’t pretend to claim they knew exactly what they were doing when they opened their junk shop.

“We’re not the conventional people who have a business degree and then open a business,” Olivia Carter said. “We’re artists.”

Olivia Carter is a Georgia Southern alumna with a theatre degree. Her experience in set design is evident when eyeing the arrangements of items and collections of colors and patterns in the shop.

Outside of learning how a business works and running it successfully, the biggest obstacle they are optimistic about overcoming is the lack of foot traffic in downtown Statesboro besides the monthly First Friday events. The traffic they do have is decent, but nothing in comparison to the downtown utilization of Athens or Asheville, Trish Carter said.

People that are downtown for appointments, such as clients at Merle Norman on West Main Street, pop right over the crosswalk after they are done with their hair or makeup.

To get people in the door who wouldn’t normally be strolling down the street, marketing the business extremely important, Olivia Carter said.

The sign outside store front door stating, “Come inside for the world-class junk” hooked Gayle Akins’ interest and led her inside. Akins connection with Olivia was almost immediate. Olivia shared the background of the store and the story of Charlie during one of her first visits, Akins said.

“You know you’re not just another customer [there],” Akins said. “What keeps me coming in is the warmth, talent and creativity.”

The Carter duo, along with their full-time employee, Sarah Edwards, rearrange and reset the store’s sections on Mondays and Tuesdays. The simple change in placement can switch up the entire look and feel of the store, and it often looks completely different from week to week. Product placement is everything in the funky-junk industry.

“You can have one object in one place and it will sit there for weeks,” Edwards said. “But if you move it and place it in a different context, it flies off the shelf.”

Selling a hodgepodge collection of objects in no way means that they don’t get attached to the intricate finds. Edwards recalls walking into the store and realizing something had sold and actually missing it.

“You end up building relationships with objects,” Edwards said.

Being surrounded with treasures of yesterday can be difficult when they love everything they fill the store with. The owners have had to lay out guidelines for how to handle the predicament of wanting everything they buy for the store, for themselves instead.

“We have a rule: you’re allowed one thing per buy,” Olivia Carter said.

Olivia’s junk store weakness is pearls, which fill just about every hole in her pierced ears. Pearls and turquoise, she says. Her all-time favorite find is neither of those gems, oddly enough. It’s a yellow ceramic dog made entirely out of ashtrays.

While some people collect dolphin figurines, owls, or frogs, Edwards has a special place in her heart for camels. She’s been collecting them for years, so naturally when anything camel-like comes in the store, it’s hard to pass up. The Carters once gifted Edwards with a special funky-junk find, a plant holder in the shape of a camel, carved entirely from a single piece of wood.

“They treat me so well as an employee,” Edwards said. “They care about my well-being and what my opinions are. That makes me feel valued.”

For now, the women-owned, local family business has no plans of venturing out or relocating to high-traffic shopping areas such as Statesboro Crossing or Bermuda Run. They are intent on holding out for downtown development to continue it’s transformation and revitalization.

“West Main is our home,” Olivia Carter said. “West Main is the funky street of downtown.” 

Feature image is courtesy of the Charlie’s Funky Junk Shop Facebook page.