This That & The Other store owner Brian Wickham is making a career out of finding value in the undervalued.
For five years, Wickham flipped houses — buying low, fixing up and selling at a profit.
Over the years, Wickham, who liked bargain shopping at flea markets and garage sales, decided to open the store he’d long considered in which to sell his many finds — which now filled several storage garages.
Wickham saw a for-lease sign on the tiny, time-laden wooden store building at 2912 First Ave. NE. It was too small and in fairly rough condition, but he could make it work.
In March, Wickham brought in display shelves and built others in the spot that has housed everything from a TV repair shop and to a music store to a tattoo parlor in the past decade. Then he packed it so full of an unbelievably odd assortment of just about anything used and offbeat.
When customers walk in the door, “They say, ‘Whoa! There’s a lot of stuff in here,’” recounted store employee Tara Carsner. “They’re just kind of amazed by the variety of things.”
Wickham’s advice to customers is to move things around because at first they’re only seeing one layer of merchandise. Carsner’s advice is similar.
“If you don’t look around every spot three times, you miss something,” she said.
Wickham admitted he just likes buying things that are old and quirky — a 1970s Molly Hatchett LP record, a motorized stuffed dog, a 1964 Hastings Piston Rings advertising clock — you name it.
One day about three months ago, Wickham decided to display an inflatable Green Bay Packers lawn ornament in front of the store. It sold in about 30 minutes, and Wickham knew he was on to something.
Since then, he’s had a small display of items ranging from trunks to bicycles for sale in front of the store, waiting to be browsed, purchased or occasionally stolen.
Wickham added it’s been good for sales, and relatively little has been stolen.
This That & The Other has so much clutter that it can remind customers of the reality TV show “American Pickers,” about finding rare and valued items in junk troves across America.
Wickham is well acquainted with the show, and said it’s so popular that it’s raised the prices sellers typically demand for oddities and antiquities when he shops.
It’s much the same phenomena that Wickham experienced when “Flip This House,” another reality program, became popular during his house flipping days.
“All that did was raise the price of the cheaper houses,” Wickham said, as so many people were convinced by the show to give flipping a try.
The new business so far isn’t making Wickham rich, but it’s definitely holding its own. He’d eventually like to open the basement to display more merchandise, but for now he searches for special requests from customers in his storage garage and basements.
Part of the appeal of This That & The Other has been its location next to the Cellar Door, a much larger store that’s been selling collectibles and other oddities since 1984. The owner, Roger Edwards, owns the 720-square-foot building leased by This That & The Other.
Because their merchandise is similar, the stores have generated cross-traffic, improving sales for both businesses, Wickham believes.
One of the worst aspects of the dense-packed store for Wickham has been cleaning duties. Every single item has to be picked up or moved for cleaning on a regular basis.
Occasionally, a customer will remark that something’s dusty.
“I tell them, ‘You try to keep this place clean,’” Wickham laughed.
Owner: Brian Wickham
Company: This That & The Other
Address: 2912 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sundays; closed Mondays.