The reality television series "American Pickers" came to Carbon and Schuylkill counties on Saturday and hit pay dirt.
The cable TV show's film crew and stars Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz arrived unannounced and caught everyone off guard. While in the area, the antiques-buying duo discovered and purchased interesting finds and greeted excited fans in two local towns.
The production team of the Midwest-based show drove to Pennsylvania in steady snowfall, arriving early morning in their iconic, white "Antique Archaeology" Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van. For comfort, the stars also utilized a motor home, which accompanied the entourage.
Local residents immediately recognized the van. Within moments, word spread like wildfire on Twitter, Facebook and other social media, drawing a crowd of well over 100 to the former Frantz Garage, Abbott and Coal streets, Lansford.
There, building owners Les and Loretta Sackin, Saylorsburg, welcomed the well-known guests. Inside, the pickers, along with several crew members, spent over five hours climbing through a ceiling-high conglomeration of vintage thing-a-ma-jigs and whatcha-ma-call-its.
It wasn't clear if the stored items are of local origin. The Sackins purchased the empty property in May, 2007, and transferred to Lansford merchandise from a different storage facility in New Jersey.
"We collect everything," said Loretta Sackin, who allowed the TIMES NEWS access to the building while the activity was under way. Sackin prefers the Mid-Century Modern style as evidenced in the collection of paraphernalia inside the garage.
"We've been collecting the 1940s and 50s, a lot of antiques," she said. "We like Retro, Deco and things like Bakelite (early plastic). We just love the old stuff; it's so durable."
She said the couple has five children. They typically spend winters in California but decided to stay local this year in hopes the weather would be mild. She said the "American Pickers" show contacted the family and made arrangements to come to town to see what the Sackins had stashed away.
The spacious garage interior provides ample square footage for storage in its multiple rooms, said the couple.
"It was built in 1949," said Les Sackin. "We bought it from (Nick) Totani."
Locals said the building served as a Buick garage or dealership at one time.
Fans of the show kept vigil outdoors, waiting for hours in snowfall to greet the stars during a film break.
"I want to meet Mike and Frank," said Andy Poli, Coaldale, a faithful History channel viewer. "I watch them whenever they're on."
When the film crew grabbed a sandwich lunch, catered on-site by Paola and Vito Basile of Basile's Italian Restaurant, Hometown, one local resident pulled Fritz aside to show him something inside his car.
"Yes, sure I'll take a look at it," said Fritz. "I'm always looking for something to buy."
It turned out the unidentified man owns a 1940s triple beverage dispenser and thermos-type vessel. However, the condition wasn't the best and Fritz declined a chance to purchase the items.
But the quality of wares apparently was better inside the former Frantz Garage, as the pickers worked that property most of the day.
Next stop: Coaldale
About 2:30 p.m., the crew took the short drive to Coaldale for another antiques expedition. This one took place inside 200 Ruddle St., the former Elk Lighting Building, owned by the same couple. The Sackins said they store additional artifacts at that location.
According to court records, the former Elk Lighting property sold in August, 2008, to Markitty, LLC, Saylorsburg.
Due to confidentiality concerns and typical nondisclosure agreements in the television industry, the stars and film crew would not discuss specific results of the hunt at either location. Those details will be revealed in the show, which should air sometime around July. In fact, the crew went to great lengths to ensure privacy, purposely hiding the finds from public view.
However, at the Coaldale site, TIMES NEWS reporter Andy Leibenguth caught a glimpse of the pickers exiting with a child's rocking horse and a pentagram-shaped clock, plus other small items.
Neither of the Sackins would discuss specifics, but said the day was an enjoyable experience.
Others agreed. Fans, such as Theresa Gusick, Lansford, delighted in the chance to obtain autographs or have a photo taken. Some came as far as Middleport. Others, like Joe Folk and Tyler Schlier, came from nearby Nesquehoning.
"My friend saw it on Twitter and let us know about it," said Folk.
Sheila Davison was on hand to invite the pickers to Life's Second Hand Treasures Thrift Store, part of the nonprofit Access Services LIFE Program, in Tamaqua.
Fritz said the pickers' filming schedule unfortunately wouldn't permit the crew to pay a visit.
Since crowds were large throughout the day, police from Lansford and Coaldale kept an eye on both filming locations.
"American Pickers" debuted on TV in January, 2010, with Fritz and Wolfe searching America for what they call "rusty gold."
The premiere episode had 3.1 million viewers, making it the highest-rated History channel debut since "Ice Road Truckers" in 2007. The History channel is owned by the A&E Television Network.