Donna Mitchell doesn’t remember a time she wasn’t interested in antiques. She began going antiquing with her mother at an early age, and at 13 years old, she purchased a piece that still is the favorite piece in her home.
The piece she purchased was built in 1978 and is nothing unique, Mitchell said, but she is intrigued by the old step back cabinet with square nails.
“I just find it easy to gravitate back to a simpler time,” Mitchell said.
In November 2008, Mitchell opened Black Sheep Antiques. She was already selling antiques out of her home that she had purchased at estate sales and while antiquing and at a booth at the Owensboro Antique Mall, where she still has a booth, but she wanted a place to house it all and for customers to peruse her selections.
“I look for what I like because if it doesn’t sell, I keep it,” Mitchell said of the process she uses when looking for pieces to fill the store.
Customers must have her same taste because she has shipped pieces worldwide and has a client list that she takes when she travels and is searching on the internet for pieces.
Mitchell has traveled as far as eight to 10 hours to find antiques and although she will look for pieces online, she rarely purchases them without seeing them in person.
“I’ve been burned,” Mitchell said. “Knock-offs, people who don’t disclose information…I like to look at the back and the bottom…see if there are new nail holes, nails, paint, what wood.”
Mitchell said that her philosophy of honesty is what sets her apart from other places. She said there is no reason to hide information about the specific piece.
“It can come back to bite you if you’re not honest,” Mitchell said.
Estate sales are something Mitchell is now enjoying as part of her business and during the busy season, when the weather is nice, Mitchell is working constantly on her shop, estate sales, her job in the Emergency Department at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital and gardening at home. She said she does sleep for “about four to five hours.” Those, however, aren’t always at night because she works the night shift — 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. — regularly in the ED.
Business slows in June and July at Black Sheep Antiques and because of that, the days the store is open changes as well, but she said her customers know they can call her anytime and she — or one of her daughters — can come open the shop.
She also uses the time away from the store to work the estate sales, which can take several days to inventory the items, take pictures, decide the minimum to sell, what will be done with the items that don’t sell and determine the prices.
“My job is to be there for the client,” Mitchell said of those that mention she prices the items fairly instead of discounted to sell immediately. “The prices drop each day, but my job is to determine the best price for the client.”
Mitchell said she is not in competition with other antique sellers in the area because she believes they all carry different items. With the amount of out-of-town shoppers that visit the area antique stores, she said the different sellers mention each other to the customers.
“When you are in a business, you do what the customer needs,” Mitchell said. “You do what makes them happy.”
Facebook opened a new world for her business, and she is constantly moving antiques — from the whiskey decanter being shipped to Bardstown, KY, to the quilts she has shipped to Australia.
“Out of towners keep me going,” Mitchell said.
She will shop for clients and she makes sure the items she brings back do not have a musty smell, smoke smell or the white, powdery mildew she said is almost impossible to eliminate.
She likes to rearrange her shop and does not like for merchandise to sit for more than six months.
“I try not to have pieces over $2,000, so that everything is affordable [for the people who shop at Black Sheep Antiques,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell is also open to buying from individuals. She just asks for detailed pictures to be sent and she decides if the items would be a good fit for her store or booth.
“I started the shop and now my customer base has become my friends,” Mitchell said. “Customers love what I love. I also pride the store on no credit card fees, delivery service and that we offer lay-a-way.”
Black Sheep Antiques is located at 7094 US-231 in Utica. Mitchell recommends putting it in GPS because customers think of Utica as out US-431 only and they end up 20 miles away. Summer hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.