Nancy Parker loved recycling before there was a word for it. She thought repurposing old things was a great way to save them from going to the dump, and she always had to decorate her house “on a dime,” she said.
Mrs. Parker, 69, who grew up in Mexia, has been in the “junking” business for 25 years and opened Whitehouse Indoor Flea Market nearly four years ago.
“We call it a flea market because there’s a little bit of everything here,” she said walking across the property, which has five buildings filled with collectibles.
Her son, Jon Parker, said that when he was a kid and the family lived in Oregon, his mother collected old steamer trunks and other antiques, and enjoyed fixing up old furniture.
“You did not want to get into a car with her on a Saturday morning to go junking,” he said, adding that he would peer out the window to see if the garage sales had toys, and if they didn’t, he would stay in the car.
When the family moved out of their four-story Victorian house, they held six garage sales in eight weeks to try to downsize their belongings to fit in the moving vehicles.
Parker thought his mother was crazy when she opened her first business in East Texas, selling her treasures she found and made an 82-cent profit the first year. What she hadn’t told him was that she had invested $10,000 in merchandise that she later turned into a profit, he said.
Mrs. Parker had a shop in Malakoff from 1989 to 1992, then moved to Czechoslovakia for three years. Her husband of 48 years, Lavega Parker, is a nuclear medicine courier after being a minister and missionary for many years.
While living in Czechoslovakia, Mrs. Parker loved going to flea markets and antique shops, and when she returned to East Texas, she bought a property in Whitehouse to open an antiques and collectibles shop.
After her parents became ill, she leased out the building until her son moved from Dallas to help her run what is now Whitehouse Indoor Flea Market.
Parker, 41, worked managing pizza restaurants and as a courier for the Internal Revenue Service and Bank of America. Now, he runs the business in Whitehouse that his mother started more than three years ago.
Mrs. Parker said she loves looking for old linens, furniture and dishes, including blue and white porcelain China, carnival glass and Depression and Vaseline ware. They also have Western and Native American items.
Every nook and cranny of the small house is covered in collectibles, including the bathroom, which is filled with Christmas collectibles.
“Mom used to say she sold more out of the bathroom than any other room. … There’s nothing like having a captive audience,” Parker said.
There also are four other buildings that have been added to the property over the years, each filled with collections of vintage hats, clothing and luggage, pots and pans, chairs and mirrors, books, records, gardening items and chandeliers.
Parker is into vintage toys and said their toy room is unexpected to most people walking into the store. He said although he finds some of the toys online, they prefer to find them in the local market.
They also offer newer, gently used toys at a discount.
“The idea is to give the kids what they want without having to pay the full retail,” he said.
Parker said dealing in collectibles, such as Star Wars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joes and porcelain dolls is a lot of fun.
“It’s almost like Christmas morning when you find all these toys,” he said.
Mrs. Parker goes to garage sales and auctions in Jacksonville, Tyler, Canton, Troup and other areas to look for merchandise.
“I try to buy locally because we appreciate it when local people buy from us,” she said.
Parker said if his mother doesn’t get out shopping at least twice a week, she’s not a “happy camper.”
He said they see a lot of one-of-a-kind pieces and know they have sold stuff too cheap, such as a Murano glass they didn’t realize the value of. He said he does a lot of research and tries to offer a fair price for things that he can mark up enough so they can stay in business.
“We really pride ourselves in the variety we have, but that’s also what makes it more challenging,” he said. “You just never know what anybody is looking for.”
Furniture, glasses and toys are their top three sellers, he added.
With their merchandise, Parker said they try to keep up with the trends on Pinterest, such as old doors, windows, shudders and head boards people want.
Mrs. Parker has been trying her hand at salvaging old furniture and painting things like dressers and desks in chalk paint.
She said they have had customers from Austin, Dallas, Houston and Shreveport, Louisiana, find them on Craigslist or Facebook, and they are starting to see more local people.
Parker never thought he would one day be helping run his mother’s “junk shop,” but he said it is rewarding to run their own business.
“You work as hard as you want to, and you see the fruits of your efforts,” he said.
Working together every day, as well as being next-door neighbors in Bullard, works well for Mrs. Parker and her son most of the time, she said.
“It’s interesting. It’s challenging,” Parker said laughing, adding that most of the times they argue it is about something she bought for the store.