Shoppers looking to hitch a rusty-red sleigh or a weathered wagon wheel to their holiday decor were likely to stop by Chartreuse & Co. last month for the vintage store’s annual holiday tag sale.
The cluster of barns and cottages at 4007 Buckeystown Pike that showcase the decorative wares of Chartreuse & Co. — a group of about 30 local dealers and specialty vendors selling local foods and vintage finds at the sprawling suburban farm — were decorated with holiday vignettes set around family gatherings, giving home decorators ideas and ornaments to bring holiday cheer to their homes, said Virginia Crum, who owns the business with her husband, Chip Crum.
“We’re all decorating for the holidays and we’re looking for the same things — we’ll have everything you need to decorate your table and mantle for the holidays,” she said.
The store will mark down Christmas items for its final sale of the year this weekend.
Cheerful antique chests and wardrobes, 1950s Santas, elves and reindeers, vintage holiday lights and handmade and hand-painted holiday banners, notes and signs were some of the items likely to bring a rush of bargain shoppers to park on the farm’s field when the first-come-first-serve holiday tag sale kicked off. Five local artists displayed their work for sale on the patio outside the main barn for a new “Art on the Patio” event, too.
Crum, who has a background in marketing and special events, bought her grandparents’ farmhouse off Md. 85 in 2001, and was home schooling her children and working part-time teaching at a technical school when she started holding occasional yard sales.
“We would look out for good weather, and the accumulation of enough stuff and then put out signs on 85,” Virginia Crum said.
In 2008, the Crums bought the three acres surrounding their home — containing Chartreuse & Co.’s showcase buildings — from their neighbor, St. John’s Catholic Prep. Crum said that the buildings are expensive to maintain and insure, and the school was planning to demolish them. Soon after that, business for Chartreuse & Co. began to boom.
“This is what I love doing, and this started out as a way to save those buildings,” said Crum, who added that she’s always had a passion for architecture.
The six buildings — a 1920s dairy barn, a stone milking parlor, a rough pavilion, an 18th-century hay barn, a corn crib and a tenant house — are filled with finds and decorated to the brims with bargain buys the third Friday, Saturday and Sunday of each month of the year except December, when the sale is held the first weekend of the month.
“I can’t stand the idea of being chained to a counter seven days a week. This is a way to do it in a very concentrated amount of time, and spend the rest of my time hunting for treasures and decorating,” Crum said.
She said she redecorates her house constantly and loves the creative energy the business gives her home.
“The greatest fringe benefit of this business is that redecorating your home is easy,” Crum said. “You have to have a ‘one in, one out policy,’ otherwise your house would just burst at the seams.”
As she started the businesses, she started to discover more and more people who shared her interests, and one by one, they signed on to help make the monthly sales bigger and bigger.
The vendors stage the scene in the days before a sale and brace themselves for the Friday morning rush. The drill — a rush of moving furniture and boxes of knick-knacks — is a well-oiled machine, Crum said. Some dealers have worked with Crum for eight years.
“They are a wonderful, wonderful group. Some people come in and don’t realize that there are all different vendors because the look is so fluid,” Crum said.
They restock every day of the sale and rearrange furniture and readjust decorations after each item is sold.
“We do this every month, and the energy of that alone is so much fun,” she said. “Putting that last level of greenery on and everybody is there — it’s like a party.”
Crum said that she used to do a lot of entertaining before the barn sales, and now considers the monthly sales her way of putting on a show.
“We want it to be so perfect when the doors open Friday morning — it’s a creative energy I’ve never felt anywhere else,” she said.
Molly Susan Strong, a dealer at Chartreuse & Co. who sells collectibles and her artwork on salvaged materials, said, “We love what we do. We bring unique finds and set them up in unique vignettes.”
Dealer Lynn Forman, owner of Anna Marie Designs, said she scours estate sales, auctions, antique stores and flea markets to complete her sales displays. Everyone this time of year is on the hunt for a vintage sleigh, she said, adding that she had already snagged one.
Strong added that she found a hand-painted red-and-green wheelbarrow.
Linda Campbell, who co-owns The Cottage in Leesburg, Virginia, said she’s been repurposing vintage finds for 17 years. Some of her favorite creations involved adding old handles to barn wood to make serving trays, or making a dining room table out of a farm table and bed posts.
“My husband says I love to shop for a living,” she said with a laugh. But decorating and working with her hands has been the passion that drives her to do it, she said.
“I love a bargain, and the thrill of the hunt,” she said. “The early bird gets the worm.”
At the early November sale, shoppers braced against the brisk breeze with hot tea samples, and warmed up with sandwiches and treats from Mob’Wich, while walking slowly around and through the stocked and decorated buildings.
Michele Michalski, 53, traveled from North East to the sale with her husband after finding Chartreuse & Co. on Instagram.
“We just love all rustic and reclaimed and repurposed stuff,” she said. “It’s always good to get ideas and pick up a few things.”
Eileen Lisker, 56, of Frederick, was commiserating with fellow shoppers that there were too many things she wanted to buy. She makes sure to make it out to Chartreuse & Co. every month, and usually goes home with an item or two. “It’s addicting,” she said.
The dealers said that new shoppers should come to the sale with measurements for items they seek since there are no returns.
Shoppers grab a tag from an item they want and take it to the cashier. Some customers hold onto the tags while they think about the purchase, Crum said.
Since there’s no heat or air conditioning in the buildings, shoppers should brace themselves for possible cold weather during the holiday sale, the dealers said.
Chartreuse & Co. has its serious, loyal customers, and they are usually the ones standing in line when the sale opens Fridays at 9 a.m.
The man who started handing out samples of Salazon Chocolate Co. at a recent sale remarked, “I’ve never seen women run past free chocolate before,” Crum said. “And then after everyone looked, they said, ‘Oh! Free chocolate!’”
For those who don’t like the rush or crowds, Crum suggests checking out the sale between 2 and 4 p.m.