Glitter & Grit: The Junk Gypsies

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Story By Shelbi LeMeilleur
Photos by April Pizana

684a7539Driving down State Highway 237 in Round Top, you may encounter a pink 1980 Chevy Suburban. There are horns on the grill, flames down the side, a chandelier in the back seat, and bumper stickers covering most of the back windows. Two words dance across the doors: “Junk Gypsy.” You’ve just met Large Marge, a sort of unofficial mascot to the enterprise known as Junk Gypsy created by Texas A&M University graduates Jolie and Amie Sikes.

The Sikes sisters started Junk Gypsy more than 20 years ago. Fans know of their humble beginnings. “We started this business with $2,000 and an old pickup truck,” Amie says. “I sold my car and just had this hand-me-down truck from mom and dad that we started the business with.”

Since then, Jolie and Amie’s business empire has grown from flea market booths to an online store, headquarters in Round Top, a television show, and more. Through it all, the self-proclaimed “junkers” have remained true to themselves and their families.

Their Story
The sisters had a different plan before stumbling upon the junking lifestyle. They grew up in East Texas, in a small town called Overton. Bryan College Station also holds a special place in their heart.

Amie graduated from Texas A&M in 1995 with a degree in agriculture journalism. After graduating, Amie packed her bags and moved down the road to Austin, where she worked in the Texas State Capitol for three years and eventually applied for law school. However, she knew law school just wasn’t for her, so she turned down her acceptance and moved back home. Amie worked part-time at the family pizza restaurant and slowly built what would one day become Junk Gypsy.

1-fav-684a2704-copyJolie graduated from Texas A&M in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences. She worked as a teacher in Houston for a couple of years before returning to College Station to work on a master’s degree in health education, which she received in 2003. While earning her master’s, she worked as an academic advisor for Sports Management.

During this time, their father was diagnosed with leukemia. Jolie quit her job and would drive back and forth from College Station to Overton to help out part-time with the family business. Not long after, the entire Sikes family moved to College Station. They lived here around 10 years working and growing Junk Gypsy.

Many of the early Junk Gypsy business meetings were held at the sisters’ favorite locale, the Dixie Chicken. While they may not use their Aggie degrees for the intended purposes, the time they spent at Texas A&M has had a direct impact on their business.

“The skills you learn at A&M are such lifelong skills,” says Jolie. “Loyalty and the traditions at A&M are so important. We were raised with that sense of community. To this day it’s part of the life blood of Junk Gypsy … it’s more than a business; it’s a community, a lifestyle. That’s how A&M is. It’s part of who you are. … You live, eat, and breathe it. That’s how Junk Gypsy is.”

The Business
Amie and Jolie started out selling t-shirts and junking wherever they went. Now, the sisters sell everything from clothes and jewelry to repurposed “junk” and household items. They also take on some bigger projects for celebrity friends, like Miranda Lambert, Billie Joe Armstrong, and Sadie Robertson.

april-pizana-photo-junk-gypsy-hq-2bThe Sikes always have their hands in more than one project at a time, all while maintaining a hands-on approach to their business. “We never sit down and say, ‘This is your job, and this is your job,’” says Amie. “We start working, and it just all works out. We both just work. We are both dedicated to the end goal for Junk Gypsy and our family to be successful and happy. If [Jolie] needs help on something, she will say so. Otherwise we are just forging on.”

After five years setting up at flea markets, Amie and Jolie decided it was time to put down roots. Ultimately, their hearts led them to Round Top. “We needed to be in the country,” Jolie says of the move. “A lot of people consider College Station a small town, but for us it was big. [Round Top] was kind of like home already with the antiques shows. It was calling to us. It felt like it was meant to be.”

They bought the land, which is now a 60-acre compound, and broke ground on the Junk Gypsy HQ. The store opened in the fall of 2013 and has been thriving since.

Round Top is home to Texas Antiques Week twice a year. Junk Gypsy participates, and the sisters can be found at the store, at their tent, or junking themselves. During the week, they throw their legendary Junk-O-Rama Prom at Zapp Hall, where all walks of life come to drink, dance, and show off their unique vintage prom dresses and western wear. The next Antiques Week is March 22 through April 2.

The Show
1-fave-684a4644The first episode of Junk Gypsies premiered on HGTV on Nov. 11, 2011. In the first season, Amie and Jolie conquered Antiques Week, Dierks Bentley’s Airstream, Junk-O-Rama Prom, and various home projects for families and friends across Texas.

Amie and Jolie were initially skeptical about starring in their own TV show.

“Production companies started calling 12 years ago,” Jolie explains. “They all just wanted us to be the female version of American Choppers. … Everyone wanted us to argue; it was something we had no interest in. Then about five years into everyone calling us, our current producer called us. We trusted her.”

