Connie Fairbaugh hasn’t missed a sale at Chartreuse & Co. since she first began attending them with a friend years ago. Her drive from Fairfield, Pennsylvania to Frederick, Maryland takes an hour each way, but she doesn’t mind.
“There’s nothing else quite like it in any other place,” Fairbaugh said while examining an old desk drawer filled with antique silverware. “I love the uniqueness of it… [and] the possibility of repurposing something.”
“Repurposing something” is the name of the game at Chartreuse & Co., a conglomerate of artists and vendors that assemble once a month inside the barns on Virginia Crum’s family farm. It’s a combination of antique and modern items, all with a vintage, country flare.
“We decorate with so many one of a kind things and so many different looks,” Crum said. “What are you looking for? It’s in there… The emphasis is not, ‘Hey, here’s old stuff. Do you want it?’ It’s, ‘Here’s beautiful stuff displayed beautifully and this is why we love it.’”
When Virginia Crum and her husband, Chip, moved to Virginia’s grandparents’ old farm in Frederick, Maryland in 2001, they knew they had to find a way to pay for the continuous upkeep of the barns. With a love for interior decorating and experience in marketing, Crum created Chartreuse & Co. soon after.
“I guess I should have always known that I would do this,” Crum said. “I was destined to do it, but I wasn’t a little kid thinking, ‘This is what I’m going to do.’”
Open only three days each month, it isn’t your typical antique sale, let alone your typical shopping experience, which makes it perfect for shoppers from areas surrounding Frederick.
“People are putting a lot of money into home renovations in this area more than [in] a lot of other markets,” said Cheryl Heimlich, a Potomac, Maryland-based reporter who runs StoreReporter.com, a website that covers stores and restaurants in Montgomery County.
“They’re often homes in developments where, when they were first built, all the houses looked the same. So I think when people do renovations, they’re looking to add details that will make their house not look exactly like their neighbors’. That’s where these kinds of stores come in.”
Fifteen years after opening, Chartreuse & Co. is now a thriving private business. Vendors pay rent to be able to sell on the property, and the company gets a small percentage of their profits. Crum oversees a staff of an additional 30 people.
The business gets three to four thousand visitors every month, who learn about the sales through social media and by word of mouth. Crum estimated that each visitor spends a little over 100 dollars.
Most customers are women ages 28 to 45— Chip refers to the business as “crack for chicks.”
True to Chip’s description, Chartreuse & Co. looks like a 30-year-old woman’s Pinterest do-it-yourself board come to life. The farm’s exposed brick and wood give it a rustic charm, and each vendor brings his or her own decorating style to their section of the sale.
Visiting the farm isn’t just an excuse to shop, it’s an experience: parents often bring their young children and dogs, and eat lunch from a visiting food truck on antique picnic tables. Others, like Fairbaugh, come with friends as a social outing. Sales are even a fun affair for the vendors, who have become friends with each other and their customers.
“We’re all in this together,” Northern Virginia-based artist Molly Susan Strong said. “People run in and give you a hug. There’s people who have been coming here, faithfully, for eight years plus. But there are also new faces every time, which is exciting.”