Selling A Lifetime Of Curios To Make Ends Meet
RONCEVERTE, W. Va.--The store's Coke sign, painted with a haphazard hand, is what drew our eyes from the road. But once inside, it was a carnival chalkware figurine – the kind fairs once gave out as cheap prizes – that lured out Michael's wallet.
The miniature statue was sitting among other oddities in Denny Powell’s curiosity shop, built by his father in the 1940s as a small grocery store and now filled with random items for sale.
A closer look would reveal many were from the life Powell once led.
Memorabilia of Dale Earnhardt, the famed late NASCAR driver, was everywhere. Powell worked as a mechanic at one of Earnhardt’s dealerships and spoke of “Dale” as if he knew him, as if he were an old friend he was proud to know. "I can take you to the house and show you my employee handbook if you like,” Powell told Michael.
Most of the items in the shop don’t bring in much money, but Powell said the sales help supplement his income now that he’s disabled. His customers are mostly people on their way to the Organ Cave, the tourist attraction and former Confederate soldiers' hideaway on Route 219, travelers who tend to be forgiving of the way he mans the store, or rather, doesn’t man it. He usually opens the doors in the morning and leaves a sign outside that offers customers the choice of honking the horn, knocking on the door at his nearby house or calling him.
Most items bear no price tags. Powell instead gauges the value of the item and the memories attached to it on the spot. When Michael saw the statue, he imagined its place among the cheap carnival prizes he collects and asked Powell his price.
“I'd like to go cheaper, but I need to get $5 for it,” Powell said. “That's how much money I blew at the state fair to win it when I was a kid."
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