LEE – You don’t need this stuff, but it’s nice to have.
That’s what Retro Pop Shop owner Pierre Duhon said of the Americana items in his store on Route 20.
A quick glance around reveals rusty gas pumps, a jukebox, a few life-size Ronald McDonalds and countless advertisements and signage.
But just one walk through the shop is not enough to take in all of the “fun junk” – four or five times is more appropriate.
“I buy fun things, I sell fun things, and I get to hang out with fun people,” Duhon said. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”
The origin of this business? A mid-life crisis.
Before Duhon landed a career buying and selling rusty gold, he held various jobs in social services. When he found the building that would later house his countless items, he took a six-month course at Berkshire Enterprise and developed the store’s business model.
“They taught us target customers, the cost of goods sold,” he said. “I stumbled through the beginning but you adapt and learn as you go,” and later added, “I like to learn, and the more you do it, you learn.”
The shop opened July 4, 2006, and since the recent rise of television shows like “American Pickers,” “Pawn Stars,” and “Rick’s Restoration” Duhon said he has seen a boom in Americana interest.
“The shows have been nothing but great for me,” the owner said. “They’ve created this buzz on Americana. They’ve spawned a lot of pickers.”
If he likes a piece and if it’s marketable, Duhon said he buys it.
The owner, whose wife and longtime Lee teacher Paula Duhon operates the homemade ice cream shop next door, likes to think of the duo as a “destination location.”
She makes the ice cream in-house with dairy milk they pick up every week.
“She runs out of ice cream if she has a good day,” Duhon said. “It’s never been in a freezer and certainly never been in a truck."
”It’s a comfortable place for families with both stores working collectively,” he said, adding that one spouse usually has an affinity for his shop while the other likes his wife’s shop.
Retro Pop Shop patrons also include teenagers.
“I thought the target customer was a guy with a garage, but there’s much more to it,” Duhon said. “Teenagers love the store.”
Despite a of lack of website or Instagram account, Duhon, who calls himself a dinosaur for this reason, said he does well.
“My kids say they’ll have to drag me out of here when I’m 90,” he said.
Items in the store, which he describes as a “junk store,” range from $1 to $5,000, Duhon estimated.
“I don’t want there to be any pressure to buy. I want people to be comfortable,” he said. “Everything is negotiable,” adding that he encourages people to stop by with items for sale and trade.
“I love buying. It’s essential when you’re selling.”
Most of the store’s stock is from Western Massachusetts, Duhon said, and pointed out two nearby items from North Adams and West Springfield.
The store is located just a few minutes from Lee’s Main Street. Duhon said Main Street is now hosts a vibrant town of 4,000, whereas before it was a “ghost town.” He said he wants more people to discover Lee.
The Retro Pop Shop works with Finders Keepers and Route 102 Trading Post, both in Lee, which Duhon said is a testament to Lee’s community.
“We work together, we share customers, and few businesses do that,” he said. “If someone comes in I’ll send them to three or four other stores,”
The Retro Pop Shop is open every day except Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and the ice cream shop will open Memorial Day weekend and extend through the fall.
This article first appeared in The Berkshire Record.