For years sisters Leah Lichtenberg and Heidi Kendall -- who call themselves the Pickin' Chicks -- have been buying up antique and vintage items for resale.
"I sold them for years out of my garage in South Carolina," Lichtenberg said.
In the Tri-Cities, Kendall also turned her husband's "toys" out of the garage.
"We've always loved antiques and vintage things," Lichtenberg said.
But the two didn't become truly serious about their sideline until Lichtenberg moved to the Tri-Cities about four years ago.
"We rented space in an antique mall in the Uptown shopping center area for a while. Then decided last year it was time to go out on our own," Lichtenberg said.
The sisters opened their first storefront, Black Cat Relics Antiques & Vintage Charm in Historic Downtown Kennewick. That was Nov. 26, Black Friday, traditionally one of the biggest retail shopping days of the year.
"We were surprised how successful we were so quickly," Lichtenberg said. "But we had the tenacity, the drive, the know how, the love and the passion in our hearts to make it work."
When they began averaging 100 customers a day at the Kennewick location, the sisters decided to open a second shop, returning to the Uptown shopping center but not to the antique mall.
The second Black Cat Relics Antiques & Vintage Charm shop opened May 5. Eleven days later, May 16, they had to close the Kennewick shop indefinitely because of structural problems with the building.
"We love being in downtown Kennewick and hope it gets resolved so we can reopen," Lichtenberg said.
Watch for updates at www.blackcatrelics.com and on their Facebook page, search for Blackcat Relics.
In the meantime the sisters are working out of the Richland shop which, at 500 square feet, is about half the size of the Kennewick location.
"We'll be bringing a lot of our merchandise here and doing a lot of stacking and rearranging," Kendall said.
Their shop is an eclectic blend of the truly antique -- they have a 1790 credenza imported from England -- and shabby chic furniture.
"When we find something that's structurally sound but the finish is beyond saving, we paint and distress it to give it an old look so it can be loved again. Our motto is revive, restore, repurpose," Lichtenberg said, adding that shabby chic furniture, especially dressers, is really popular right now.
The two do have their specialties -- pink and green Depression glass for Lichtenberg and vintage Fisher-Price toys for Kendall.
"And we both love vintage jewelry and accessories," Kendall said.
To stock their stores, the two shop estate sales, antique shows and internet sites.
"Sometimes people call and ask if they can bring things in, or we go to them," Lichtenberg said. "We do buy from private sellers but unless we can tell for sure what it is, every single piece is researched before we sell it."
They say their greatest joy is having someone fall in love with something in their shop.
"That they love what we love, that brings us happiness," Lichtenberg said.
And you can never tell just who will fall in love with their merchandise. Last weekend, during the Classy Chassis Car Show in Kennewick the sisters thought a lot of the women would be drawn to their shop.
"It was just the opposite, we had these 6-foot-4-inch all bikered down guys coming in to see our vintage Barbie camper (model vehicle). They were all standing around opening the door, running it along the shelf," Kendall said.
One of them bought a 1950s Frigidaire refrigerator.
"Thirty minutes later he had all his buddies in the shop talking about he needed to stock it with beer for the man cave," Lichtenberg. "It was wild."
The Richland shop is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday at 1337-C George Washington Way in Richland. Call 371-9771.
The sisters offer layaway options and gift certificates and will deliver, for a fee, in the Tri-City area.