Antique Archaeology’s intimate space of American History and the live country, bluegrass and blues sound make for a nostalgic, laid back root beer float kind of Sunday in the South.
It’s a small, welcoming walk-through and part of Marathon Village at 1200 Clinton St., Suite 130 right near 8th Avenue South.
T-shirts and baseball cap souvenirs are for sale all over the store for no more than $25. The store came on to the tourist attraction scene due to the television show “American Pickers.” Mike Wolfe, who sends the merchandise to this store and the others, is the creator behind the idea of Antique Archaeology and the television show.
Wolfe is rarely at the venue because the reality show is really his life. Some people find this hard to believe, according to some of the employees. He stops in maybe once every few months. His job takes him across America picking for two weeks straight and then off for two weeks.
“You’re most likely not going to find Mike or anyone on the television show ‘American Pickers’ at the store since what they do on the reality television show is real life. People will get mad sometimes when they come in only to realize the American Pickers are not here, “ Kat said.
You’ll find rusted restoration lighting, a flood of tourists, live country, bluegrass or blues and hearsay of the sweet Soda Fountain Parlor two doors down, which makes for a laid back outing.
After living in New York City for six years, I grew fascinated and picked in some of the hidden antique shops, flea markets and estate sales throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. In comparison, I was quite surprised when walking into Antique Archaeology.
I was expecting the store to be larger. The New York shops aren’t as cramped and Manhattan is known to be a place where space is such a limited thing.
Antique Archaeology isn’t like an antique mall. It’s set up like a garage with everything out to touch except for the most delicate pieces, like vintage papers from a sixth generation family in Maine.
Speaking of cramped quarters . . .
The crowds of tourists topple over the items in a way that’s comparable to what you would encounter if you were weekend dining at a Cracker Barrel Country Store. The clanged and banged rescued items for sale are intrinsic for the pickers moved by the history.
There are certainly a few bizarre items like the giant life size Royal Frog Man that resemble a prince or the Piggly Wiggly pig head that says “Kiss Me You Fool.” They kind of go hand in hand for the picker who loves fairytale 3D pop art.
Most of these items are for sale. Some are only on display like a black and white checkered Cheap Trick guitar.
Its proximity to downtown lures in the Nashville natives and a large number of tourists.
Kat, one of the sales girls, says that next to The Grand Ole Opry it is the greatest tourist attraction in town. There is a downtown tour trolley that brings guests to Nashville touring the city. It’s only a couple minutes from downtown.
Kat says items go faster than they can get them in. This is because you can also make purchases through the online store.
It can be easy to experience a bit of sensory overload upon entering the store. One’s ears and eyes will hear the South in every corner with sounds like Howlin’ Wolf playing over the loud speaker.
Then suddenly, the centerpiece in the middle of the entrance looks like that of a musical bouquet. It’s an ensemble of stacked amps, guitars, jukeboxes, records and record players, which then lead the eyes up to the ceiling.
A lighting connoisseur might have a heyday with the restoration lighting. There are soft light bubbles held together with what looks like a horse and carriage wheel.
And there’s music, too
To the right of the entrance a drum set labeled Antique Archaeology is seen. There you’ll spot a tip jar and some musician packing up his gear if you go later in the afternoon around 3:30 or 4 p.m.
Local artists play in the corner throughout the weekend hours. The music is mostly country, bluegrass, blues type genres and tips are encouraged but it’s free to listen.
“On any given weekend it’s sure to be raining the backwoods type people and the occasional celebrity like Steven Tyler and Sheryl Crowe, who are both super cool and friendly,” said Kat.
As you wander through you might strike up a conversation with Sara, another girl selling souvenirs. She might suggest stopping at the Soda Fountain Shop two doors down for an Orange Cream Float, which happens to be the sweetest part of the trek. You could also visit one of the two breweries on site.
A hairy, south Alabama hippy who I kept bumping into, said “I really thought it would be bigger too.” We ran into one another a third time at the Mighty Frog Man.
The Alabama native photographed his wife with the frog and commented, “My brother loves this kind of stuff. He goes picking a lot. He would love it here.”
Sara filled me in on everything from who comes in to the store to the history behind the automobile factory that was there a century before.
“Steven Tyler visited and said ‘I can’t believe I’m here!’ Also the tallest couple in the world came in once.”
Antique Archaeology is truly a lesson on America’s culture that has developed over time from the automobile parts, motorcycles, music and Wild West memorabilia.
The hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through Monday.