“One of the coolest things that I bought [was] a rubber duck collection,” says Dickson Shreffler, owner of Charlotte’s Sleepy Poet Antique Mall. “It was 50 rubber ducks from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. Who would have thought of that?”
Shreffler has seen a lot of unusual collectibles and vintage items in his 22-year career at Sleepy Poet, which Queen City Nerve named to its list of Charlotte Staples That Must Be Protected At All Costs in 2020.
In 1998, Shreffler opened Carolina Consignment, a small antique store on South Boulevard to sell his rare, unusual and beautiful wares. Since that time, business has grown so much that, after years of renting various retail spaces around Charlotte, Sleepy Poet purchased a permanent 48,000-square-foot home at 6424 South Blvd. on April 30.
The six-acre property, located along the LYNX Light Rail between the Archdale and Arrowood stations, is just down the road from Sleepy Poet’s current location at 4450 South Blvd. Shreffler hopes the new space will provide plenty of room for events, food trucks, live music, and more. Renovations on the property start immediately with a move-in date to be announced later this year.
At the new location, the shopping experience will be better for customers, Shreffler believes.
“The aisles are going to be wider, which with COVID will be a really good thing,” he says. “But it’s still going to be the Sleepy Poet.”
Shreffler’s interest in antiques was fired up when he noticed all the cool retro items in his parents’ home. He started antiquing, then set up a couple of booths in area malls. From there, the business blossomed.
After opening Carolina Consignment, Shreffler moved across the street to Freeland Lane and opened a 20,000-square-foot shop in 2000. Sleepy Poet moved to its current location in 2008.
“We’ve been there ever since,” Shreffler says, noting that the current space will close when the new one opens. While the shop has always been at home on South Boulevard, Shreffler has set up shop in other locations where customers didn’t flock the way they do to South Boulevard.
A second store located on Park Avenue in South End didn’t pan out, and in 2016, Shreffler opened a store in the historic Crest building in downtown Gastonia. That too was closed when Shreffler recently sold the building.
Shreffler credits the success and longevity of his flagship business to his employees.
“I think we have the best staff of any retail store anywhere,” he says. “They’re just a great bunch of people that really take pride and take ownership of the store.”
All Shreffler’s years of antiquing experience have given him insight on what sparks a collector’s passions.
“Collecting is odd,” he says. “It’s like [appreciating] art. People just gravitate to something.”
For instance, one woman’s collection for sale just happened to be rubber ducks, but that’s not the only odd collection Sleepy Poet has acquired.
“Just recently, a young lady called. Her mom had passed and [she had] collected whistles, of all things.”
So Shreffler bought the collection.
“There must be 800 whistles — plastic, vintage, sterling silver, Victorian ones, police whistles, sports whistles,” he says. “Will I ever sell 800 whistles to the public? Probably not, but I was like, ‘Wow, I have to have those.’”
With Sleepy Poet’s new location, Shreffler will certainly have enough space to store the whistles, but he has plans for many other things on the property, including antique shows and collectible shows under pavilions, and maybe even an antique car show.
“We’re also going to do a vinyl record store with records, comics, toys, things like that,” Shreffler says.
And if you don’t see anything that stirs your collector’s zeal, perhaps you can whistle for it. Sleepy Poet can hook you up with one of those.
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