Scott Harley has picked Nashua as his own personal paradise.
Harley, 42, lives, works and plays in Downtown Nashua, able to walk to his shop, Pickers’ Paradise. He’s a huge proponent of Main Street and its ever-evolving offerings for shopping, entertainment, food and drink.
Pickers’ Paradise, at 100 Main Street, has its own ever-evolving offerings. As you walk down the hallway – past street-facing Glorious Possibilities, on your way to Nightmare Escapes or Bliss and Balance Med Spa in the back of the building – you’ll find Pickers’ Paradise. Nestled in a perfect spot in the historic Nelson Building, Harley’s shop contains hand-selected – or “picked,” in the collector’s vernacular – antique and vintage items, quality contemporary pieces that catch the owner’s eye, and local historic memorabilia. With a constantly changing inventory to explore, it’s never the same visit twice.
Shown is the hallway of 100 Main Street,
which takes you past some of the items offered
at Pickers’ Paradise. The shop is across from the stairs
at the rear of the photo.
Birth of a picker
Becoming a “picker” was a natural move for Harley, who notes he was always a bit of an explorer as a kid, “collecting tchotchkes from my travels. I’ve always loved how things work, the history, the stories,” he said. “The best part about finding anything is discovering where it’s been; what would it say if it could talk? Especially when it takes you down the rabbit hole of exploring.”
As an adult, he began his career pursuing a CE degree for the field of engineering. But seeing what those jobs were like for his friends, he pivoted to an organizational management degree in business. He then worked as a supervisor and manager in the medical device industry. But as so often happens, Harley found himself reevaluating his career.
“I [realized] I needed to do something to make me happy; life’s too short,” he said. What made him happy was finding and sharing vintage treasures. “When I was unemployed, I was flipping storage units, and yard sale items on eBay. Then I started focusing on older stuff.”
Scott Harley, owner of Pickers’ Paradise, 100 Main Street,
shows off a vintage paper mache Dalmatian costume head.
Scott Harley models some vintage threads at Pickers’ Paradise.
Things really fell into place when Harley began looking for storage for his items to sell online. “I wanted warehouse space in Nashua, but it was all too large and expensive for my needs,” he said. “Then I found the space I’m in now, and just went for it as a storefront business, because it was cheaper than a warehouse.”
Harley loves being in the heart of Main Street – as a business owner and as a young adult living his life. “I love the painted barriers [designating outdoor dining spaces], going downtown to have a beer and enjoy live music. I love how Nashua is going in the right direction and I hope it continues. It’s all positive; we’re creating Downtown Nashua as a place to go – we’re becoming a destination. Occupancy is up in the storefronts. If you’re not growing, you’re dying,” he said.
When he’s not picking items for his own business, he’s working security for nearby Irish pub Casey Magee’s, as he’s found a kindred soul in owner Matt Casey. “I met Matt because he’s a picker, too,” he says.
Finding the story
Sometimes, Harley is taken by surprise when he researches an unexpected item. He explained one such example. “Sometimes I’ll buy a large lot, like an estate buyout or collection, not really knowing what I’ll find in it. I once found a letter on railroad letterhead from the 1880s. I started researching the names to and from, and found out the guy the letter was sent to worked as a railroad superintendent in Boston,” he said. “I discovered he was also one of the main figures in creating the black Union militias during the Civil War. The movie Glory is about that; he was instrumental in creating that group. The back story is fascinating.”
Harley tries to find these back stories whenever possible. “A lot of time, I try to find provenance or corroboration of the history of a piece,” he said. “If I get a story about a piece, I’ll include that (on the item tag in the shop). I’ll put as much info on the tag as possible – timeframe, or bits of facts from the original owner, etc.”
Harley gets his pieces from a variety of sources: estate sales, online, group lots, storage auctions, folks selling their full collections, local flea markets and yard sales, or personal inquiries. “I get a lot of calls from people with relatives passing away, who don’t know the worth or how to get rid of things,” he said.
