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Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

Whitney Scarborough’s Rusty Roots

Apr 29, 2019 11:00AM ● By Enjoy Magazine

Back to our Roots

May 2019
Story by Natalia Caudle
Photos courtesy of the Rusty Roots Show

A TRUE TREASURE QUEEN, Whitney Scarborough turns funky forgotten furniture and antiques into one-of-a-kind pieces. Her creativity and drive have changed the atmosphere of shopping in the Central Valley.

A self-titled “serial entrepreneur,” Scarborough struggled to excel academically in grade school and was thankful for her natural artistic talent and the escape given to her by creative expression. Eventually diagnosed with dyslexia, Scarborough learned to overcome hurdles, not allowing difficulties to stop her momentum. Once in high school, FFA pushed Scarborough into public speaking, where she flourished and gained a strong skill set that would help her in later ventures. With artistic talent and academic strength, Scarborough was prepared to take on the world.

And take on the world she did. In 2009, as a real estate agent and property manager, Scarborough searched for a creative outlet. She longed for her childhood days of traveling to antique stores and auctions with her grandparents, hunting for a unique find or valuable keepsake. In an effort to again experience the rush of thrifting, Scarborough searched for vintage items or furniture she could chalk paint and restore into something fun and useful. She used her yard sale treasures to decorate her wedding, and consequently sparked a new dream.

A few months later, Scarborough created Willow House Vintage Rentals and began renting out large antiques and unique pieces for weddings. The novel business quickly caught on. She struggled to keep her warehouse stocked with fresh items and soon faced a roadblock. Unable to sell out of her warehouse, Scarborough sought a venue where she could unload some of her repurposed finds while making a little cash. When she couldn’t find an established site that offered her the exposure she craved, Whitney took a cue from the pros.

Inspired by Junk Gypsies, a quirky show on HGTV where sisters find forgotten junk and turn it into treasures, Scarborough learned the ins and outs of a “junk show”. Why have a storefront when she could sell her inventory in a weekend and help others do the same? In March 2012, Rusty Roots had its first show in the parking lot of the Visalia Sears. Whitney called out to vendors through Craigslist and Facebook, hoping to pull together a unique fair. To her amazement, 20 vendors joined the show.

The fun and different style of the Rusty Roots Show began to gain popularity. With two shows a year, the vendor booths grew at a steady rate of 15 per show. Then in the fall of 2016, the vendors grew from 45 to 100. Scarborough’s spark from years before was becoming a blaze. Soon the Sears parking lot couldn’t accommodate the traffic and popularity. Vendors were coming from Arizona, Oklahoma and England to sell their unique finds. Scarborough kept the rules simple: Vendors could sell anything as long as it was at least 20 years old.

In fall 2018, Rusty Roots moved to its new home at the Tulare Ag Center and expanded to a sister show in Bakersfield. Scarborough has continued with her entrepreneurial spirit to create the Central California Antique Flea Market, a new venture that is open on the first Saturday of each month at the Tulare Ag Center.

Scarborough seeks to create a fun experience for her vendors and shoppers. But the drive behind Rusty Roots isn’t the thrill of the weekend – it’s helping others in similar situations succeed. She credits her motivation to the people of the valley. “I love the community and want to be a huge support of small businesses,” she says. Rusty Roots provides a creative market and unique opportunity for other small business owners.

Not only is Rusty Roots a profitable business, it is a family affair. Scarborough’s daughter, Shelby, eagerly follows her around the show, while Scarborough’s mom, sisters and aunts sell lemonade, take tickets and keep the junk show rolling. With more than 200 booths, it’s not hard to find a steal or a one-of-a-kind piece. The excitement of the bazaar and the enticing draw of food vendors make the Rusty Roots show a perfect stop for treasure hunters, mother-daughter duos or the casual shopper who simply wishes to peruse the pop-up shops.

Antiquing may run deep in Scarborough’s blood, but her vibrant spirit and can-do attitude is the secret success behind the unconventional Rusty Roots show. The old saying must be true: “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” • May 18-19

International Agri-Center in Tulare

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