It’s the thrill of finding a gem!
When I was a little girl I traveled to garage sales and antique shops with my parents. It all seemed a bit boring back then, but somehow that passion for a good hunt has worn off of me.
A few months back while searching Craigslist, which I often do, and much-too often according to my husband, I came across a post for a local barber shop that was closing. The owner was retiring after 40 years. Only a few photos were posted, but those included a vintage magazine rack and chrome coat rack. I wanted, no, I needed those!
I made the short drive to Des Moines the next morning and arrived about 9 am. The owner, an older gentleman, opened his doors at 8 am and already saw a few items out the door. I greeted the man as he put out his cigarette and laid down the daily newspaper. It was like I had just taken a trip to yesteryear. I asked him how long he had been in business and what his retirement plans included. Forty years in the same location and fishing were his answers. He told me anything I find is up for sale.
After wandering around, I claimed the chrome coat rack and he told me the magazine rack was sold immediately that morning. Bummer. Another couple walked in as I was collecting the items I wanted to purchase. They were local pickers and wanted my coat rack. Score. I knew it was a find! Sorry, early bird gets the worm.
I picked up the coat rack, a vintage Frito Lay chip clip display and a small metal stool. I was so excited that I didn’t even negotiate on price. I picked up that heavy beast, loaded it up and was on my way.
Do you know how awkward and dangerous it is to drive home with a 6 ft. tall coat rack rolling back and forth in your car? Well, I safely made it home. After a quick washing in the garage, I moved the coat rack into the kitchen for a deep cleaning. Thankfully my husband wasn’t around to see my newest find. It was in bad shape! It’s best to show him my newest purchased after they are in tip-top shape. That’s one thing I’ve learned after six years of marriage.
After researching how to gently clean chrome, I began with straight vinegar. I then tried baking soda. This grime wouldn’t budge! I shouldn’t have been surprised. It was 40 years of nicotine, dirt and oils from all the hats that once hung there. Finally, the combo of vinegar and baking soda, an old rag and Magic Eraser began to wipe away years of smoke and dirt. I knew I could find some shiny chrome under there. The chrome pole had some oxidation or spots that resembled rust. I took some aluminum foil and rubbed over those to reveal the shine.
I discovered ‘Fixtures Manufacturing Corp. Kansas City, MO’ stamped on the steel base. After some googling, I found out that these coat and hat racks were commonly used in barber shops. Mine may even date back to the 1930s or 1940s. Although I haven’t found complete history on my piece, I have found comparable designs online.
I had been searching for a chrome coat rack for months, maybe even longer, and even considered buying a new one from IKEA for about $50. I’m so glad I didn’t. I love my vintage find, a true piece of Des Moines history and can’t wait to share my next treasure.