One experience stands out from the rest, he said. “I watch for yard sale announcements, and if they’re having one, I’ll call them after to see what’s left over. I did that once, and it was adult kids whose dad was an antique dealer, and had passed. I went to the house, and it was packed with valuable antiques. I spent 48–60 hours there over two weeks; it was the most amazing pick I’ve ever done,” Harley said.
He’s very selective of what ends up in the various rooms of Pickers’ Paradise. “There’s no filler in the shop – for example, sometimes you’ll go elsewhere and there’s just a ton of glassware, and it’s all dusty. I want everything to evoke a memory or attraction; I want [the response to be] ‘that’s odd’ or cool, ‘I want to know more about it’ and want to have it and show it off,” he said.
He also will sell items that didn’t make the cut to be featured at the shop – too new, not cool enough, too difficult to display, etc. – as well as items that have been in the shop for too long, at the Hollis Flea Market and via an online estate sale website. If you’re interested in checking out those shopping options, Harley will post about these occurrences on the Pickers’ Paradise Facebook page.
Harley tries to offer something for everyone’s tastes at Pickers’ Paradise. As well as foraging for his shop, he also has an ongoing list of several collectors for whom he’s always on the look-out for additions that meet their specific interests, like a personal shopper. For example, “I’ve been told I have a great eye for clown memorabilia,” he noted.
Standout pieces and hot commodities
Pickers’ Paradise offers items for every budget and interest, with a wide range of prices. “I like to say I have stuff from two dollars to $50k,” he said. The age range of the items varies, too; Harley has a huge trilobite fossil that’s 390–251.4 million years old. There are also a lot of items from the 19th century, and books from the 1700s. But he notes that “I’ll even have contemporary things that are cool or interesting or valuable.”
Harley notes the following items that he’s always looking for:
Local, town-specific items
Things made in Nashua, Merrimack, etc. “If it’s made in Nashua and is vintage or antique, those sell well,” he said. But even more current items are popular if they’re Nashua-specific nostalgia. “There are lots of Nashua collectors. For example, I recently sold a Howard Johnson menu from the ‘90s.”
Bottles, cans, signs, any brands. There’s a photo in this article that shows a Pepsi barrel which “never made it into the shop and went straight to a customer who asked me to look for Pepsi items,” he said.
“I find people from every age group coming in buying vinyl – teens to seniors, no matter what their age, they’re all looking through the vinyl,” Harley said. “I just had a teen girl who bought a Billie Holiday record. But any genre: blues, rock, pop. It’s resurging. Every time I get a Thriller album, it doesn’t last long.”
Maybe a surprising category to the reader, but a popular one at the shop. They can sell for anywhere from $3 to $150 apiece. Harley notes that any vintage home hardware or decor is hot as well; even metal hinges and antique wall plates.Funky and vintage clothes: “I pick these myself, because I’m choosy about what I offer. I also have a couple people with vintage collections they’re thinning out that they’ll consign,” he said.
Have something to sell?
Harley is always happy to hear from folks who are considering selling items. “I get lots of phone calls and people showing up with stuff to sell. But the best way is to contact me and send pictures by email. Then I can come out to your location and check them out if I’m interested,” he said.
Despite the challenges of 2020, Harley said his business managed to thrive. “Actually, I did pretty well during Covid; even better than the first year” when he opened the shop on May 1, 2019. He explains that this is “because there weren’t a lot of flea markets to go to, and collectors found me as an outlet for what they enjoy.”
And is there anything Harley doesn’t want to see? “I don’t do china, please,” he said. “Pretty much anything else… I don’t really specialize, but I do lean towards certain things. But I’m always interested in checking out new things that are cool or interesting, if the price is right and I can do my research on it.
“I love spending time learning and researching; it’s fantastic.”
IF YOU GO:
100 Main St., Suite 2
Nashua, NH 03060
Inquiries by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
From Nashua memorabilia, to soda brand items, to antique doorknobs, to actual fossils,
Pickers’ Paradise has a wide variety of intriguing offerings.