Betty Jo Lamar of West New York has been a ruthless haggler since the age of 3.
Her shop, Tickled Pink Petunia Antiques in Guttenberg, recently celebrated its 40th anniversary.
Lamar said, “What makes it fun is when you enjoy what you do. It is a blast around here.”
Antiques, oh my!
Lamar attended her first auction in Corpus Christi, Texas, at the age of 3, which is when she learned about her passion for collecting antiques. She managed to obtain an Armand Marseille Doll, which was meant to sell for $25, for just 25 cents. Lamar tearfully remembered that day when she refused to give back the doll and the crowd of people won the auctioneer over, allowing her to keep the doll for a mere 25 cents.
Her lucky streak continued in Washington D.C. at Sloan’s, the biggest auction house. She always had her wits about her and knew what it took to come out with a treasure. In her late teenage years, she set her eyes on a Rosewood Spinet Piano. The auctioneer attempted to start off the bidding for $5,000, but she offered $100. The auctioneer was in disbelief, but in the end Lamar had a beautiful gift for her stepfather to play. She eventually sold the piano for $3,900.
Antiques vary in age, but are generally at least 100 years old. In Lamar’s line of work research is key, which is why she owns hundreds of books to educate herself about antiques.
The list of items in her shop awaiting a new home range from perfume bottles to glassware to an ice box. On Sunday, many pots and pans will be available. Lamar obtains many antiques by purchasing the contents of houses, while other items are simply given to her.
“Peculiar Paraphernalia, for Particular People” is the store’s slogan.
At Tickled Pink Petunia customers don’t just walk away with antiques; Lamar educates them about what they may be purchasing.
“I always try to explain to my customers how old it is, what it is, and what it’s for,” said Lamar. “I think that’s why people hesitate to go online, because you don’t get to touch it, you don’t get to feel it, you don’t know what condition it’s in, and you know nothing about it.”
Everyone knows Petunia
Lamar is often found sitting on a chair inside her store as passersby peek in to see how the spunky 84-and-a-half old is doing.
“I know everybody, I’ve been here so long,” said Lamar. “Everybody knows me.”
To her customers she is BJ, Betty Jo, or just Petunia. Since Lamar does not have any family to speak of, she considers her customers her family. During Christmas she received 75 cards from her satisfied customers.
“I’m very, very spoiled,” said Lamar.
Her business cards are just as full of pep as she is. They read, “Peculiar Paraphernalia, for Particular People.”
She and Robert Quetel, one of three employees, share their love of antiques, which is what kept him as a permanent fixture at the store.
“I love old stuff,” said Quetel. “I’ve been a collector since I was 8 years old. I found it fascinating.”
Quetel has been working at Tickled Pink Petunia for 38 years, which is considerably close to the anniversary date. He joked that Lamar does not consider him a hidden treasure for the business.
Lamar has welcomed so many antiques that she is now overrun by them. She has 3 warehouses full of them.
“I’ve got three warehouses full from floor to ceiling, I don’t need anything,” said Lamar.
The top sellers are kerosene lamps, seltzer bottles, and old, heavy irons that can be used as bookends or even paperweights.
Lamar does not just get local customers. She has also had some from as far out as Switzerland and Belgium. Some notable customers have been Kool & the Gang and singer Patti Austin, Quincy Jones’ goddaughter.
Gem of a life
Lamar was born in Alabama and moved around since her dad was an enlisted marine. Some of the notable people that she has met throughout her life are Senator Robert Taft, who was the eldest son of 27th president William Taft; Jack Ruby, who shot Lee Harvey Oswald, and Henry Ford II, the chief executive officer of the Ford Motor Company. Much like the antiques that Lamar collects, her life is also a part of history.
The store’s hours of operation are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 12 to 6 p.m. at 6718 Park Ave. in Guttenberg. The special sale is Sunday, May 5 (today).