✦ One local businessman, Darius Witecki, lives by this mantra. Taking a side hustle to new heights and establishing Port Pickers, he has turned an avid interest in antiques and collectibles into a profitable business in Port Macquarie’s industrial area.
We caught up with Darius at his warehouse and were blown away by the eclectic mix of antiques, collectibles and curiosities on offer. Definitely a must see if you are interested in treasures from the past.
"My obsession started as a child," Darius told us. "I had a fascination with watches. I was always asking people about their watches and on Christmas and birthdays I wanted a watch. So by the time I was 15 years old, I had a watch collection of probably five or six. The obsession continued from there to clocks and then other cool things. I found myself just fascinated with old stuff. Collectibles, watches, clocks, knives plus lots more as you can see in my store.”
When asked if there was an item or two that he really wanted to come across and haven’t as yet Darius replied, "I would love to find a Paul Newman Rolex Daytona from the 70s that's on my wish list, and an original samurai sword from a samurai warrior, which may be very hard to find.”
Darius grew up in Geelong, just south of Melbourne, then moved to Queensland and worked in different industries over the years, while still collecting in his spare time. With the onset of COVID-19 and the downturn in many businesses, Darius pivoted, closed his business in Brisbane and his picking journey started.
There are a lot of pawnbrokers, antique shops, garage sales and so on in and around Brisbane, which Darius frequented, searching for antiques and collectibles. His collection grew and grew, leading up to a move to Port Macquarie and the formation of his own shop, Port Pickers.
Pawnshop -v- antique and collectibles store
The main difference is how they operate. Pawn shops will allow you to offer antiques as collateral for a quick loan while antique stores do not. You either have to sell or trade your antiques right off the bat without the ability to get your item back unless you purchase it back from them. Pawn shops offer white goods, mobile phones, laptops, modern items, whereas an antique and collectibles store doesn’t.
Port Pickers is an antique and collectibles store, staying away from anything 21st century. They offer a huge variety of items, from high end watches and clocks, quality antique furniture and homewares, antique toys and collectibles, books, knives, glassware - the list goes on and on.
It would be safe to say that anything under the Port Pickers roof is from the 90’s and before. “That's what's trending," Darius tells us. "We have a finger on the pulse on what's trending and what's not trending, what's hot, what's not, what's dying and what's booming.“
The trending era at the moment for his customers is anything from the 1980s and 1990s - the plastic era. A lot of his customers grew up in that era and they're looking for items that they are familiar with.
What is Port Pickers and what makes it unique?
Darius explains, “Port Pickers is very different to any antique and collectibles shop out there. It's not a secondhand shop, but it is a cross between the two in a way. We prefer high end items, but the challenge we have is that we deal with deceased estates. When we are asked to buy we have to take everything - yes antiques, but also the bric-a brac and household items, you have to take the lot.”
Despite this, Darius doesn’t like throwing anything in the bin as he believes almost everything is sellable. As they say, one man's trash is another man's treasure. It's a cliche but one that is very true.
He does have a preference to keep to the more high end items, but he says what makes Port Pickers unique is that they have a little bit of everything. A wish list has been created, so they are always on the lookout to find items their customers want.
“You'll find pretty much anything and everything in here. If we find it, it’s on the shelf for sale and if it's not here I'm looking for it and I'll find it next week,” says Darius.
The shop is set out in organised categories so the team has already done the picking!
Truly mind blowing. Hours could be spent checking out the vintage tools and stationary, timber decor, garagenalia, petroliana, bric-a-brac, glassware, breweriana, movie memorabilia, stoneware and kitchenalia.
Display cases house the precious items such as watches, jewellery, clocks, art glass, bakelite, silverware, vases, ceramics and figurines. There is something for everyone: copper and brass statues, vintage toys, travel items, records, nautical and military curiosities, antique bottles and tins. You will even find vintage car accessories and signage, art and tribal pieces, fishing and camping gear from days gone by, tobacciana, plastic ware and vintage sewing paraphernalia.
Does Darius have a favourite piece?
Absolutely! A stunning clock made by Jaeger-LeCoultre. It has an eight day movement, so runs for eight days. “What's cool about it is there is a bridge movement inside that looks like it’s floating," Darius explained. "Very cool, with a retail price of $3,700. When it was brand new it retailed for around $9000. It comes in its original box as well. It is pretty special.”
He is also enamoured by a Rolex pocket watch, circa 1919 that he found on Gumtree and a pair of Persian scissors found locally from a private collection.
What does a normal day at Port Pickers look like?
“No such thing. It can be hectic or it can be super quiet,” said Darius with a smile. “The day normally starts with a team meeting in the morning, which is generally centred around all the cool stuff that the team found online that we need to assess. We discuss and decide what we are going to buy and what we are going to pay for it.”
Then they start sending out offers and making phone calls. A lot of research is involved. Leads are constantly coming in, alerts have been set up on all sorts of social media, Gumtree and eBay. You never know, that Paul Newman watch may just pop up one day!
The rest of the morning is spent in the shop, helping customers find treasures until around 2:30pm when they hit the road picking.
Some may not know the terminology 'Pickers'...
Pickers have nothing to do with the banjo or picking fruit. They are people that make their living looking for collectibles that others will buy. They spend their time digging through other people's barns, garages, sheds and abandoned buildings looking for particular items.
They are on a mission to locate special pieces that customers may want and pay good money for. They search for unique items at garage sales, markets, estate sales, church sales, and second-hand shops. They preserve history, culture, and interest in a way of life.
Pickers help save the past and make some money along the way too. Most of the rusted and forgotten junk sitting in fields and sheds is thought to be worthless by some, but someone may want it.
The Port Pickers team can be spotted in their white van, with the distinctive Port Pickers logo prominently displayed, cruising around back roads of NSW, looking for the most unusual and difficult to find antiques and collectibles you could think of.
They scour the streets looking for an old garage, shed, or vacant building, and knock on some doors.
Finding potential deals means you must be tenacious, approachable and diplomatic.
You'll never be able to find the prize if you're shy, afraid to knock on doors and take "no" personally. It's like being a door to door salesman. Often Port Pickers are invited to a property, but sometimes they are out on the road freestyling, looking for places to pick.
We asked Darius what they look for? “First thing we're looking for is any signs, oil bottles, oil tins, any old enamel items; there may be an old, rusty car sitting in a paddock. More often than not freelancing doesn’t eventuate much, but occasionally you might come across a jewel in the crown.”
Port Pickers have a passion for excellence that has driven them from the beginning and continues to drive them into the future. They know that every product counts and strive to make the entire shopping experience as rewarding as possible. Check it out for yourself!
Visit Port Pickers to shop vintage items, collectibles, and unique home decor, picked by Darius and his team of expert pickers. Located in the Port Macquarie industrial area.
34 Uralla Road, Port Macquarie, NSW
Ph. 0401 555 500
Tip: (search “portpickers”)
Profile Buster Portpickers
Tip: (search “portpickers”)
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