Because it was more of a lifestyle show, season two and three were moved to GAC. They have taken a hiatus from filming while working on some of their other projects, but they haven’t called it quits on the show. Jolie says they will keep everyone posted.

The Book
Last year, Amie and Jolie released their first book, “Junk Gypsy: Designing a Life at the Crossroads of Wonder & Wander.” The seven-month project tells stories, gives DIY inspiration, and shares some of their favorite projects.

The book is divided up into three sections: “The road: where we get our inspiration. The flea market: where practical magic meets elbow grease. Home: where our hearts are.”

The book is also a love letter to their fans and supporters over the last 20 years.

“To the dedicated, true-blue, boot-stompin’ JG warriors who’ve been around since the beginning: Pull up a chair and stay awhile,” the introduction reads. “We could never thank you enough. We’ve worked hard to keep this book as authentic to our JG spirit as you would expect it to be. We want you to love it. Highlight, dog-ear, and doodle in the margins. Take notes and tuck them in your mirror frame. This book is for you.”

The 230-page passion project is packed with pictures, inspiration, and heart-warming tales, not to mention the DIY projects for dreamers who want to take a stab at it themselves. The book isn’t just for long-time fans or DIY junkies. Anyone can pick up the book and feel like family by the end of it: “Now that you’re part of our family, we look forward to the moment when our wandering paths cross yours again.”

The Inn
1-wanderinn1-layout-optionThe biggest project on the radar for the Junk Gypsies is The Wander Inn. Comprised of two buildings on the back of the property in Round Top, it is expected to open early this year.

“It’s very special back there,” Jolie says. “You feel like you’re in another world.” Adds Amie, “I wanted it to feel like big open space and big sky country. The way the land lays, you couldn’t even see any of the store.”

The inspiration for the Inn came from the Chisholm Trail and the Texas Independence Trail, both of which run through or near the area. The interior is a mix of Americana, Rock ‘n Roll, and Western. Each room has a different theme, but the space as a whole fits together cohesively to provide a warm and inviting environment. “It’s going to be a place where people come for an experience,” Amie says. “People will come as strangers and leave as friends.”

The project has been particularly special for Amie. “What we always say about Junk Gypsy is that you’re going to find that thing you never knew you needed. The Wander Inn feels like that for me,” she says. “I never realized how much I would love it. I really think when I’m 80 years old, I’ll still be out there building fires for people. … I can’t imagine Junk Gypsy without it.”

Anyone can sign up for updates about the Inn and its opening at www.gypsyville.com/wander-inn.

The Cruise
In March, Amie and Jolie will set sail with Country Living on the Country Living Coast-to-Coast Caribbean Cruise.

The cruise stops at Turks & Caicos Islands; San Juan, Puerto Rico; St Maarten; and the Bahamas. As the cruise’s special guests, Amie and Jolie will hold DIY demonstrations and a Junk Gypsy Prom. Junking and antiquing expeditions are available at some of the stops.

The cruise will be a family affair, and they’ve made special preparations including Mason jar shaped pool floats.

Neither sister has been to any of the places the cruise will stop, but Amie sees the whole trip as a reflection on how far they have come. “To go from [$2,000 and an old truck] to getting paid to go on a cruise with Country Living is kind of phenomenal and unbelievable,” she says.

The cruise is March 12-19. For more information or registration, visit www.countrylivingcruise.com.

The Road Goes on Forever…
684a5790The sisters don’t have to live in College Station for Texas A&M and Bryan College Station to still be important parts of who they are.

“Number one is the Dixie Chicken – always and forever,” Jolie says. “We love campus; every time we are in town, we go to the MSC and hang out in the flag room. I just love College Station.”

Amie tries to come to one of her other favorite places at least once a year. “I like going and staying at the LaSalle in Bryan and going to do all the stuff in Downtown Bryan,” she says. She also makes a point to visit campus with her daughter, Indie, whenever she can.

Neither can resist the traditions that are part of the Aggie family, including football.

“The fact that there are traditions is amazing,” Jolie gushes. “I cannot help it, every time the Aggie Band is on the field, or talking about them, there is something about them… it is just so regal.”

For Amie, midnight yell will always hold a special place in her heart. “I went Friday night to midnight yell, and I was sold,” she explains. “That’s when I became an Aggie, was midnight yell. I was in tears; I was over the moon. There are a lot of midnight yells I’ve forgotten, but I’ve never forgotten that one.”

Amie and Jolie leave inspiration and a whole lot of glitter trailing behind them wherever they go. They are nowhere near hitting the brakes. As Robert Earl Keen says, “The road goes on forever, and the party never ends.”